PM's convoy speed was 'safest tactic'

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's flying visit to Suffolk may have sped by quicker than it should have, it was revealed today.

Craig Robinson

SUFFOLK: Prime Minister Gordon Brown's flying visit to Suffolk may have sped by quicker than it should have, it was revealed today.

While other drivers are forced to keep to the 50mph speed limit currently in place on the A14 between Claydon and Copdock, eyewitnesses claim the Premier's convoy appeared to be driving at about 60mph in the restricted zone on the way to Ipswich on Monday.

A spokeswoman for Number 10 declined to comment last night, saying it was a matter for Suffolk Constabulary.

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Mr Brown arrived at Hillside Children's Centre on Maidenhall Approach, Ipswich, around 12.55pm on Monday - about 25 minutes later than planned after a visit to the Army airbase at Wattisham near Needham Market.

At 12.40pm his convoy was seen driving along the A14 between the A140 turnoff and Ipswich, apparently travelling faster than the 50mph limit.

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Eyewitness Gavin Stewart, of Lower Holbrook, said he was overtaken by Mr Brown's entourage - which included police motorcyclists and unmarked black cars with blue flashing lights proceeding at about 60mph.

“There was no apparent emergency. Was it legitimate for the police escorted convoy to ignore it? [the 50mph limit],” Mr Stewart said.

“Are there grades of citizens with the law applying more to some than others? Was it safe for the convoy to drive at 60mph, especially with the motorcyclists all waving their left arms? If so, would it be safe for everyone to drive at 60mph?

“Why, therefore a 50mph speed limit? Would it not have been better for the police and VIPs to set an example by observing the speed limit?”

Suffolk's deputy chief constable Jacqui Cheer said the officers who escort VIPs are selected from the very best police drivers and that public safety is taken extremely seriously.

She said: “Police drivers who drive and escort VIPs receive additional training and work under the guidance of a trained convoy supervisor.

“The decisions taken are risk managed and are to prevent any deliberate or accidental interference with the convoy, which may occur if the convoy vehicles were to mingle with normal traffic.

“The decision to increase the speed of the convoy is not taken lightly and will have been judged to have been the safest tactic for all road users during this particular visit.”

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