It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Evans. I congratulate my hon. Friend Stephen Twigg on securing this crucial debate. He has long been a prominent campaigner for better road safety, not only as a Member of Parliament but, as we have heard, when he was a Minister in the Department for Education, where he did a great deal of work to improve road safety around schools, and we thank him for that.
I pay tribute to the family of Bobby Colleran and to the important work that the Bobby Colleran Trust does. I know that the introduction of Bobby zones outside schools in Liverpool has been successful. The roll-out of such zones nationally is something that the Government should seriously consider. I am very keen to meet people from the trust to hear more about the great work it does.
Over the past two decades the UK has earned a reputation for having roads that are among the safest in the world. Sadly, over the past eight years progress has stalled and even begun to reverse. The latest statistics show that road deaths are at a five-year high and that serious, life-changing injuries are up by 9%. The latest data from the Department for Transport shows that child pedestrian fatalities rose by 36% in 2016, and they were up slightly the following year. The introduction of maximum 20 mph speed limit zones around schools would help reduce the number of such incidents dramatically. All the evidence shows that areas that have implemented the 20 mph limit have seen a reduction in casualties. My own city of Hull has introduced a number of 20 mph zones to address the issue. Over a six-year period, we have seen a staggering 74% drop in child pedestrian casualties.
The 20 mph zones would not just have benefits for road safety; importantly, they would improve air quality, reduce noise pollution and encourage more physical activity, such as walking and cycling, by contributing towards a safer environment. In the Labour party’s 2017 manifesto, we said that a future Labour Government
“will reset the UK’s road safety vision and ambitiously strive for a transport network with zero deaths, reintroducing road-safety targets, setting out bold measures that will continuously improve safety standards.”
Will the Minister say why the Government scrapped the road safety targets introduced by previous Governments?
The Government talk about road safety being a top priority, but they have failed to reduce the number of people seriously injured or killed on our roads. The evidence points to the reduction targets working successfully to promote safer roads. Enforcement is a vital part of keeping our roads safe, yet the number of traffic police officers has been slashed due to huge cuts to police forces. It is not a time to be party political—the debate is far more important than that—but the evidence shows that when police officer numbers are slashed, casualty numbers near schools tend to go up. According to a Department for Transport statistical table, the number of serious road injuries increased by 7% in the year to September 2017. Do the Government not recognise the link? It is time for them to reverse the cuts they have imposed during their time in office, which have undoubtedly led to the decline in road safety we have seen in recent years. I look forward to hearing what the Government are doing.
Although we have one of the safest road networks around, we should never be complacent, and the Government should be doing much more to make our roads even safer. The roll-out of Bobby zones nationally would go a long way towards reducing deaths and serious injury. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s remarks on the important points raised during today’s debate.