UK Politics

HM Revenue and Customs wants power to break speed limits

Ambulance
Image caption The government wants "rigorous" emergency vehicle training

HM Revenue and Customs has asked to be on a revised list of emergency services allowed to break the legal speed limit.

HMRC wants the powers for covert surveillance of organised crime.

The request was revealed as the Department for Transport consults on allowing speed limit exemptions to be extended to services beyond the police, fire and ambulance services.

These would include bomb disposal units, vehicles carrying organs for transplant and coastguard vehicles.

Ministers said it was right to revise the rules for those whose work "can mean the difference between life and death".

The proposals would see the law changed to require emergency drivers to complete high-speed training before they are able to drive over the speed limit.

There is also a proposal to exempt paramedics and other medical personnel from having to wear seatbelts in the back of ambulances, particularly when providing emergency treatment on the move.

While emergency service drivers are not exempt from the offences of dangerous and careless driving, the current legislation allows drivers in some circumstances to break speed limits legally, as well as exempting them from certain traffic regulations.

The government wants more vehicles to be able to drive above the speed limit where lives are at risk.

Road Safety Minister Stephen Hammond said: "Police, fire and ambulance service drivers are highly trained individuals who are at times required to exceed the speed limit in order to save lives.

"It is only right that we look at allowing other services whose duties can mean the difference between life and death to exceed the speed limit when responding to emergencies.

"It is also time to look at the legal requirements of emergency vehicle training so we can build on the rigorous standards the police, fire and ambulance services have already applied through their code of practice."

Organisations who have already requested a speed limit exemption - as well as HM Revenue and Customs - are the security services for vehicles that are involved in covert surveillance, Civil Aviation Fire and Rescue and Mountain Rescue.

Others that could be allowed to break the speed limit include Forestry Commission vehicles involved in fire fighting, the Coal Authority as part of mine rescue efforts and the Blood Transfusion Service.

The consultation closes on 27 February 2013.

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