With this it will be convenient to discuss new schedule 1—Graduated Penalties—
|Lower penalty points 2 points and £40 fine||Standard penalty 3 points and £60 fine||Higher penalty 6 points and £100 fine|
|Speed (mph)||Speed (mph)||Speed (mph)||Speed (mph)|
|20||No lower penalty||Up to and including 31||32|
: The amendment introduces a new schedule, which would put into the Bill the graduated penalties that would apply to speeding. I tabled the amendment because I believe that the Secretary of State accepted on Second Reading—it is apparent from the contributions to that debate and the wider debate outside—that this is a highly controversial subject. There are many different and sincerely held views. As we have a chance to consider primary legislation, we should debate, and put into the Bill, what we collectively, as parliamentarians, think is the right answer to what the graduated penalties should be for speeding.
The Government line is ''We know that, in our party, the Secretary of State takes one view, a number of his Back Benchers who spoke on Second Reading take another and outside interests take a third. We will sort it all out after we have had a little more consultation and we will introduce a statutory instrument that cannot be amended.'' I take the view that, if Parliament is to be taken seriously, we should collectively take responsibility for this issue ourselves, as Members of Parliament and particularly as members of the Committee. We have the chance to do that. Therefore, I have had a stab at putting down what I regard, and what the Minister and I think the Secretary of State regard, as the appropriate answer to this conundrum.
Is it the hon. Gentleman's case that the Bill should contain a provision that reduces the penalty points for speeding between 30 mph and 39 mph, even though all the evidence indicates that that would lead to road deaths?
I am adopting exactly the same line as the Secretary of State adopted on Second Reading, and I do not doubt his sincerity. Certainly my view, subject to any arguments put forward in the Committee, is that the Government have started along the right lines. However, by tabling the schedule and the amendment, I wanted to start a debate around graduated penalties and seek agreement from members of the Committee, after proper discussion, that it is desirable that such penalties should be included in the Bill instead of being deferred to some stage in the future when we will not have a chance to amend the secondary legislation.
As I understand it, the hon. Gentleman's case is not the same as the Secretary of State's, who is simply saying that there should be an enabling provision and then consultation and consideration before the set of penalties is established. The hon. Gentleman's position is rather different: he believes that we should enact legislation now that would reduce the penalties for speeding below 40 mph, even though many children would be killed by such acts of speeding.
I shall not get into a debate about whether the hon. Gentleman's last assertion is correct. He participated in the debate on Second Reading and heard what the Secretary of State said. The Secretary of State said that his view was that the right answer was as reflected in the table. I know that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs. Ellman) has tabled a specific amendment, which I can see some merit in. However, I thought that the best starting point would be to take what I understood to be the Government's line. The Minister will no doubt correct me if I am wrong. The danger, and indeed the suspicion, may be that the Government want to take this power on the basis of one set of ideas—to have both lower and higher penalties—but that ultimately they might propose something different from what is set out here, which the Secretary of State supported on Second Reading, and we would not have a chance to change it.
All the arguments are already apparent; the consultation is already taking place. Why can we not decide now what to put in the Bill? If the new schedule were incorporated in the Bill today, the hon. Member for Wellingborough and others could move amendments to it on Report, some of which might be supported by me and my hon. Friends, as well as by the hon. Gentleman's right hon. and hon. Friends.
I am not saying that the new schedule will be the final version, but, it was the best way to ensure that graduated penalties—this serious reform of road traffic law—were included in the Bill. I do not develop from my own background the arguments in support of each of these graduated penalties. I put them forward on the basis that they are the ones that the Government want. I did not want to make life even more difficult for myself as an Opposition spokesman by trying to get the Government on side. I thought that I would adopt those arguments supported by the Secretary of State.
I am grateful for that explanation. Clearly it is useful at some stage to start a debate. However, it would be helpful if, having tabled the new schedule, the hon. Gentleman spoke to it with support for the individual figures. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough, I would be horrified at the idea that driving at 40 mph in a 30 mph zone would be classified as the norm to get three points. I am not sure that we as a Committee, on behalf of the rest of the House of Commons, have the ability to decide something as substantial as that. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman could talk to his new schedule. He has just said that he will not, but it would be useful if he set out in more detail why he believes that the figures would be acceptable to the Committee.
I am trying to ensure that we do not have two debates on a similar issue. As I said, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside will shortly introduce a debate on her proposition, and I look forward to hearing her arguments, because I suspect that quite a lot of hon. Members are sympathetic to it. My approach was to have a starting point that was overtly supported by the Secretary of State on Second Reading.
Will the hon. Gentleman respond to my hon. Friend's question with more clarity? He knows—the evidence shows—that 90 per cent. of pedestrians hit at 40mph will die. Yet he is proposing that even driving at 40 mph in a 30 mph district should attract only three points. Does he honestly believe that to be a good proposal?
The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), the Chairman of the Select Committee, made an interesting comment on Second Reading, when she said that there was 54 or 58 per cent. non-compliance—I have not looked up the original figures—with the 30-mph speed limit. Therefore, speed limits are broken to a considerable extent. It would be desirable, as I said on Second Reading, to have much more discretion in the prosecution of and penalties for those who break speed limits, because the range of circumstances is enormous. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman disagrees. In fact, earlier in this sitting he suggested that he was sympathetic to the proposition that circumstances are different on different occasions.
I am unhappy about the idea that there is a trade-off against injustice—for instance, people identified as speeding in light traffic by speed cameras suffering the same penalty as those who are caught when the traffic conditions are much heavier and, more importantly, the incidence of vulnerable road users is much greater. Concern has been expressed by some of the motoring organisations that there is some sort of trade-off: the Government realise that there is a great deal of rough justice, so the people who are just over the speed limit might get only two points, rather than a higher penalty. I am a bit suspicious about that. However, my purpose in putting forward the amendment was to engage the support of the hon. Member for Wellingborough and others for the proposition that the detail should be included in the Bill. Whether his idea, or that of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside, or anybody else's, finally emerges, Parliament will have control over the process, rather than leaving it to the Executive. That is my primary concern, and my purpose in putting forward the new schedule. If the hon. Member for Wellingborough votes in favour of the new schedule, I can assure him that I shall not hold him to supporting every detail of it, because he will be supporting it in the knowledge that it will be possible to amend it to reflect other decisions of the Committee later on.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Pike.
