I congratulate Jack Brereton on securing this important debate on an issue that clearly and obviously has much cross-party support and interest. I want to speak today on behalf of my constituents, the Smith family from Llandevaud, who tragically lost their daughter Rhiannon, aged just 21, in a road collision last year. I want to pay tribute to them for the way in which they have bravely and relentlessly campaigned ever since for measures to make our roads safer, to prevent such events from happening to other families.
Alongside their work on local road safety issues, the family established the Rhiannon Jade Smith Memorial Trust, which held its first Welsh road safety conference last month at the Celtic Manor in Newport. It was extremely well attended and covered a large range of road safety issues, many of which were touched on today. Experts who attended included Rod King, from the “20’s Plenty For Us” campaign, which advocates the potential benefits of default 20 mph speed limits in urban and residential areas, except where it makes sense to retain 30 mph speed limits. My Welsh Assembly colleague, John Griffiths, is campaigning on that with the Welsh Government, and it was the subject of a recent debate.
Gwent police Chief Inspector Martyn Smith, who is responsible for our roads policing, and police and crime commissioner Jeff Cuthbert, spoke about how they are tackling alcohol and drug driving as well as those who use their phones behind the wheel. I agree with my hon. Friend Jim Fitzpatrick that cuts to police and traffic officers make their job far more difficult, and that that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. We also heard from Sarah Jones, of Public Health Wales, who talked in favour of graduated driving licences. Those are obviously targeted at younger drivers and they exist in other countries. She is a passionate advocate of them. It would be interesting to hear the Minister’s views on both the 20 mph campaign and graduated driving licences.
We talked about the need for a dedicated road collision investigation branch, similar to those that investigate rail, maritime and air accidents, which would look at road accident data, analyse incidents and spot any trends, to identify solutions. I know that the Smith family would like me to raise that specifically with the Minister today. Obviously, it would not replace the work of the coroners and police, but it would work on top of that, to analyse trends, and would have the potential to save more lives.
I was pleased to see the Government’s announcement in the summer of a dedicated branch run by the RAC Foundation as a pilot. I look forward to hearing the results so far from the Minister, so that that approach can grow. Countries such as Sweden have used it effectively for many years, and it would be interesting to see how far the Government have got. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse, I think targets are important; it is time that the Department for Transport thought again about the national road safety targets, which were scrapped in 2010.
I draw the Minister’s attention to the suggestion for an all-Wales fatal collision review board, which South Wales police are working on. They have proposed a model similar to the national road collision investigation unit, where a board of experts would meet regularly to discuss categories of drivers or road users who are particularly high-risk and review fatal collisions to consider trends. All kinds of bodies and partners could be included. It would be good if the Minister looked at that, and specifically at cross-border working with the Welsh Government. It is important to learn road safety lessons wherever we can.
We are clearly not making the progress on road safety and fatalities that we should expect as a nation. The Government’s projections show an increase in local traffic of up to 50% by 2040, so clearly we must do more and collaborate better to make roads safer.