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Plans by Transport minister Robert Goodwill, to allow intelligence officers from MI5 and MI6 to drive over the speed limit, and to ignore red lights when in pursuit or monitoring terrorists, have been hit by criticism from some quarters. The new plans would require intelligence officers to take a high-speed driving course, and would provide them with the same driving privileges that are afforded to police and other emergency services. Bomb disposal and mountain rescue teams, as well as vehicles that are transporting organs for transplant, will also be extended these new rights.

Currently, the emergency services are allowed to break motoring laws as long as it is deemed operationally necessary. When responding to emergency calls, attending the scene of an accident, or pursuing a criminal, the police will often find that they need to drive over the legal speed limit. Ambulances and fire engines also have similar rights but, until now, these privileges have not extended as far as the intelligence services.

It will be necessary for officers to take a high-speed driving course before they are allowed to drive above the speed limit, and they will be expected to drive in a reasonable and safe manner. The police currently undergo training in high speed driving, and those that use high-performance police vehicles have additional training too.

The Department of Transport released a report in 2012 that showed 93% of respondents said that breaking the speed limit should be permissible if it was considered to be for the protection of national security, or for the protection of life and limb. Speaking to the Sunday Times, a government source said that the move “will help save lives and make Britain a more secure place.” Critics to the plan claim that pedestrian safety will take a back seat to national security, and people will be in greater danger while on UK roads.

A number of other agencies will also be added to the list of people that are entitled to ignore certain restrictions. Vehicles that are transporting organs for transplant, as well as bomb disposal and mountain rescue are among those groups, and the changes are set to be announced this week.