We will shortly discuss a number of amendments, in a debate introduced by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside. I have an amendment in that group, so I shall reserve the majority of my arguments for that debate and will now concentrate solely on the concern of the hon. Member for Christchurch about whether precise bands should be included in the legislation. Normally, I argue that as much as possible should be included in Bills—I believe that that is right, and I dislike secondary legislation in general. In this case, I shall argue the opposite, because I can foresee a situation in which we introduce, say, two penalty points in the circumstances that the hon. Member for Christchurch has outlined, and rapidly realise that it was a horrendous mistake. I do not think that we would be able to return to primary legislation to correct that mistake, and it is important that we have the ability to make changes if we discover that what we have done is not correct.
I have grave doubts about going down to two points in relation to speed limits lower than 40 mph, as I shall explain later. I would wish to have the safeguard that, if that did happen, there would be a reasonably straightforward way in which Parliament could make a change without having to resort to primary legislation.
I have not considered that. Our next debate will be about laying down minimum criteria, and I do not want to go through that debate now, and trespass on the good nature of the Chair. I should merely like to say that I do not support the schedule because I believe that we should have the ability to change. It is not a situation in which primary legislation is appropriate.
I welcome you as well, Mr. Pike. I clarified with your co-Chairman that I could take off my jacket, but I have not done so, because I was told off once by a Chairman for doing it without asking.
It might be helpful if the Clerks' Department were to publish a list of the views of each member of the Chairmen's Panel—and we could move on.
As I understand the Government's position, there is nothing between us and them on the principle of grading. I have no difficulty in agreeing with the Government and supporting my hon. Friends. Rather like my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch, I would not wish to go to the stake over any of the figures, but let us make sure that there is a consensus.
Having got that out of the way, my first point is underlined by the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Reed), who was ever so helpful to my case when he said that we as a Committee ought not to be in a position to take these decisions on behalf of the House of Commons. I agree with him, and, welcoming him to my long-standing cause to ensure that Governments of the day, irrespective of party, have the least necessary power to do the job that they should be doing, I would extend his point. Continually to give Secretaries of State the power to introduce more and more legislation by order is something that I am concerned about.
The hon. Gentleman makes the case better than I. When he says that the Committee is not capable of taking these decisions, and that it should be the House of Commons that does so, I say, ''Exactly so.'' The Secretary of State should not be the person who takes the decision by order; it should be the whole House, following a proper debate. If there must be a statutory instrument, I do not know whether in this instance it will be by an affirmative or negative resolution, and it cannot be amended either way, so I believe that we should have control over the decision. There are some things in this world that can usefully be seen as administrative chores. I do not mind Secretaries of State doing chores; I object to Secretaries of State controlling my life.
Many of constituents feel passionately about their rights to drive their cars. It works up more agitation than many other issues, and our constituents have every right to look to us as their elected representatives, rather than leave it to whoever happens to be Secretary of State, to settle such matters as whether they lose their licence and how quickly they lose it. It is possible that a fairly prominent politician who took pride in not driving would want to persecute car drivers. If we were to have such a Secretary of State, who knows what might happen on the basis of a personal view? I am against this approach in principle.
I am sure that the Government will say that we do not want such provisions in the Bill, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch says, when the Minister responds he needs to tell us what the Government think about the figures. Whether or not they should be in the Bill, we are being asked to agree to give the Secretary of State power. If the Minister wants us to accept that our approach is wrong, it would be ever so helpful if he could tell us what the current Secretary of State might use such powers for.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, and for trying to portray what I was trying to say earlier. Similar to his hon. Friend, I would be interested to know whether he supports the figures in the chart, because I am worried not only about the principle. The point that I was trying to make about the Committee not being able to make the decision is that we have an amendment before us that includes some figures, and if we agree to it and include it in the Bill, serious consequences will follow. I am not quite sure that in a half-hour or even a 20-minute debate, we can go into the provision's finer implications.
Aside from the general implications of amending the Bill, I would be interested to know whether the hon. Gentleman would speak to any of the mileage figures, whether they are from the table or the graduated penalties.
I may or I may not; it just depends on how the debate unfolds. If the Minister were to accept that approach and give some indication of the sort of figures that he thinks should apply, I might be prepared to agree with the Government.
If the Minister were to say that he accepted the principle but wanted to come back on Report with a well-researched schedule, I would feel much more confident about joining the debate. We ought to establish first whether the Government accept the approach. If they do, more than half an hour would be needed to deal with the matter. For the moment, that is where I will leave it, except that I shall come back on one other related point in a moment.
I am pleased with the suggestion that there ought to be or could be some flexibility. There is an admission of the need for flexibility, whether it is achieved by order or this amendment, as well as graded points. We have had this debate before, so I shall not go over the ground again. If the Government cannot go as far as I would like, I would welcome an approach that indicated that they at least see the difference between something that attracts six penalty points and something that attracts two penalty points. Perhaps if I had been more alert before the Committee started, it would have been possible to table a new schedule that provided for no penalty points up to two penalty points at the lowest level. I readily accept that even in the worst circumstances certain things need punishing by penalty points. There is some flexibility here, which I welcome.
The hon. Member for Wellingborough said that, because most people are killed at speeds of less than 45 mph, we should not limit the number of penalty points to two. It is as though he assumes that arguing for fewer points is the same thing as saying, ''Let us scrap penalties completely and invite people to drive fast.'' I do not buy into the concept that people would race past schools if the current arrangements were changed. I do not know where the evidence is for that.
My point is simply that the penalty should reflect the danger posed by that culpable driver. If 50 per cent. of pedestrians hit at 30 mph will live but 90 per cent. of pedestrians hit at 40 mph will die, I see no justification at all for the penalty point reduction that he advocates in the 30 to 40 mph span.
I hear what the hon. Gentleman says. Such questions are part and parcel of determining what detail one would support. I understand his argument, but he seems to advance it on the basis that anything less than we have at present is an open invitation to flout the law. We should not automatically rule out consideration of variations up and down in all circumstances. That is all that I am saying, and I would not wish to go to the stake for something else.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that he is probably sending out a mixed message? I almost could have lived with sticking at three points and then graduated penalties upwards, but reducing the penalty to two points, particularly with the figures in the new schedule, sends out a message that driving between 30 and 39 mph is more acceptable than it was before. Is not that the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough was making, and is not that the message that the Committee would send if we were to agree to the provision?
Exactly so. We should not be inflexible if we are trying to introduce flexibility. I understand, Mr. Pike, that if you were to allow this debate to continue, and if we were willing to continue it, we could be picking over the figures at this time tomorrow, having made no progress whatsoever. To me, that is not the purpose of the debate.
