Ministers afraid of car lobby, says MPs' report

The outspoken Labour MP Gwyneth Dunwoody will launch an onslaught on the Government today, claiming more than 2,000 people are needlessly killed in road accidents every year because ministers are afraid of the motoring lobby.

In a scathing report, her Commons committee accuses the Government of being too preoccupied with favourable headlines to take tough action to combat speeding.

In the past month, the committee has also demolished the Government's 10-year transport plan, regarded as the fatal blow to Stephen Byers' tenure as Secretary of State for Transport.

The new report by the Transport, Local Government and the Regions committee directly challenges Tony Blair to rejuvenate efforts to cut the death toll on British roads. "He now has to decide whether government policy on speed will be dominated by concerns about how it is portrayed by a section of the motoring lobby and in parts of the press," the MPs say.

They complain that since Mr Blair launched a road safety policy two years ago "little has happened, projects have not been undertaken, some proposals have not been implemented, others have been dropped".

The committee says that, despite government road safety initiatives, the number of road deaths has declined only slightly, with 3,409 fatalities in 2000. "With the right measures in place we could probably reduce road deaths to under 1,000 each year."

The MPs also criticise ministers for telling police forces and local councils to highlight speed cameras by painting them yellow and to restrict them to dangerous roads. "Crashes do not just occur at accident blackspots. There was no scientific research to support this decision. People will die as a result."