The Treasury was accused of using motorists as 'cash cows' after it admitted siphoning off more than #2 million raised by Midland speed cameras.

Ministers have insisted cameras are designed to save lives, and proceeds from fines are spent on maintenance and road safety schemes.

But figures obtained from the Department of Transport, under the Freedom of Information Act, show a fifth of all the money raised in the Midlands is simply added to the national revenue raised by general taxation.

Drivers in Warwickshire alone contributed #1.1 million to the Treasury last year. Out of #3 million collected in speeding fines in the county, only #1.9 million was spent on road safety.

Warwickshire MP Jeremy Wright (Con Rugby & Kenilworth) said: ?A lot of drivers in my constituency suspect speed cameras have more to do with making money than road safety ? and this seems to confirm it.

?It seems motorists are being used as cash cows to raise a bit of extra money for Gordon Brown.?

Staffordshire motorists paid fines of #2.4 million last year, of which #485,000 went to the Treasury.

Drivers in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, the area covered by West Mercia Police, paid #3.1 million in fines, of which #478,000 was taken by Mr Brown?s department.

Fines in the West Midlands conurbation came to #2.8 million, of which #242,000 went to the Treasury.

A spokesman for the Department of Transport said the partnerships of local authorities and police, which operate the cameras, were allowed to cover their operating costs. Anything over and above that had to go to the Treasury. This, he said, stopped local authorities and police from being tempted to use the cameras as money-makers.

He said: ?We do not want the cameras to raise money. We want them to save lives.?

But the comment appeared to contradict claims made by Ministers such as Lord Davies of Oldham, a Government whip, who told Parliament in June: ?The partnerships that erect the cameras can devote the money only to the one aspect of safety on the roads.

?It is a complete canard to suggest, as I have heard it whispered in one or two quarters, that this is some form of stealth tax. It simply is not.?

Cameras in Warwickshire are the responsibility of Warwickshire Casualty Reduction Partnership, which includes the county council, police and Crown Prosecution Service.

Project manager Louise Lyle said: ?There is a misunderstanding about the process. Fines are paid to the Treasury and we submit a budget explaining how much we need to spend. If the budget is approved, that amount comes from the Treasury to us.

?Fines are only paid by drivers who have broken the law.? Earlier this year the partnership released figures suggesting Warwickshire?s safety cameras had cut casualties on roads.

The number of people killed or seriously injured at accident blackspots had dropped by 49 per cent since cameras were introduced, and there were 130 fewer deaths on the county?s roads each year.

Speeding fines have shot up. The #3 million paid by Warwickshire motorists last year compares with just #200,000 in 2001/02.

In the West Midland conurbation motorists were fined #2.8 million last year, up from #740,000 in 2002/03.