The purpose is, first, to explore the approach of flexibility and graduated penalties—I think that we all agree with that—and, secondly, to explore whether we should be giving more power to the Secretary of State in those circumstances. I support the first principle. I do not support giving that power to the Secretary of State. My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch has done the Committee a service by bringing forward his amendment. He is not claiming that it is perfect. I gather that Labour. Members do not consider it anywhere near perfection, but that is not the point. I am fascinated to hear what the Minister says. We will see where we go from there.
We have concentrated on speeding in the debate. However, that is not what the clause is about. As I said when intervening on the hon. Member for Christchurch, the clause is about all offences to which penalties might apply. In amendment No. 12, the hon. Gentleman would, whether inadvertently or intentionally, I do not know which, effectively make the clause apply only to speeding and not to the variable offences for other types of offence. If we passed the amendment, we would be limiting the clause to speeding and would not cover other offences that attract points, such as right-hand turns at no right-hand turn places and yellow box offences. That is the first deficiency of the amendment. In concentrating on speed, the hon. Gentleman has ruled out many other offences which could apply. We are, of course, talking about the ability to increase the penalty as well as the ability to decrease it.
The hon. Gentleman talked about new schedule 1 as a starting point, but it is a finishing point. Once it is in primary legislation, there will be no coming back to it for further discussion or deliberation. The issue will be closed. He argued that the matter should be fixed in the Bill. I will return to the question of where the hon. Gentleman got the figures from. He then intervened on the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross to say that flexibility should be built in for the Secretary of State to change the figures if they are wrong. Is he talking about using a statutory instrument? Ah! Is that not what we have in mind? Once the hon. Member for Christchurch had contradicted himself, he was put right by the hon. Member for Spelthorne, who contradicted him by saying that the figure should be written into the Bill with no discretion. So, there seems to be some confusion about the matter.
I am with those who say that we must return to the issue. I am beginning to regret that we gave those exemplars. We put out not a consultation document but a document for discussion. There is a difference. We wanted to get views about variable penalties and penalty points. The hon. Member for Christchurch said that the document was controversial. Some of it was not controversial. The vast majority of those who made their views known said that they agreed that the law should include the ability to have variable points and penalties for offences. There was widespread agreement on that.
As is often the case, if we put something out for discussion, it instantly becomes a proposal that we are about to inflict on people tomorrow. That is, unfortunately, the way in which debate in this country goes. I do not know whether it is because of our newspapers. If anybody suggests something for debate, it becomes something that will happen immediately.
There is a specific format for a consultation document. There is a list of consultees, who we contact proactively. We operate a formal consultation system. Usually, forms go out for people to fill in and add other details. It is more formalised. In many instances, we get similar responses. In this case, because many of the people who responded were used to responding to consultation documents, many responded in a similar form. Nevertheless, it was a discussion.
In the discussion paper, we gave an example of how the system might work in the context of speeding. That is where the amendment came from. However, that was not a proposal. It was just an example of how the system could work. I am beginning to regret that we included it, but we felt that it was helpful. We were being challenged by people who were asking what would actually happen and saying that we could not have a change in the law without concrete proposals. So, we gave an exemplar of how the system could work if that was what we agreed.
I accept what the Minister says, but as I listened to him I began to feel a bit hard done by. Does he accept that, although I do not have a huge number of civil servants to come up with a beautifully honed argument, I was saying before, when I was being questioned, ''What, exactly, is the Minister saying?'' Let us have a discussion. Here are some figures; let us talk about them. We are not necessarily wedded to them. I am grateful to the Minister for using better language than I could find.
I take it, then, that the hon. Gentleman is not in favour of new schedule 1. He must be opposing it. We will probably hear him speak or vote against it later.
What the hon. Gentleman said a moment ago. I will not presume it any further.
The hon. Gentleman made an interesting point. He talked about the right to drive a car. I defend that right. There are many people, certainly in my constituency—in which not everybody is affluent—who are driving a car that they were not driving five, six or seven years ago, when the economy was not doing so well and employment was not as high as it is today. However, along with the right to drive a car comes the responsibility to drive carefully. The more vehicles that there are on the road, the more we must ensure that people are responsible and careful. The responsibility of Government is to ensure that people exercise their right to drive a car in a way that does not infringe the rights of others.
When the Minister reads Hansard, he will find that I did not say that people have the right to drive cars when, where, how and as irresponsibly as they like. I simply said that there is a right to drive. I agree with him, but he is putting words in my mouth.
No, I did not put words in the hon. Gentleman's mouth; I included some extra words in Hansard. I wanted to make it clear that I agree with him on the right to drive, but that my understanding of that is that people should also have responsibilities. I was outlining that the Government have a responsibility to ensure that people drive safely. Parliament also has a responsibility. That is why the measures in the Bill will be so helpful in ensuring that that happens.
Making the proposals apply only to speeding is unhelpful and I would oppose the amendment and new schedule on that basis. The hon. Gentleman said that he wanted further discussion. We want further discussion, but if we agreed to new schedule 1, it would inhibit further discussion. What I heard on Second Reading, at the beginning of today's debate and from people outside Parliament, and what I will hear a bit more in a moment, is that some of the things in the discussion paper—very few things—are controversial. I want the ability to have flexibility, but I also want a further period of reflection about thresholds and implementation. I want to listen carefully to what Parliament and those outside Parliament have to say when we come up with more concrete proposals following consultation.
I have listened carefully to what the Minister said. I would like him to confirm that I have understood correctly that the consultation document, or discussion document, and the schedule therein, are purely exemplars and that the Government are completely open to representations and evidence as to what are or are not the best figures.
I should just like to correct the hon. Gentleman on one point. It was not a consultation document but a discussion document. A consultation would be more likely to include Government proposals, but these were not even proposals. They were exemplars of how a system might operate. Perhaps that might also make the distinction clear for my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside. They were not proposals, but examples of how a system could work if we chose to operate it in that way.
In the light of the debate we are having and further representations we receive, if the Bill receives Royal Assent in its present form we would want to introduce a proposal, which would be firmed up into a statutory instrument. That would then be put before the House under the positive resolution procedure.
No, what the Secretary of State defended was the ability to give the variable penalties. He also said that the next stage of the process will be open to consultation. That is what was said then; it is still true, and it is the position I want.
The matter has created an interesting debate, which will probably flow into the discussion of the next group of amendments. However, I ask the Committee to oppose this particular amendment.
It has indeed been a useful debate, and the Minister has clarified the matter of extending the graduated fixed penalty points beyond the area of speeding, although that has not hitherto been flagged up in any Government document. It was the Home Office review of road traffic penalties that flagged up the need for some higher fixed penalties for those concerned about excessive speeding. There was never any suggestion that we would be considering different degrees of gravity in relation to some of the other offences to which the Minister referred.
