The Queen’s Speech
During the Queen’s speech the key statement relating to transport safety was:
“My government will introduce a Bill to bolster investment in infrastructure and reform planning law to improve economic competitiveness. The Bill will enhance the United Kingdom’s energy independence and security by opening up access to shale and geothermal sites and maximising North Sea resources. Legislation will allow for the creation of an allowable solutions scheme to enable all new homes to be built to a zero carbon standard and will guarantee long-term investment in the road network”
The 2014 Queen’s Speech is available in full here.
Debate on the Address (House of Commons)
The Prime Minister: I can certainly give my hon. Friend the undertaking for which he asks. He did a brilliant job in presenting his Bill to the House of Commons. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned some of the issues that turn people away from politics. I think that one of the ways in which we can turn people back on to politics is to make clear that, when it comes to the vital issue of whether or not Britain should be a member of a reformed European Union, it is the British people who should have their say.
At the heart of the Queen’s Speech is our long-term economic plan, which is based on a clear set of values. It is wrong to pass on an irresponsible burden of debt to our children, and it is right that people should keep more of the money that they earn. The best route out of poverty is work. Britain needs to earn its way in the world, and in order to do that we need modern infrastructure, new roads, high-speed rail, superfast broadband, and new sources of energy. It is business and enterprise that create jobs and generate revenue to fund our public services, and we can afford public services only if we back business, support entrepreneurs, and take on the anti-business sentiment that holds Britain back.
“…What we heard from the Opposition was that there was not enough in the Queen’s Speech. I think we should be clear about this, the fifth year of this Parliament. For the first time ever we are introducing tax-free child care to help hard-working families. We are creating new laws on producing shale gas to give us energy security; new laws to help build high-speed rail to modernise our infrastructure; new laws to reform planning to build more homes and help more young people. We are outlawing modern slavery, confiscating assets from criminals, protecting people who volunteer, cutting red tape, and curbing the abuse of zero-hours contracts. This is a packed programme of a busy and radical Government.”
Sir Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD): Does the Prime Minister also recognise the importance of taking forward developments in the North sea oil and gas industry and implementing the report of the Wood review, and in particular of getting the message across that it is not just jobs in the north-east of Scotland, but our whole supply chain throughout the United Kingdom, that will benefit?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend speaks very powerfully for his constituency and for that absolutely vital industry which, as he says, is vital not just for Scotland, but for the whole of the United Kingdom. We are going to make sure that the recommendations of the Wood review are included in our infrastructure Bill, which is a key Bill at the heart of this Queen’s Speech.
The rest of the debate is available here on the parliamentary website
House of Lords
On the day of the Queen’s Address the House of Lords Received the first reading of the Infrastructure Bill, introduced by Baroness Kramer, which states that it is:
“A Bill to make provision for strategic highways companies and the funding of transport services by land; to make provision for the control of invasive non-native species; to make provision about nationally significant infrastructure projects; to make provision about town and country planning; to make provision about the Homes and Communities Agency and mayoral development corporations; to make provision about the Greater London Authority so far as it exercises functions for the purposes of housing and regeneration; to make provision about Her Majesty’s Land Registry and local land charges; to make provision for giving members of communities the right to buy stakes in local renewable electricity generation facilities; and for connected purposes.”
Further information on the Infrastructure Bill is available here on the parliamentary website.
The Queen’s Speech (Debate)
Viscount Simon (Lab): My Lords, I should declare my interests as in the register, as I will be speaking about practical matters of concern which some might consider as coming into the subject of transport, but which were not covered in the gracious Speech.
The number of deaths and serious injuries on our roads was predicted to fall by 2030 in an academic study published by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety. I hope that that proves to be correct, but I have my concerns about sufficient suitably trained roads-policing officers being available to enforce the laws. I suspect that few noble Lords will have seen a marked traffic car on a motorway for a long time, and that is the same for criminals, who go from A to B knowing that the chances of being stopped are very remote. The number has been reduced and is being reduced further. In some areas, driver training has also been reduced. I wonder whether, in the not too distant future, there will be enough officers to train other officers in the special investigatory skills required following a road death or serious injury.
Further, as more emphasis has been placed on investigating serious accidents, the resource that does that has been withdrawn from roads, meaning that there is less deterrent to prevent such accidents. That is set, as I have already said, against a background of reducing the number of trained officers. Why are those reductions taking place? All police forces are having to reduce operational and administrative costs and, as the cost associated with running traffic operations is high, it is an area that is financially attractive to chief constables in assisting them to achieve the Government’s requirements.
The Institute of Advanced Motorists, under a freedom of information question on excessive speed, has drawn attention to the fact that there is a good need for a deterrent presence of roads-policing officers out there on the road, ready and willing to deal with those who misbehave deliberately. Driving at 149 miles per hour, which was the speed of one of the drivers mentioned in the article, is a deliberate act, not an error.
We all think that it is awful when we read of drivers with points over the maximum of 12, but there are some out there with more than 40 points on their licences. The information available to the courts needs to be up to date, but that is not always the case, I have been told. I draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that not only the DVLA but the courts need to be both efficient and quick in updating their records accurately.
I was interested to read a newspaper article about young drivers being involved in more road accidents than others as a percentage of all drivers. We all remember when we passed our driving tests and thought that we were the best drivers in the world but, since those days, road and traffic conditions have changed. The time is ripe for introducing special conditions to be imposed on young drivers and for them to have graduated licences. This is a road safety proposal and not, as the Government have stated, a restriction on their driving. We all know that, in time, we learn by experience and I hope that the Government will introduce appropriate legislation.
On a completely different matter, which has been raised, the European Union has proposed that diagnostic software chips are placed in all new vehicles in the near future, which would enable authorised people to interpret what a car and driver was doing at a particular time. This would have extremely useful implications, which I leave noble Lords to work out for themselves. I imagine that the insurance industry, the police and some other departments would welcome this, whereas certain motorists would say that it was an invasion of their privacy.
The Government’s efforts to make speeding and other driver misbehaviour gain the stigma of being regarded as anti-social needs to be maintained and not allowed to decrease. Much of that is about the visibility of ministerial and government leadership. At the moment we hear and see little of this, despite the huge total cost of road deaths and serious injury collisions increasing every year.
The Law Commission’s final report and draft Bill retains and strengthens the existing, two-tier system between taxis and private hire and sets national standards, which are based on those currently in force in London under the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998. I understand that the private hire industry broadly welcomes the proposed reforms and I look forward to the Minister confirming that the Government intend to bring forward those proposals. It had been my intention to mention other disturbing matters, including the background to the proposed taxi demonstration on 11 June, but I think that I have said enough.
The rest of the debate is available here