HC Deb 23 May 1962 vol 660 cc435-7
41. Mrs. Castle

asked the Minister of Transport in how many of the fatal and non-fatal road accidents, respectively, which took place over the Easter week- end safety belts were in use; of what types these were; and if he will issue an analysis of the effects of safety belts in preventing or diminishing injury in the light of this evidence.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. John Hay)

I regret that the information asked for is not available.

The Road Research Laboratory has recently examined the effect of safety belts in a small sample of car accidents and has estimated that they reduced the number of fatal and serious injuries by about half.

Mrs. Castle

Is it not very important to have this information? Would it not encourage the use of safety belts? Would it not help also to show which were the most effective types of safety harness and enable Parliament to decide whether it needed any powers to control the sale of defective harness, types and quality?

Mr. Hay

The difficulty we are up against in obtaining this information is that we rely upon the police for information about what happens in accidents and not what causes accidents or what factors prevented injuries from occurring or from being serious. However, I will look at this and see if anything can be done, but we are very well aware of the value of safety harness. Arrangements are being made for all Government passenger cars and light vans to be fitted with safety belts.

Mr. Strauss

Can the hon. Gentleman give us any further information about when safety belts with effective fitting equipment will be made compulsory for new cars?

Mr. Hay

No. We are at the moment engaged in discussions on an international basis to obtain the right standards for safety belts. I cannot give any further information about that without notice.

Mr. Slater

Further to the supplementary question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss), is it Government policy that these belts shall be compulsorily fitted on all new cars? Is not the right of choice to come into the picture?

Mr. Hay

No, Sir. It is not that the Government believe that the fitting of safety belts should be compulsory, but simply that there are a vast number of different types of safety belt. Some of these are believed to be excellent, and some are not quite so good. We believe that it is best for these matters to be settled on the basis of a British Standard as soon as we can get international agreement on the best type. We can then review the whole question.

Mr. Channon

Would not my hon. Friend consider taking power in the Road Traffic Bill [Lords] to make safety belts compulsory as soon as the Government feel that they have a satisfactory type? Would he not agree that that would go far further towards reducing accidents than some of the extra powers now sought in the Bill, which are proving so controversial?

Mr. Hay

We have to take this a little more slowly than my hon. Friend would like. I think that we should get the right type of belt before we talk about policy.