I have not got the Official Report detailing what happened on Second Reading, but I sat through the whole debate and I heard with my own ears what the Secretary of State said. I think the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney) has a copy of the record of that debate, and I would be surprised if the Secretary of State did not say that what was contained in the proposals on new graduated fixed penalties for speeding was his judgment of the best way forward. However, if the Government are changing their mind on that in response to pressure, we shall no doubt find out more about it in the next debate.
The best way forward would be to see what comes out of the next debate. It may well be that after the next debate we shall get closer to reaching a consensus on what should be contained in such a table. If we do get to that stage, I would support the idea of including it in the Bill on Report, perhaps subject to the ability of the Government to change it later. That is a very different proposition from giving the Government discretion to change everything, and taking their word in good faith without the opportunity to amend the detail of the secondary legislation. In the mean time, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments:
No. 3, in clause 16, page 22, line 29, leave out '2-6' and insert '3-6'.
No. 28, in clause 16, page 22, line 29, leave out '2-6' and insert '1-5'.
No. 4, in clause 16, page 22, line 33, leave out '2-6' and insert '3-6'.
No. 29, in clause 16, page 22, line 33, leave out '2-6' and insert '1-5'.
'''3-6 or appropriate penalty points (fixed penalty points (fixed penalty) if committed in respect of a speed limit on a restricted road; 2-6 penalty points (fixed penalty) in other cases.''
(c) ''restricted road'' in subsection (b) means a road as restricted in section 82 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (c. 27).'.
No. 5, in clause 16, page 22, line 34, at end add
'if committed in respect of a speed limit on a restricted road; 2-6 or appropriate penalty points (fixed penalty) in any other case, and (c) ''restricted road'' in paragraph (b) means a road defined as restricted in section 82 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (c. 27).'.
The lead amendment is very specific. Its aim is to prevent the Government's proposals for graduated penalties from reducing a fixed penalty for exceeding speed limits of 30 mph or less to below three points.
The concern about the issue has arisen from the Government's discussion document. I note the Minister's statement that he regrets having published it. I am not sure whether he regrets having published the document, or whether he has regrets about some of the proposals in it. One of them is to reduce the penalty points by a third for people driving at between 30 and 39 mph in a 30 mph zone, as well as reducing the fine. I am extremely concerned about that. I know from the statements made by my hon. Friends in this Committee, as well as by others on Second Reading and elsewhere, that that concern is widespread.
To explain the reasons for that concern, let me quote the Department for Transport's own very powerful advertising campaign. It was launched on 11 January and will continue until February. It states very clearly, ''It's 30 for a reason''—''30'' being the 30 mph speed limit. The campaign centres round a poster, which is accompanied by graphic sequences, now on television and due to be shown in the cinema, showing the profound difference for a pedestrian between the impact of being knocked down by a vehicle travelling at 30 mph and one travelling at 40 mph. Both the poster and the graphics are very effective.
The campaign sends out the very good message that the Department regards the 30 mph speed limit as something of extreme importance, and relates it directly to the safety of pedestrians. It is clear that speed kills. It is a contributory factor in some 1,000 deaths and 38,000 injuries every year. The evidence is that a change of speed, an increase at around the 30 mph mark, has the greatest effect on the potential for killing and seriously injuring vulnerable pedestrians and cyclists.
It is true that drivers cannot be held responsible for all accidents that happen; they are not always to blame. However, in setting appropriate speed limits, particularly in built-up areas, surely we must take account of the nature of pedestrian and cyclist movements, as well as of those of drivers. The facts borne out by the evidence are clear: a driver is twice as likely to kill a pedestrian if he hits him at 35 mph than if he hits him at 30 mph. At 30 mph, half of those knocked down will survive, but at 40 mph 90 per cent. of adults and 80 per cent. of children will die.
Most pedestrian and cyclist casualties occur in built-up areas where the speed limit is 30 mph or lower. In 2003, only 145 of the 2,976 children killed or seriously injured while walking or cycling were not on built-up roads, so the problem is not just about speeding but about speeding in built-up areas where there is a speed limit of 30 mph. Every death is tragic and every serious injury sustained is of serious concern and can disrupt and damage the individual's life, possibly for ever.
Beyond that, however, there is a link between death and serious injury to vulnerable road users and poverty. Let us consider the situation in part of Liverpool, where a safer road partnership is now operating. The figures for 2002 showed that 100 per cent. of people killed or seriously injured in the zero to 11 age range and 50 per cent. of all car occupants killed or seriously injured in the 25 to 39 age range occurred in the north Liverpool area, which is in the top 5 per cent. of deprived areas in the UK. I repeat that, while every death or serious injury to anybody, wherever they are and whatever their position in life, is equally tragic, there is a concentration of the problem in areas that are deprived.
At the moment, 58 per cent. of drivers in built-up areas break the speed limit, and there is a preponderance and concentration of fatalities and serious accidents and injuries in the same built-up areas. In those circumstances, and given the evidence that we have nationally and locally, what sense can it make to reduce the penalties for speeding at the threshold where people are most vulnerable to death and injury on the road? I cannot see any reason for doing that. It would weaken the deterrent message that the Government and the Department for Transport are trying to send out.
I do not oppose the principle of graduated penalties. It is important that, before penalties are set, there is the widest possible consultation and consideration of the impact of those penalties. I do oppose, in principle, reducing the penalties in the area in which it has been proved that most harm is caused to pedestrians and cyclists.
In conclusion, I return to the poster issued by the Department for Transport. On it, a child says:
''Hit at 40mph: There is an 80 per cent. chance I'll die. Hit at 30mph: There is an 80 per cent. chance I'll live.''
With those facts in front of us, and having listened to what the Minister said, I hope he will assure us that the Government will not go ahead with the statement in the discussion document, which is widely regarded as a proposal.
The hon. Lady has put the case powerfully. I will not repeat either her arguments, which she put extremely ably, or the statistics, which I suspect most of us in the Room agree with and are knowledgeable about. I made similar points and used similar statistics on Second Reading and will not take up the Committee's time with them.
It seems to me that the objectives of the Bill and the clause must be twofold. The first is to make our roads safer and to ensure that the number of people killed or seriously injured diminishes. That is what we are all here to do. The second objective is to ensure that the system of justice and the application of justice for motorists and motoring offences is appropriate and just.
The amendments all share at heart a similar concern that, particularly in built-up areas where the speed limit is 40 mph or below or, most probably 30 mph, the outcome of the accident is not properly reflected by a reduction in penalty points from three to two. If the Government were to adopt the schedule in their discussion paper—and I am grateful to the Minister for his reassurance that they are open to persuasion—the House would effectively say to the outside world, ''We are a third less worried about 30 mph to 39 mph than you all thought we were, and a little bit of moderate speeding in towns isn't that bad.'' However much we may seek to address other questions about the perceived injustice or justice in respect of motorists, for the House to send out that message would be wholly wrong. We must be careful about what we say, what we include in law and the effect that it has on public perception.
It is possible to change what we want to do in order to send out the appropriate message and to ensure that the motorist is correctly dealt with. To do that, we must ask the right questions, and I am not sure that we are. Two issues relate to speed. First, there are questions about whether speed limit signs are correct. We will come to amendments on that subject later, so I will not trespass on it now. However, the questions include whether we should have more 20 mph home zones, and whether roads in rural villages should all have 30 mph limits. There are many areas in which we could lower the speed limit; there are also areas where the speed limit might be examined and raised. Occasionally speed limits have been put up and the 30 mph sign is so far in front of a village that the motorist asks, ''What's the point of this?'' He speeds through the first quarter mile or half mile and does not slow down at the point where the real danger starts.
Secondly, there is the perceived injustice—I stress perceived—that motorists feel when the totting up after four offences brings them to 12 points and obligatory disqualification. I will argue an extreme case, which I do not think is particularly likely, but it is possible for a motorist to be caught four times in succession on a motorway doing 75 mph or 76 mph, receive three points for each of those and then a ban. One might well say that that motorist was somewhat hard done by. My example is unlikely given the way in which our current legislation is enforced and the guidelines that exist, but it is possible.
With respect to the amendments, however, I am deeply concerned that if the proposals advanced were to become law, we would send a message to motorists that is wholly wrong and counter-productive for areas where the speed limit is below 40 mph, and particularly 30 mph.
I have no problem with the overall principle of graduated punishment to fit the growing severity of crime—that is part of the British justice system and I have no qualms about it. I believe strongly that the outcome for pedestrians, particularly children, has to be taken into account. The statistics dealing with cars travelling below 40 mph and at around 30 mph—as has been well illustrated by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside—show that a child is 90 per cent. likely to die if hit by a car going at 39 mph. We simply cannot afford to send out a message that does not take account of that fact. I look forward to hearing what other Committee members say, and the Minister's response. I am grateful to note from the previous debate that the Minister is listening to our representations.
It is a pleasure, Mr. Pike, to serve on a Committee that you chair, with all your experience and fair-mindedness to guide us. I declare that I co-chair the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, but all I shall say is my own contribution.
I support the desire of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside to defend the importance of the 30 mph speed limit. As she said in her powerful speech, there is currently a hard-hitting Government advertising campaign reinforcing the 30 mph limit, and the graphic television advertisement ends with the slogan, ''It's 30 for a reason''. We all ought to pause and remember that, in the areas where there is a 30 mph limit, there is most likely to be the greatest interaction between motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. Of course, among the cyclists and pedestrians, there will be a high proportion of children.
Although we have a good record of reducing casualties in comparison with many countries, we do not do as well in terms of child casualties. However, the statistics show our international reputation: we do better than most countries and we have a very good record. However, the statistics show that, last year, there were 3,508 fatalities on our roads, 33,707 serious injuries and more than 253,000 slight injuries.
All of us have probably met someone who has been touched by a tragedy caused by deaths on the road, so we can all appreciate most vividly the human effects of those deaths, and serious and slight injuries on our roads. That should be enough to make us determined to drive those figures down still further. However, dare I say that there is also an economic cost? The latest figures, from 2002, show an economic cost of each fatality to the public purse of £1,447,490, £168,260 for each serious injury and £16,750 for each slight injury. As guardians of the public purse, we should also want to drive down the number of casualties on our roads in order to save money too.
Most people agree that speed is a contributing factor to about a third of the casualties on our roads. There are more than 1,000 deaths on our roads a year because of excessive speed. That is why it is important to get people to reduce speed: it will reduce casualties on our roads.
I have explained that most of the danger is in built-up areas where the speed limit is 30 mph. As the law makers in this country, if we are satisfied that that is the right speed limit, we should expect all citizens to stick to it. When the hon. Member for Christchurch tells us about huge non-compliance, that should concern us and we should want to do something about it. I would not have thought that we would conclude that the best way to secure better compliance was to reduce the penalties for the offence. We should want to do something about matters such as the enforcement of the law, education and engineering measures to force vehicles to stick to the speed limit.
On the same day as Second Reading, the Secretary of State published a written statement about the responses that he had received to the discussion notes that he published on 1 September. He gives a helpful breakdown of what people said about his proposals. I would like to mention what he said about our activities. He points out that the Bill proposes that there must be statutory consultation on any fixed proposals that the Secretary of State might wish to make. He says:
''I believe that the Bill should provide for the possibility of a lower penalty in the appropriate circumstances.''
He adds that when he issues his proposals, there will be consultation and, of course, he says that he will consider
''all comments that hon. Members may have on graduated fixed speeding penalties, in discussions on the Bill.''—[Official Report, House of Commons, 11 January 2005; Vol. 429, c. 16WS.]
I would like to give my views for the Secretary of State to consider. I suggest that reducing the penalty from three points to two points in 30 mph speed limit areas would give a dangerous signal to people at a time when we are trying to give them the message that they should obey the law. If they do not, people will suffer serious injuries and death. Giving the alternative message would be very dangerous.
My hon. Friend obviously has great knowledge and experience of these issues. Will he tell the Committee, objectively, whether he is aware of any evidence to suggest that lowering the penalty for excessive speed will in any circumstances improve road safety?
Of course, my hon. Friend anticipates that I will not be able to give any such evidence. He is right: I cannot. I entirely agree with him.
I want to move on to the point made by the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (John Thurso) about the cumulative effects of penalty point endorsements on one's licence. On Second Reading—the hon. Member for Christchurch is quite right; I have got the Hansard with me—the Secretary of State was challenged about giving the wrong message by reducing the penalty points from three to two in 30 to 40 mph areas. He posed the question:
''Is it right to impose a two-point penalty and a 30 to 40 mph speed limit?''
He went on to answer:
''Having considered that question for some weeks, the matter turns on whether people believe that a two-point penalty, as opposed to a three-point penalty, means that someone will be more likely to speed—in other words, the difference is one point.''—[Official Report, 11 January 2005; Vol. 429, c. 218.]
I think that he was picking up on a briefing for Second Reading that we all received from the RAC Foundation, in which it said that it did not believe that there was any lessening of the deterrent effect by having a penalty of two points, rather than three.
