Leading Article: Ministers are speeding in the wrong direction

JOHN PRESCOTT may be hoping that his latest kite-flying exercise in transport policy will be misinterpreted. The idea of driving at speeds as high as 20mph in our congested towns and cities is for many of us a sure-fire vote-winner. But no, that is not what he means at all. He means that there should be more 20mph speed limits, and a new 50mph limit in rural areas. In an attempted act of political hara-kiri that invites comparison with Labour's 1983 election campaign, it seems that at least one member of the Government is determined to offend one of the largest possible subgroups of the electorate, namely car-drivers.

And this after William Hague has already started to exploit the Conservatives' traditional stance as the party of the motor car.

This is not just politically unwise; it is the wrong direction for policy on road safety. Toughen up the driving test. Stop drivers using mobile phones. But for goodness' sake let us stop wasting police time trying to enforce speed limits that everyone regards as flexible guidelines.

There are places where a maximum speed as low as 20mph is desirable, and should be enforced by speed humps. But there are plenty of places, and Britain's very safe motorways are some of them, where any kind of speed limit is unnecessary, and where the abolition of speed limits would free the police to catch those who drive dangerously at whatever speed.

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