Clause 1 - Road safety grants

Part of Road Safety Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 21st March 2006.

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Photo of Greg Knight Greg Knight Chair, Procedure Committee 11:00 am, 21st March 2006

One thing that unites hon. Members on both sides of the Committee is that we all want road safety to be improved, although we may disagree on   how to achieve it. One way of doing so is to ensure that every driver who transgresses receives penalty points on his licence and eventually is removed from the road.

I believe that a one-eyed approach is less effective than a broader approach that encompasses educating all road users, not just those who drive a motor vehicle but cyclists and pedestrians, and increasing warnings. My hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire mentioned the flashing electronic signs, which are very effective because they warn all road users who may not be familiar with a stretch of road that they need to take care. I hope when the Minister replies he will confirm that he will take a broad view of road safety and consider a mixture of penalties, education and warnings where appropriate. Some Opposition Members feel that the so-called road safety camera partnerships in some parts of the country are obsessed with raking in fine money by catching motorists speeding and less focused on the wider promotion of road safety.

The clause is very widely drafted, which may be a reason to applaud the Minister. Subsection (1) states:

“A national transport authority may make payments to any local authority or any other authority or body for meeting the whole or part of the capital or running costs of any measures”.

If “any measures” are indeed to be considered—if the issue is to be considered in the broad sense—there is a case for encouraging local innovation. If a parish council has a unique idea about how road safety can best be promoted in the village or villages it represents, why not encourage that and give it a grant? The measure does not have to be yet another red box alongside the road; it may be a scheme to go into schools to teach children about the dangers of traffic, or a method of encouraging members of the community to play their part, as they do in neighbourhood watch schemes which have been such a success in tackling burglary. There may be many such ideas that the Government have not yet picked up on but that should be encouraged. I therefore hope that the Minister will confirm that he envisages the clause operating as broadly as possible.

I agree with the comments on amendment No. 17. In general we do not want to encourage more bureaucracy, but the Minister will satisfy us if he can say how he envisages the effectiveness of the clause being monitored. Does he expect his Department to do that and feed back to him? I would be satisfied if there is to be active monitoring by officials at the Department for Transport: I do not necessarily want the over-regulation of an annual report. If that is how the Minister envisages the clause working, perhaps he will undertake periodically to make a written statement to the House stating what grants have been given, what new ideas have been encouraged and so on. I think that the Minister will be able to allay many of our concerns when he responds to the debate.