The European Union Commission has pushed back against reports from within the UK government that the EU was considering implementing devices in private cars that would prevent them from exceeding the speed limit, calling the reports “inaccurate beyond the limit”. In an unsigned statement on the EU’s official blog, the EU obliquely criticizing the British government and suggested that the British media deliberately misrepresented the EU’s position. The remarks denied that any such proposals or even non-binding recommendations are “in the pipeline”. The full statement is below the jump.
Reports in the press over the last day or two have suggested that the EU intends to bring forward “formal proposals this autumn” to introduce automatic speed controls -known as “Intelligent Speed Adaptation” or ISA, into cars. This is quite simply not true and the Commission had made this very clear to the journalists concerned prior to publication.
The Mail on Sunday for example (the only one of these articles online with no paywall), uses a quote from a Commission spokesman but chooses to leave out the first and most important sentence given to the paper’s reporter, which was this:
“The Commission has not tabled – and does not have in the pipeline – even a non-binding Recommendation, let alone anything more.”
The Daily Mail on Monday 2 September had the integrity to include this quote, but only at the end of an article confirming the incorrect slant that the Commission was proposing introducing the system. According to the Mail’s imaginative opening paragraph cars would be fitted with it “if Brussels bureaucrats have their way”.
The Sun On Sunday failed to use the quote above, which it had been asked to use, but stated that “motorists are set to be forced to have ‘Big Brother’ anti-speeding systems fitted in all new cars under EU rules”.
In addition to receiving the quote in writing, the Sun had been told repeatedly in a phone conversation that there was no proposal and none on the way. But it manipulated the conversation to imply that we had said we could not understand why there would be any difficulty with introducing ISA. In fact, we had said we were surprised if the UK government were upset that the Commission consulted it on research into improving road safety, given close cooperation in the past.
The Sun also made the odd statement that the “proposal is being pushed by the unelected European Commission”. Needless to say, it rarely reminds its readers that actual decisions on EU law are taken by elected Ministers and MEPs, including those from the UK.
For the record, the rest of the quote supplied said to all the journalists involved said this:
“The Commission has supported past research into ISA. There is a current stakeholder consultation and study focusing on speed limiting technology already fitted to HGVs and buses. One aspect of that is whether ISA could in the long-term be an alternative.
And a second consultation on in-vehicle safety systems in general. Taking account of the consultation results, the Commission will publish in the autumn a document by its technical experts which will no doubt refer to ISA among many other things. That is all. (NB such “staff working documents” are not adopted by the Commission at political level and have no legal status.) Nothing more is expected in the foreseeable future.
It is part of the EC’s job – because it has been mandated to do so by Member States, including the UK – to look at, promote research into and consult stakeholders about new road safety technology which might ultimately save lives. This is done in close cooperation with Member States and the UK has generally supported such efforts.”
It might indeed also seem strange to some that the UK government -if the press reports are accurate at least in that respect – apparently objects so violently to even being consulted about a range of future ways in which lives could be saved on Europe’s roads.