I fundamentally disagree that a reduction does not amount to a lessening of the deterrent, but I would also like to bring in the point about cumulative effects. In this country, for many decades, we have espoused the principle that, although one speeding offence might not be enough for somebody to lose their licence, if they keep offending eventually they must get the message in a more severe way: by losing their licence. Initially, we had a general rule that somebody with three endorsements on three separate occasions in three years would, on the third occasion, in addition to the penalty for that offence, lose their licence. That was for speeding and other motoring offences. In 1981, the Conservative Government decided that that was too crude a system and they introduced penalty points. They attributed three penalty points for speeding and said that it would take a cumulation of 12 penalty points in three years to lose one's licence. So, instead of three speeding offences in three years to lose a licence, it was four. It could be argued that that was a lessening of the measure, but it was a new, more sophisticated system. It bedded down well and it has stood the test of time. I would caution against trying to revisit it.
Let us bear in mind somebody who keeps speeding in 30 mph areas at up to 40 mph. They would keep getting two points and they would have to be caught and punished six times in three years for breaking the speed limit—and running the risk of killing somebody—before they lost their licence. That would take quite some doing. Therefore, reducing the risk that totting up will lead to a compulsory disqualification is a second lessening of the deterrent.
I have a great deal of respect for the RAC Foundation and do not dismiss its arguments lightly. I support its proposal of more educational courses for people who we catch committing offences, which is a better route for us to choose than the one proposed. In this case, that would mean speed awareness courses, which are not yet universal across the country. Staffordshire recently joined the scheme and has been running courses for a year. I hope that we can catch more speeders and either require them or make it worth their while to undergo such a course.
I look back to the interdepartmental working party on road traffic law of the Department of Transport and the Home Office in 1981, just before the Transport Act 1981. Even then it was suggested that further consideration should be given to the introduction of compulsory remedial training schemes for offenders. It is time that we made that old idea a reality.
I tabled amendments Nos. 3, 4 and 5, which provide a range of options that would not involve going under three penalty points. Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 taken together would mean that under no circumstances would a motorist be able to pick up just two penalty points for a speeding offence. Amendment No. 4 on its own would mean that only on motorways and trunk roads would somebody pick up only two points for a speeding offence.
On amendment No. 5, something was lost in the translation. I had intended to table an amendment with the exact wording of amendment No. 37, to which the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross spoke. It would have the effect that nobody driving under 40 mph would be able to receive a two-point penalty.
That great range of choices leads me to conclude that the Minister is right that there is still work to be done and consultation to be had before a final system is chosen from all the different options. I give the Minister the benefit of the doubt, but I hold the Secretary of State to his word that he is listening to what Members of Parliament say.
I shall briefly explain why I endorse all the speeches that have been made thus far on the amendments. I understand the case of my hon. Friend the Minister that this is just an empowering provision and that he seeks flexibility. However, try as I might, I cannot understand why he would want the power or the flexibility to reduce the penalty points for speeding between the limits of 30 to 39 mph when there is a speed limit of 30 mph. After all, speed limits are not arbitrary. We have different speed limits for different areas to reflect the safe driving speed for that locality and the conditions that pertain there. Moreover, there is a clear relationship between excessive speeding and the frequency of accidents, and there is an even more clear direct relationship between excessive speeding and fatalities. We have seen the figures: 20 per cent. of people will die when hit at 30 mph, but 90 per cent. will die at 40 mph. I happen to believe that the penalties for driving offences should reflect that evidence of increased danger.
We are debating the Road Safety Bill at a time when there are adverts that explain the rationale for the 30 mph limit. Other hon. Members have alluded to them. How can we come to this place and argue to reduce the penalty for driving at that very cusp where there is so obviously an increased danger to life, especially when we know that the people who are most at risk are children in poorer areas—working-class areas? Those are the people who are dying. We should remember that 3,500 people die on our roads every year, leaving behind countless other victims: parents, in-laws, sisters, brothers and friends. For all those reasons, it seems inappropriate that we could send out a mixed message today.
Earlier this week, I was on a Radio 5 Live phone-in programme about road fatalities. I heard many chilling contributions from people who had lost loved ones, but in some respects the most chilling contribution of all was a text saying, ''Get a life—99.9 per cent. of us speed and none of us intend to kill.'' But the fact is that 3,500 people die every year. I wonder whether that is because people drive at excessive speeds, where there is a 30 mph limit in particular.
I do not think, Mr. Pike, that I have served under your chairmanship before, and it is a pleasure to do so.
I also come to these debates as a complete novice. Unlike most other members of the Committee, I have not studied these issues before. Like almost all motorists, I was hugely impressed by the Government's campaign—the poster campaign to which my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside referred—and even more so by the starkness of the television campaign. I confess to having been one of those drivers who thought that if I was driving at roughly 30 mph in built-up areas, I was doing all right. That campaign made me ashamed, and made me reassess how I drive in city areas. I found the campaign chilling and very effective.
I was equally impressed by the speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Liverpool, Riverside, for Caerphilly (Mr. David) and for Stafford and of the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross. Their understanding of the matter, and the points that they made in support of their amendments, are telling; I was impressed and persuaded by them. However, although I agree with them, is it not possible that debates about penalty points are slightly missing the point? The whole thrust of the Government's campaign was that it is speed that kills. The only radical way to address that problem, and to try to bring down the horrific figures of which my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside reminded the Committee, is to reduce the speed.
If fewer children—and adults—are killed at 30 mph than at 40 mph, is that not a compelling reason, in built-up and residential areas where there is currently a 30 mph speed limit, for reducing that limit to 20 mph? Being a novice, I do not know whether there are compelling reasons for that being a naive approach. Perhaps a 20 mph speed limit would paralyse city centres, although I cannot imagine that that would be true, because in few city centres does the traffic move at anything like 20 mph.
Such a reduction in speed limit would not be a huge inconvenience to us as motorists, and I would have thought that it had a much better chance of being effective than playing around with the penalty points system or retaining the penalty point system and making it tougher. However, I propose that not as a substitute for the penalty points system, but in addition to it. I hope that, at various points in our consideration of the Bill, the Minister will address that problem.
There may be opportunities later in our consideration of the Bill to debate speed limits. In view of the excellent points that have been made in this short debate, I believe that there is a compelling reason for reducing the limit to 20 mph. The public might not like it, initially, and might view it as the nanny state, but if it saved a great many lives and only marginally inconvenienced us as motorists, there is a strong case in favour of it.
This has been an excellent debate, and it is great that, unlike on some Standing Committees on which I have served, everyone is joining in, with the exception of the Minister's Parliamentary Private Secretary, who I imagine has other responsibilities and does not wish to join in, and, of course the lady Whip, the hon. Member for Lincoln (Gillian Merron), although she has been given plenty of food for thought in listening to the potent comments of Government Members.
