HC Deb 30 July 1956 vol 557 cc1093-6

Lords Amendment: After the Amendment last inserted, insert new Clause I: (1) The Minister may make regulations prescribing (by reference to shape, construction or any other quality) types of helmet recommended as affording protection to persons on or in motor cycles, or motor cycles of different classes or descriptions, from injury in the event of accident. (2) If any person sells, or offers for sale, any helmet as a helmet for affording protection as aforesaid, and the helmet is neither—

  1. (a) of a type prescribed under this section, nor
  2. (b) of a type authorised under regulations made under this section and sold or offered for sale subject to any conditions specified in the authorisation,
he shall be liable on summary conviction in the case of a first offence to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds, or in the case of a second or subsequent offence to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or to both such fine and such imprisonment: Provided that a person shall not be convicted of an offence under this section in respect of the sale or offer for sale of a helmet if he proves that it was sold or, as the case may be, offered for sale for export from Great Britain. (3) In England or Wales the council of a county, of a borough or of an urban district or the Common Council of the City of London may institute proceedings for an offence under this section. (4) The provisions of the Schedule (Supplementary provisions in connection with proceedings for offences under section (Protective helmets for motor-cyclists)) shall have effect in relation to contraventions of this section. (5) In this section and in the said Schedule the expression 'helmet' includes any headdress, and references in this section to selling or offering for sale include respectively references to letting on hire and offering to let on hire. (6) The power to make regulations conferred by this section shall be exercisable by statutory instrument subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution by either House of Parliament.

Mr. Watkinson

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

It will be remembered that in this House we had a long discussion about crash helmets, and the House expressed the view that some restriction should be placed upon their sale. This Amendment was inserted to fulfil an undertaking given by my noble Friend Lord Lucas that we would take steps to try to see that crash helmets on sale were of a satisfactory nature and likely to give adequate protection. The Amendment makes it an offence for any person to sell a helmet as a helmet affording such protection if the helmet when sold is not of the type prescribed by me.

The Clause is phrased in that way because if we made it an offence to sell an ordinary hat to a motor cyclist we should get into all sorts of difficulties. This is the only satisfactory way of really seeing that crash helmets on sale are of a satisfactory nature.

Mr. C. Pannell

The new Clause says: Provided that a person shall not be convicted of an offence under this section in respect of the sale or offer for sale of a helmet if he proves that it was sold or, as the case may be, offered for sale for export from Great Britain. Those words are repeated later in connection with the question of ultimate responsibility. I have two points to make. The first is to ask whether, on grounds of broad public policy, we are prepared to export for sale to other countries inferior goods which it would be illegal to sell here. That would be damaging to British prestige and to our exports generally. I think that the Minister will be well seized of that point.

Secondly, it would be quite easy to brand inferior hats as being for export, and thereby make possible Wholesale cases of evasion. I could have said more but I know that the Minister will be seized of the points. My hon. Friends and I are extremely uneasy about the new Clause. I have dealt with the matter as briefly as I can, and I hope that the Minister will consider these arguments to be of some weight.

Mr. Ernest Davies

I want to put on record the fact that we on this side of the House strongly support the new Clause. During the debate on Report the general view of the House was against compulsion, but many Members on both sides raised the question of the poor quality of some helmets, which really gave no protection. Since that debate evidence has been produced at the B.M.A. Conference, when a hat was banged on the table and shown to be of no use whatsoever.

I should like to ask the Minister when he envisages that it will be possible to lay down these standards, because this matter is urgent. The number of persons on the road on motor cycles is increasing daily and the accidents are, unfortunately, also increasing. Ample evidence has been produced by the B.M.A. showing the extent to which protection is given by these helmets if they are of the right quality.

This provision would also give the Minister the opportunity of embarking on a propaganda campaign for the helmets to be used. If he can state that helmets are of an accepted standard laid down by his Ministry, and thereby guaranteed to give a certain measure of protection, and that they should be used, the propaganda might have some effect. So I suggest that he proceeds as speedily as possible and embarks on a propaganda campaign at the same time.

Mr. Watkinson

I agree with what the hon. Gentleman says, and it is one of the reasons why I wanted to get this Bill through, so that my Department can be working on these Regulations during the Recess. I can give an undertaking that this will be one of the first jobs that it does. In answer to the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell), I would say that the reason for the provision relating to export is that we are advised that some manufacturers of protective helmets will want to make and sell a different kind to their foreign customers. But I can assure the hon. Member that we can find a way of seeing that these are not sold on the home market, so there is no escape in that way.

Mr. Isaacs

Does the Minister by that statement mean that these helmets are going abroad with his guarantee, yet at the same time they are not efficient?

Mr. Watkinson

No. Anything that goes abroad will not have any guarantee of mine. I think that this provision has been put in as a precaution, but I am advised that once we can get this undertaking, helmets that go abroad are likely to be of the same type as those sold in England.