PACTS Comments on Parliamentary Questions: 29 Nov – 2 Dec
Oral Answers to Transport Questions in the Commons on Thursday the 2nd December:
7. Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central) (Lab): What assessment he has made of the effects of reductions in road safety grants and the ending of Government funding for speed cameras on the number of road traffic (a) accidents and (b) fatalities. 
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mike Penning): No assessment has been made about the effect on road accidents that may result from changes to road safety grants. The Government continue substantially to fund local transport in local authorities, including for road safety. Speed camera operations can still continue if the local authorities decide that they wish them to do so.
Paul Blomfield: Frankly, I am shocked to hear the Minister say that no assessment has been made regarding the consequences of significant cuts to capital and revenue funding and the ending of specific ring-fencing for local authority road safety grants at a time when local authorities are going to be under unprecedented financial pressure. I urge the Minister to think again about the dangerous consequences of the lack of priority that the Government are giving to road safety.
Mike Penning: Especially as an ex-fireman, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that road safety is paramount for this Government. That is why I am taking this forward in such strong ways, particularly with local authorities. It is for local authorities, not central Government, to decide what is best for their communities. Speed cameras have been beneficial in some parts of the country, but they have also been seen as cash cows. It is for local authorities to decide, and we will work with them.
Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): May I draw the Minister’s attention to early-day motion 1084, moved by me and co-sponsored by two former road safety Ministers, one Labour and one Conservative? The EDM welcomes a report from the RAC Foundation which confirms that each year the presence of speed cameras prevents 800 people from being killed or seriously injured. In the light of that, will the Minister give more credit to speed cameras, because they do save lives?
Mike Penning: I pay credit to the work that my hon. Friend has done over many years on road safety. The truth of the matter is that some speed cameras do fantastic work, and some do not. In local authority areas such as Swindon, where speed cameras have been stopped altogether, there has been no indication of an increase in accidents since they have gone. It is for local authorities to decide, and we will work with them, but the public must be with them when it comes to speed cameras. The public must, whatever happens, be confident that speed cameras are there for the right reason.
“We would expect that road safety would remain a priority for local communities and that local spending would reflect that.”
The RAC calculates that speed cameras save 70 lives a year. Can the Minister tell the House how it is supposed to ensure that road safety remains a priority when his Government are cutting funding to local government by more than 30%? Is not the truth that ending Government funding for speed cameras is nothing to do with dictating priorities to local government but all about them making cuts to vital road safety measures that he does not wish to defend?
Mike Penning: The shadow Minister is better than that; he knows full well that some speed cameras work very well and some do not. The pre-2004 speed cameras in many areas, including my own, where the money was hypothecated straight back to the local authorities, were there to raise cash, not necessarily to prevent accidents. It is up to local authorities to use the money that has been given to them by central Government for their communities. It is for them to decide, not central Government.
PACTS comments: The RAC Foundation report is available here.
Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): Is the Secretary of State aware that the answer given just a few minutes ago by the Road Safety Minister is probably the worst answer I have heard in this House in 31 years? Professor Richard Allsop, an acknowledged world expert on transport safety, says that 800 people will die because of the Government’s policy on speed cameras. Is the Secretary of State going to just sit there and let that happen?
Mr Hammond: No, and I completely reject the analysis. As the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning), has said, speed cameras are useful additions to the road safety armoury in some locations. It is for local authorities to decide whether they wish to continue with speed camera operation. I hope that they will act responsibly and carefully in making those decisions.
Mr John Leech (Manchester, Withington) (LD): May I urge the Secretary of State to ignore today’s report from the Select Committee on Transport on the North review in the same way as the report ignored conclusive evidence that reducing the drink-drive limit would save lives? Instead, will he bring forward proposals to reduce the drink-drive limit from 80 mg to 50 mg?
Mr Hammond: I have not seen the conclusive evidence that the hon. Gentleman speaks of, but I have seen various opinions in this area. I have not yet read the Transport Committee’s report but I have to say to him that I am a little surprised to hear him, as a member of that Committee, urging me to ignore its report and findings. Part of our democratic process is to have our debates in the Committees and to get behind their findings and reports when they are published.
PACTS comments: The Transport Committee report Mr Leech refers to, Drink and Drug Driving Law, was published this week. It proposed a zero limit approach (20mg) to drink driving in the long term, rather than implementing what they thought would be a confusing interim limit of 50 mg. Though it could be viewed as a missed opportunity to lower the drink drive limit to 50mg in the short term, PACTS welcomes the support expressed for a zero approach and calls for the government to set a clear timetable for action.