The debate has highlighted the fact that the Government are making a mistake in simply equating the gravity of a speeding offence with the extent to which the limit was exceeded. It is apparent to everyone who studied the subject that the circumstances in which the speeding takes place are what is important. That is why someone speeding over the 30 mph limit in a built-up area when there are vulnerable road users around is committing a more serious offence than somebody who does the same thing when there is nobody around apart from a few urban foxes.
Nothing in the graduated points system addresses that issue. It always used to be that one should drive at an appropriate speed in all circumstances. Enforcement became difficult and it was tiresome to assess each case on its circumstances, and so speed limits were brought in as a proxy for the proposition that one should keep one's driving at an appropriate speed.
We have now got to the situation where speed limits do not have flexibility, apart from on some motorways following the Road Traffic Act 1991, which I had the privilege of steering through the House. That introduced the power for variable speed limits. I want much more use of that power, particularly in urban areas, where there are widely differing circumstances. They depend, for example, on the time of day.
There should also be more scope for flexibility. The perfect speed limit is one that it is inappropriate to exceed in perfect conditions. That is what it should be. Most people now seem to think that it is perfectly all right to exceed the speed limit in good conditions, within the tolerance allowed by the police, and to keep roughly within the limit when conditions are not very good.
The importance of speed limits has been eroded because local authorities have often set speed limits that are inappropriate or that are not appropriate in all circumstances. Unfortunately, as the Minister has made clear, the rather rigid approach to variable penalties for speeding does not allow any scope for taking into account different circumstances. That is why the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside was on to a good point with the amendment.
The hon. Lady, like all of us, is concerned about the messages that are going out. The Government spend an enormous amount of taxpayers' money on trying to promote a clear road safety message. As politicians, we know that the message must be very straightforward for people to begin to understand it and that it must be repeated on many occasions for it to get home.
When I was the road safety Minister, we were banging on about the different consequences of a collision at 40 mph, 30 mph or 20 mph. Ten years later, the Government are still advertising and promoting that message. It is important that we, as a legislature, do not do anything that will undermine that message. However, at the same time, we must have regard to common sense.
I was wondering whether, just because 58 per cent. of people are not obeying the law, should we give up and say that breaking the law by driving faster than 30 mph is okay? The hon. Gentleman is right that we have been banging on for a long time about the differences between the injuries caused at 30 mph and at 40 mph, but is it not right that we stick at that, as has been the case with many other road safety messages, such as those on seatbelts? It takes almost a generation to change the culture. Would it not be better to keep banging away, rather than to move towards flexibility at this stage and send out the wrong message? I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would support that.
The hon. Gentleman makes his point, but I think that we should introduce more flexibility with regard to speed limits, if it is possible to do so. It is clear that driving at a given speed through an urban area will be safer when few people are around than when pedestrians are tumbling off the pavements and almost into the path of vehicles. That is common sense.
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that many members of the public would say the opposite? They would prefer more policemen to be engaged in duties other than traffic duties.
I do not meet those members of the public. However, I am impressed by some of the ginger groups that operate on behalf of motorists, such as the Association of British Drivers, which is behind the sensible speeds initiative. It is against all the fixed penalties and the insensitive enforcement. It wants more sensitive discretion to be exercised in enforcement, and it realises that the best way to bring that about and to bring to book the very bad drivers who are such a menace on our roads is to have more police.
The hon. Gentleman backs his party's policy of significantly reducing the number of traffic police, and I am sure that, in due course, he will get his reward from the Government for having supported them on a policy that is absurd and totally counter-productive in terms of road safety.
We could carry on debating this matter for much longer. However, as I made a full contribution to the previous debate, I will conclude now, and wait with bated breath to hear what the Minister has to say.
I apologise for missing the beginning of the debate.
The Minister may be sitting very comfortably at the moment, thinking that he is positioned somewhere between Labour Back Benchers, the Liberal Democrats, and those on the Conservative Front Bench. However, being in the middle is not always right. I ask him to listen to the points that have been made, and in particular those from his Back Benchers in strong support of amendment No. 3, rather than those for Conservative amendment No. 28.
The most pertinent point was made by the hon. Member for Stafford. There is always a lot of pressure in all our constituencies from people who want reduced speed limits in residential areas. The police resist that because, by and large, they cannot police them as they do not have the resources to put in place the mobile cameras and so forth. However, I have something to say about whether a penalty of two points is appropriate. Situations outside schools are easy to deal with, but I can think of two or three dead-end residential streets in my constituency—Third avenue in Teignmouth, for example—where there have been complaints about cars going too fast. We are trying to get the police to put a speed camera in place there to catch the young drivers who speed and to get them to slow down. We may catch them once, but there is not a chance in hell of my being able to get a mobile speed camera there on six separate occasions and to catch a repeat offender. There is no opportunity to do that. Therefore, reducing the penalty to two points for the lower speed limits will mean that people can speed almost with impunity, because they know that they might get caught once, but that they are very unlikely to be caught two, three or four times after that.
Retaining three points for the lower speed limits is therefore entirely appropriate. There must be a risk that persistent speeders, particularly those who speed in built-up areas, will lose their licences. At the end of the day, if they persist in speeding, they are not going to lose their licences, but another person is going to lose their life. As my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross said, the difference between a 30 mph impact on a child and a 40 mph impact is the difference between the child being in hospital and the child being in a grave.
This has been a full and extremely well informed debate, and I wish that all debates in Standing Committees could rise to such quality. The tone was set by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside, who made a powerful contribution in her inimitable way—quiet, but astonishingly persuasive and strong.
My hon. Friend has had a long-standing interest in such matters, both personally and through the Transport Committee. The proposals in the Bill were the subject of an inquiry by that Committee and we were grateful to it for the views expressed. It is unusual, although not unique, for such a Bill to go before a Select Committee, and I am pleased that that was possible.
My hon. Friend painted a picture that we in the Department have been considering as well. The rate of death increases exponentially as the speed increases; so, at 20 mph there is a very high rate of survival of crashes, but beyond 40 mph, and certainly at 50 mph, pedestrians are unlikely to survive. She referred to the campaign of posters and to the television advert that the Department put out recently, as did my hon. Friends the Members for Stafford and for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher). That advert is good because it does not show the blood-and-guts side, but a girl having an 80 per cent. chance of survival after being hit at 30 mph, with the caption ''It's 30 for a reason''. If a child is hit at a higher speed, the chances are that she will not appear to mend as she does in our advert.
