Road Safety — [Mrs Madeleine Moon in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:41 pm on 16th October 2018.

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Photo of Karl Turner Karl Turner Shadow Minister (Transport) 3:41 pm, 16th October 2018

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Moon. I pay tribute to Jack Brereton for securing this important and timely debate. He is clearly very committed to making roads safer in his constituency and he speaks with great knowledge of the subject.

The Government recently published their 2017 figures for reported road casualties in Great Britain, after a lengthy delay. Although there are some positives in that latest statistical release, there is also cause for concern. The Minister told me earlier this year that the picture was mixed, and it remains so. We have heard from hon. Members on both sides of the House about this country’s proud record. We have some of the safest roads in the world. In fact, we have the fourth lowest number of road deaths per million inhabitants, behind Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. However, we must never think that that means the job is done, while thousands of families each year are still traumatised by the tragedy of losing a loved one in what are so often avoidable circumstances.

Last year, as we have heard, 1,793 people were killed on Britain’s roads. That is an average of five every day, and more than 10 times that number suffered serious injuries, many of which were life-changing. The Government talk a good game about road safety being a top priority, but their legacy so far is one of disappointment and frustration, and the latest Department for Transport figures reaffirm that. Since 2010, progress has well and truly stalled. Another year of stats has been published and we are no further forward.

I pay tribute to the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety and Ageas for publishing their important report on safe system and road safety indicators earlier this month, and the Government need to sit up and take notice of that. Many stakeholders are calling on the Government to adopt road safety performance indicators. The Government scrapped road targets that successfully reduced the number of people killed or seriously injured by a third under the Labour Government. The Government say that targets do not achieve anything, but I disagree. They focus minds and attention, and hold the Government to account. Currently, there are no targets with which to assess progress. The Government set themselves targets to meet in pretty much every other area of policy, but not for reducing road deaths and injuries. Why is that the case?

We have heard about the safer road fund, and we welcomed that targeted approach to enabling local authorities to improve the most dangerous stretches of A road in England. The fund initially totalled £175 million, of which £100 million is currently invested. However, the other £75 million that was originally allocated has, according to the Minister, “not been required”. Will he clarify what that is about? We saw this morning that the RAC Foundation and the Road Safety Foundation have published a report on the possible benefits of the safer road fund, which estimates that the fund could prevent almost 1,450 deaths and serious injuries over the next two decades on the riskiest A roads of England. We are crying out for investment in road safety, so why is that money not being spent and where is it being reallocated to?

We are also concerned about enforcement. Traffic officers have seen a 24% fall in their numbers since 2012—a point raised by my hon. Friend Jim Fitzpatrick. In 2010, there were 3,500 police officers patrolling the UK’s roads, but by 2017 the figure had fallen to 2,600. It seems that cuts to our vital services are putting safety at risk.

The latest road safety figures show that there has been an increase in the number of pedestrian and motorcyclist fatalities as well. The number of cyclists killed has remained broadly constant since 2010: why has progress stalled in that area as well? I would be grateful if, in the time he has available, the Minister could answer some of the points raised by the Front-Bench spokespeople as well as by hon. Members on both sides of the House.