John Mann: Since the last Transport Questions, I have corrected the Minister with responsibility for roads: there have been 27 collisions at Elkesley on the A1 in the past five years. When will the Minister press the button to start this scheme, which is designed and ready to go, so that we can save lives by building the bridge at Elkesley?
Mr Hammond: The hon. Gentleman knows that road schemes are evaluated on a cost-benefit basis. Accident figures are one of the factors taken into account and built into the analysis, but we will always look at the cost-benefit analysis-the overall benefits that the scheme will bring, compared with the costs-and all schemes have to be looked at fairly and objectively in the light of the limited funding available.
Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Lab): Can the Secretary of State update the House on progress following the consultation on the safety at street works and road works code of practice? More than 500,000 people are working on the highways unprotected, and we need new legislation to be able to get new jobs, which could be based in areas outside the south-east.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Norman Baker): I am happy to say that we are having discussions in the Department with relevant bodies outside, including the roadworks community, to work out how best to go forward and ensure that we get the balance right between improved safety, where that is appropriate, and not loading inappropriate costs on business.
Written Answers from throughout the week:
Jim Fitzpatrick: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what proportion of his Department’s capital grant for road safety the proposed reduction of £17.2 million in the comprehensive spending review represents; and if he will make a statement. 
Mike Penning: As part of the coalition Government’s commitment to decentralising power and financial autonomy to local government and communities, the Department for Transport (DfT) is radically simplifying its funding for 2011-12, moving from 26 different grant streams to just four. This has included discontinuing the dedicated capital grant for road safety.
It is for local authorities to decide how to invest the funding support provided in the comprehensive spending review period. The planned Department for Transport funding to support local authorities’ capital investments for the period is summarised in the following table. More details have been provided in an answer given to the hon. Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts) on 25 November 2010, Official Report, columns 386-87W.
|Total DfT c apital f unding for local authorities (excluding TfL)|
Robert Halfon: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) how much his Department’s agencies and non-departmental public bodies spent from the public purse on influencing public policy through (a) employing external (i) public affairs companies, (ii) strategic consultancies and (iii) corporate communications firms, (b) external marketing and (c) other activities in each of the last 10 years; 
(2) which of his Department’s non-departmental public bodies have undertaken activities to influence public policy for which they engaged (a) public affairs and (b) public relations consultants in each year since 1997; and at what monetary cost in each such year. 
None of the seven executive agencies of the Department has spent any money from the public purse on influencing public policy through (a) employing external (i) public affairs companies, (ii) strategic consultancies and (iii) corporate communications firms, (b) external marketing and (c) other activities.
The following non-departmental public bodies have not undertaken activities to influence public policy for which they engaged (a) public affairs and (b) public relations consultants nor spent money from the public purse on influencing public policy through (a) employing external (i) public affairs companies, (ii) strategic consultancies and (iii) corporate communications firms, (b) external marketing and (c) other activities:
Northern Lighthouse Board
Trinity House Lighthouse Service
Renewable Fuels Agency
Directly Operated Railways
Railway Heritage Committee
British Transport Police Authority
Passenger Focus spent £10,662 in 2005-06 and £6,021 in 2006-07 on activities to influence public policy for which they engaged public affairs consultants on advice and support on parliamentary affairs, but no specific activities or lobbying were undertaken. They also spent £18,674 in 2008-09 on employing external public affairs companies for support organising fringe events at party conferences.
Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the number of (a)fatalities, (b) serious injuries and (c) minor injuries sustained by (i) users of mobility scooters and (ii) people hit by mobility scooters in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement. 
Norman Baker: I have discussed this matter with my colleague, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning) and with officials as part of a wider consideration of the topic of mobility scooters.
Road casualty statistics do not currently include mobility scooters as a separate vehicle category, so we have no central data on the number of these vehicles involved in accidents although we are aware of specific incidents.
We are also aware that the number of mobility vehicles is on the increase. In 2010, the Department for Transport initiated a survey to help assess the number of mobility scooter users and the extent to which their use may have injured people. I will be considering its conclusions as part of an overall review of the laws governing the use of mobility vehicles. The results of the survey can be viewed on the Department’s website at:
Public Transport: Disability
Paul Uppal: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will take steps to improve access to public transport for (a) blind people and (b) people with other disabilities in (i) the West Midlands, (ii) Wolverhampton South West constituency and (iii) nationally. 