My hon. Friend also said that she was not opposed to the principle of graduated penalties. In response to the discussion document that we put out, that view was almost universally expressed by all who made the case. She made a persuasive case, as did others, and I assure her that her views will be listened to in the next stage when we implement the legislation.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross for his support. Just for correction, he talked about enforcement on the motorway of a 76 mph speed limit. In theory that is possible, but the Association of Chief Police Officers guidelines refer to 10 per cent. plus two, and my arithmetic tells me that that makes 79 mph. In reality, however, I think that the enforced limit is somewhat higher than that, although that would depend on the circumstances and the police force concerned. However, they all use good sense in such matters.
The hon. Gentleman also mentioned the example of 30 mph to 35 mph attracting three points. Again, the limit is not enforced at those speeds but at higher speeds. I thought that I would mention that in case someone read our proceedings and thought the limits were implemented in the way that he described.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford made a helpful speech. His chairmanship of PACTS is well known. PACTS also had a session on the Bill and interrogated me and my officials, which, again, we found very useful. He made a point that should underlie our thinking in this debate: in comparison with the rest of the world—certainly with the rest of Europe—we have one of the best records on road safety, and I am proud of that. Over the years, what successive Governments have done has led to a relatively good record on our roads. Notice that I say ''relatively''. Whether that record is acceptable is another matter. We would not be discussing the Road Safety Bill if we thought that our record was satisfactory.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough said that the majority—or a large number, at least—of people injured on urban roads are children. I am very pleased that during the past two or three years, particularly among children, there has been a dramatic fall in deaths and, in particular, serious injuries on our roads. We set ourselves the target of a 50 per cent. reduction in the number of children killed and seriously injured on the roads over 10 years; in just over three and a half years, we have achieved a 42 per cent. reduction, and that is very pleasing. A bit more arithmetic would enable us to imagine how many children are now, as a result of that, alive and well rather than injured, and we could picture how successful we have been.
The counterpart, however, is that children are still dieing, and that is unacceptable. As many children as go to a medium-sized primary school are killed on our roads each year. When we think about the issue in those terms, we should realise that, although we are improving our record, we have to do much better.
Not only are we doing well in this country—we take such things very seriously—but I am delighted that the European Union and other countries in Europe now look to us as an example of good practice. That tendency is spreading throughout the world; I have been to conferences in other parts of the world and been approached by Governments who want us to help them get a record that compares to ours. I am proud of that. Having said all that, there are no grounds for complacency. Just as figures can go down, they can go up. If we let off our efforts, there would be a good chance that the figures would start going up again.
''After the Bill is enacted, we will be obliged to consult by statute.''—
I have underlined that point today. He added:
''People must be able to see fairness and proportion in all laws, but I do not believe that the one-point difference that we are discussing, will mean that lots of people say, 'Well, it is all right to break a 30 mph speed limit.' ''—[Official Report, 11 January 2005; Vol. 429, c. 216.]
That is true. People do not suddenly say, ''It is one point down; now I can go as fast as I like as often as I like.'' The Secretary of State's statement was correct, and motoring organisations have made the same point. Notwithstanding that, I have listened carefully to what my hon. Friend said. Our decisions in the future have to be informed by parliamentary debates and by the views of those outside. That will inform the next part of the process.
I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central was going to go into the confessional as he made his comments.
He did, indeed. If we asked people in this Room to put their hands up, others might join him. However, I shall not invite them to, lest it create embarrassment.
The hon. Member for Christchurch made the good point that the issue is not just about speed, but appropriate speed. Speed limits are seen as a target by a minority of people; they are not. They show the maximum permissible speed on a road. The hon. Gentleman rightly said that that is not necessarily the appropriate speed in all circumstances. We can think of examples in the morning when children are going to school along a busy high street. It could be raining, too, as it was a couple of mornings ago. It is inappropriate to be driving at 30 mph in such circumstances. During the week I reside in London, and to travel at more than 10 or 15 mph at quarter to 9 in the morning down the road near where I live would be grossly irresponsible. Parents are arriving in cars and children are milling about the narrow road.
Amusement was expressed in certain parts of the press that in Plymouth, in part of which is my constituency, there was an advisory speed limit of 10 mph in the home zone. It went out in the press—again, in the way in which we debate matters in this country—that the Government will now impose a restriction of 10 mph. There was a picture of someone with a red flag walking in front of a car on the motorway. It would be outrageous to drive at more than 10 mph in the home zone. Although the speed limit is not compulsory, the local people have enforced the restriction. They approached people who were driving too fast and said, ''Hey, just a minute, you live here as well as I do. You are not going at that speed through our community. Our children are on the streets and people want to use the road as a walking space as well as a driving space.'' Such an approach has worked well. There has been much success.
I shall double check, but it is my view and that of my officials that powers exist for authorities to take up such an option. If it were not the case, perhaps we can promote that idea. The only difficulty with it is that, when we impose a variable speed limit, it must be enforced and signing must be in place. That does not come cheaply. The variable speed limit on the M25 has performed well and I should like that system in other areas, nevertheless it does not come cheaply. We must bear in mind signs, enforcement measures and other matters that go with it.
The hon. Member for Teignbridge (Richard Younger-Ross) referred to many points in his helpful and useful contribution. I hope that members of the Committee understand, first, that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, myself and others in the Department are committed to reducing the number of people killed and injured on our roads. We are determined about that. We are succeeding, but we want to ensure that we continue to succeed. Secondly, the Department's current advertising campaign stresses the importance of the 30 mph limit and that it is not a matter to be treated lightly. If the limit is 30 mph, it is 30 mph and not more than that. Publicity has been drawn to the problems and dangers of travelling faster. It is fairly obvious what the Department feels; such matters are embedded in its thinking.
I listened carefully to the views that were expressed on Second Reading and I have listened carefully to the views that have been expressed today. We should leave the clause as drafted, as it gives us enabling powers. There may be places where we can consider reducing the number of penalty points. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough rightly said, we are talking about road safety. Some yellow boxes and no-right turns are about solving the problem of congestion—to keep traffic moving and to stop people being inconsiderate to others—rather than about safety, and it may be appropriate to take that into account when considering infringements. I would like to hear some more views on the matter.
On that basis I hope that the hon. Lady will ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
It would apply to any other offences that would attract a fixed penalty. There is a range of offences, and I gave some examples in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough. When the Bill has received Royal Assent, we will have to examine carefully which offences would be appropriate for proposals either for the slight reduction that I mentioned earlier, or, more importantly, whether to introduce a greater penalty for those who flagrantly exceed the speed limit and excessively commit offences and break the law. We will have to consider whether we can impose greater penalties and larger fines.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.