Straw's 103mph driver 'must face prosecution'

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Indy Politics

Jack Straw was accused of hypocrisy yesterday as controversy grew over reports that his official car was clocked by police doing 103mph.

Jack Straw was accused of hypocrisy yesterday as controversy grew over reports that his official car was clocked by police doing 103mph.

John Redwood, the Conservatives' parliamentary campaigns chief, said the Home Secretary had called for drivers who broke town centre speed limits of 30mph to be prosecuted even if they were only one or two miles per hour over the limit. And he added: "It is rank hypocrisy to expect the rest of us to stay below every speed limit but for Jack Straw to decide the law doesn't apply to him. A sensible Home Secretary would have asked the driver to slow down."

Mr Straw's armour-plated Jaguar was stopped by road-traffic police after officers spotted it speeding on the M5 near Taunton, Somerset, earlier this month. The driver, a detective constable with the Special Branch, was booked but allowed to continue after the traffic police realised the Home Secretary was in the vehicle.

The Home Secretary has refused to apologise for the incident and Downing Street insists it is now a matter for the police. Mr Redwood said it was "disgraceful" that Mr Straw had refused to comment, and he called for the Home Secretary's driver to be prosecuted.

The incident happened as Mr Straw made his way to Exeter for Labour's national policy forum on 9 July. He is said to have been late for a meeting with the Prime Minister. The Home Office confirmed the incident, without giving any information about the exact speed.

Avon and Somerset Police have yet to decide whether further action will be taken, but it is clear that the traffic officer did not issue a ticket. Anyone caught speeding over 100mph normally faces an automatic driving ban and a fine of up to £800.

Britain's leading road safety charity joined the criticism yesterday. A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said 3,500 people were killed and 40,000 injured on the roads every year and speeding was a major cause. "It's obviously very important that government ministers set the right example," he said. "This sends out the wrong message."

Mr Straw's driver has not been suspended from duty.Although there is a provision for Special Branch officers to drive at high speed, it is only allowed if it is felt there is a security threat and evasive action has to be taken.

Mr Redwood said: "It's another example of a government that says do as I say not as I do. Mr Straw should say he's sorry and I don't think his driver should be protected from the law. We have to ask whether Mr Straw egged him on because he was late for a meeting."

Downing Street insisted it would not intervene in the matter and that the police should decide what happened next, although a spokesman stressed that "the law is the law". A spokesman for Avon and Somerset Police said: "In common with normal procedure we are investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident."