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The BBC's Joshua Rozenberg
"The police do not charge everyone they stop for speeding"
 real 56k

Friday, 21 July, 2000, 14:24 GMT 15:24 UK
PM will not intervene in Straw case
Jack Straw
Jack Straw's Jaguar reached 103mph on the M5
Downing Street says it will not intervene after Home Secretary Jack Straw's car was stopped by the police for speeding.

Mr Straw's unmarked Jaguar, driven by his armed bodyguard, was said to have been doing more than 100mph when it was pulled over on the M5 motorway.

The incident happened as the car was being driven along the M5 by a special branch officer en route to a Labour Party meeting in Exeter on 9 July.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "The law provides for speed limits, the police have the discretion to apply them as they see fit".

He added: "The investigation is a matter for them, not for me."

Driver faces ban

Mr Straw has come under fire from the organisation which represents rank and file police officers.

Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Glen Smyth said the incident made Mr Straw's promise to be tough on crime and the causes of crime to be a shabby one.

"The home secretary needs to lead by example and this is not the example to set," he said.

Mr Smyth also said he felt it was unfair that the Special Branch driver now faced a ban.

He said: "Not many of us are put in a such a difficult position where we are driving such a high profile and powerful figure.

"We all know how it feels when we are driving and the wife or the girlfriend wants to get somewhere quickly but this is a different kettle of fish.

"The home secretary has paid a bit of a political price for this but it is the driver who faces much more serious consequences."


The home secretary has paid a political price for this

Glen Smyth
Police Federation

Avon and Somerset Police allowed the car to continue after a brief conversation with the Special Branch officer and after seeing Mr Straw in the back.

The home secretary has been vocal in his support for "zero tolerance" towards speeding motorists, and the government has been active in installing new speed cameras around the country.

'Bad example'

Under court guidelines any motorist going over 100mph can be banned from driving and fined up to 800.

Avon and Somerset Police have yet to decide whether to take any further action, saying: "In common with normal procedure we are investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident."

It is another embarrassment for the government coming after a string of damaging Downing Street leaks.

And two weeks ago Mr Blair's son, Euan, was arrested after being found drunk in London's West End - shortly after the prime minister called for action against drunken yobs.

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See also:

01 Jul 00 | UK
Shock treatment for drivers
25 May 00 | UK
Putting your foot down
26 Nov 99 | UK Politics
Fury at speeding climbdown
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