Commons Gate

Transport Questions with the Secretary of State (HC 1087-i)

Transport Committee 4 Nov 2009

Evidence given by: Department for Transport Rt Hon Lord Adonis, Secretary of State

Q19 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): On the number of [road] fatalities, do you think it could be linked to speed? That, because of the high cost of fuel over recent years, people are suspected to be slowing down, and some of the statistics prove that. If it is speed, is there any thought about reducing speed limits both in urban areas and on the motorways?

Lord Adonis: I have seen no evidence of that. No evidence has been presented to me of that. The evidence that has been presented to me has focused much more on issues to do with drink-driving; also issues to do with uninsured and unlicensed vehicles, where there has been a particularly big reduction. Again, to give statistics, the department's vehicle excise duty evasion survey suggests that the number of unlicensed vehicles on the road - which of course are particularly liable to be involved in accidents - fell in 2008, making up 0.7% of all traffic, compared to 1.1% in 2007; so there is quite a significant improvement there. There have been similar improvements as a result of the powers that the police have to detect, seize and destroy vehicles being driven without insurance, tax or valid driver's licence, which led to 180,000 vehicles being removed in 2008, which was a considerable improvement on the year before. I have not seen statistics which would indicate that there is any relationship with speed.

Q20 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): The people who are opposed to speed cameras will take heart from that, but many of us who believe that slowing traffic down does reduce casualties will be a bit worried by your comments, would you not say?

Lord Adonis: I was not meaning to say that we do not want to continue seeing action to reduce speeding. Of course we do. However, in terms of those things which have led to a big improvement in the last four-year period, the issues that have been particularly highlighted to me relate to drink-driving, to uninsured and unlicensed vehicles, and to a big fall in the number of deaths associated with motorcyclists, which we think has to do with better training and road awareness.


Q71 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): Not turning back to high-speed rail, but just on the report which, you say, is going to come at the end of December, can I look forward to having it under the Christmas tree or are you going to take it away for a few months, have a look at it and then we can wait for the leak in the papers? Are you going to publish it when you get it?

Lord Adonis: I will not be in a position to publish the report until I publish the Government's policy in response to it, but I anticipate that that will be in the spring. The reason for that is a very straightforward reason: if I were to publish the report before the Government's policy statement as to how we intend to take it forward, there is a serious risk, I am advised, that we would create unnecessary and unjustified blight because people would obviously read into any recommendations by High Speed Two an impact on their localities and properties if they were affected. I am very mindful of my responsibilities to the public and, on the basis of that advice, I think it would be irresponsible of me to publish the report at the end of December. What I should do is to publish the report alongside the Government's statement of policy so that the communities and localities that are going to be impacted by high-speed rail will be very clearly defined in the Government's policy statement and not all of those that might possibly be affected by the whole range of suggestions made by High Speed Two.

Q72 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): And there is no pushing it back to after the date of the General Election?

Lord Adonis: Well, a statement of policy has to be agreed by the Government as a whole. It is my expectation that we will publish a statement of policy before the election, but I am not in a position to make a categoric commitment.

This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.

The full transcript may be read here.

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On behalf of Eric Martlew, 3 Chatsworth Square Carlisle Cumbria CA1 1HB