By way of improvements to physical accessibility, national deadlines ranging between 2015 and 2020 are in place for public transport vehicles to meet modern accessibility standards. In addition, I am currently
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considering plans for implementation of provisions in the Equality Act 2010 which aim to ensure better levels of wheelchair access to taxis both in terms of availability and assistance. I will be making an announcement in due course.
By 2015, nine rail stations in the West Midlands will receive an accessible, step-free route as part of the Access for All programme. A further 90 stations have been offered funding for a variety of smaller scale access improvements including the installation of tactile surfaces, lighting upgrades, public address systems, signage and automatic doors. In line with the Coalition’s localism agenda, it will be for local partnerships-integrated transport authorities working with local authorities and communities to identify solutions for local improvements.
Road Safety Markings Association
Roads: Snow and Ice
John Woodcock: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the effects on the national road network of an increased frequency
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of abnormal weather conditions arising from climate change; and whether he has made an estimate of future resource requirements to ensure network resilience. 
Norman Baker: The Highways Agency manages the strategic road network in England. They have used the latest scenarios from the UK Climate Projections and developed a climate change risk assessment methodology as part of a Climate Change Adaptation Strategy. This will enable incorporation of climate change considerations into design standards and specifications, routine maintenance, operating procedures, and the development of contingency plans; ensuring that the Highways Agency continues to operate a dynamic and resilient network.
In support of the Adaptation Strategy, the Highways Agency has developed an Adaptation Framework, designed to meet the needs of the network and to address the aims of the adaptation provisions of the Climate Change Act 2008.
The management of local roads in England is a matter for local highway authorities. It is for each authority to assess how the maintenance of their roads should take account of climate change. The Department for Transport has, in conjunction with the UK Roads Board, published “Maintaining pavements in a changing climate”. This includes guidance on maintenance practices which improve the resilience of roads to climate change.
Transport: Local Enterprise Partnerships
Dr Huppert: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has for the continuation of the (a)Bikeability, (b) Cycling Towns and Cities and (c) Finding New Solutions programmes previously funded by Cycling England. 
Norman Baker: The current Cycling England programme ends in March 2011, with some transitional activity likely to continue into 2011-12. As part of the Government’s commitment to supporting sustainable travel, and to simplify funding for local authorities, I have announced the creation of a Local Sustainable Transport Fund
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worth £560 million. This will challenge local transport authorities outside London to develop packages of measures that support economic growth and reduce carbon, in their communities as well as, tackling congestion, delivering cleaner environments, improved safety and increased levels of physical activity. A proportion of the fund will be allocated to provide continued funding for Bikeability. For the remainder of the funding, we will invite local authorities to develop packages of low cost, high value measures which best meet their local needs and effectively address local issues. Measures could include encouraging walking and cycling, such as those demonstrated in the Cycling Towns and Cities and the “Finding New Solutions” projects.
Norman Baker: While there are no quantitative national targets to increase cycle use, the coalition Government are committed to supporting sustainable travel initiatives, including the promotion of cycling. I anticipate cycling will be among the beneficiaries of the £560 million Local Sustainable Transport Fund I announced recently.
The UK already has some of the safest roads in the world, but the coalition is considering how to make them even safer. We will produce a new strategic framework for road safety that sets out the Government’s vision for road safety, national measures, and how we will work with others to achieve this. We will be discussing this with stakeholders and intend to publish a strategy early next year.
EU Light Commercial Vehicles Directive
Katy Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what his policy is on the European Commission’s long-term efficiency target proposed in the draft EU Light Commercial Vehicles Directive; 
(2) what his policy is on the inclusion of a long-term target for reductions in emissions in the European Commission’s proposal for legislation to reduce levels of carbon dioxide emitted by light commercial vehicles. 
Norman Baker: The UK Government strongly support the inclusion of an ambitious but realistic long-term target in the proposed EU new van CO2 regulation. The UK’s opening negotiating position was 135g/km in 2022, as our analysis shows that this represents the best approach to deliver significant but cost-effective CO2 savings from vans. However, the UK Government understand that all other member states are negotiating for a 2020 target. Negotiations on this target are ongoing, but it will necessarily be less ambitious than a 2022 target.
Shipping: Rescue Services
Mrs Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what consultation he proposes to undertake in relation to his intention to remove emergency towing vessels following the outcome of the comprehensive spending review; and if he will make a statement. 
Mike Penning [holding answer 25 November 2010]: We have decided that the contract for emergency towing vessels at public expense will not be renewed when it expires in September 2011. Between now and next September, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency will discuss with the shipping and wider maritime industries, and with local interested parties, how commercial tug and salvage arrangements could operate to assist ships that get into difficulty in the future.