HC Deb 15 October 1975 vol 897 cc1346-7
9. Mr. Ashley

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what estimate he has made of the number of people liable to be killed or severely disabled each year if the wearing of seat belts in cars is not made compulsory.

Mr. Carmichael

I estimate that the belts worn by drivers and front-seat passengers in cars and light vans in 1974 prevented about 400 deaths and nearly 4,600 serious injuries. If all fitted belts had been worn, another 14,000 serious or fatal casualties would have been avoided.

Mr. Ashley

Does my hon. Friend agree that the death and disablement of so many thousands of people is far too high a price to pay for the dubious luxury of allowing people to travel in cars without safety belts and that although the compulsory wearing of safety belts will not be a popular measure it is necessary? Is it not time that the Government stopped dodging this issue and took action to make the wearing of safety belts compulsory?

Mr. Carmichael

My hon. Friend will know that a Bill was introduced earlier in the Session but that because of the pressure of business we have not been able to complete it. We hope that it will be reintroduced in the next Session. We are anxious that there should be a free vote. Therefore, we want a full debate before that vote is taken.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg

If the Government really believe what they are saying, why do they not reintroduce or find time for the Bill which they say will save lives, instead of wasting the time of the House to save the faces of Labour councillors all over the country who broke the law as laid down in the Housing Finance Act?

Mr. Carmichael

There was a general desire in the House that the Bill should be given proper time for debate but, unfortunately, on the night that it came up for consideration, because of the state of business we could debate it for only a short period. The Government intend to introduce the Bill in the coming Session, provide the House with a full opportunity to debate it, and then have a free vote.

Mr. Hannam

In view of the alarming increase in the number of coach accidents recently, will the hon. Gentleman also consider the provision of seat belts in motor coaches?

Mr. Carmichael

This matter is being examined. The whole question of coach safety and better safety in coaches is being considered. There has been a spate of accidents and, naturally, they are spectacular and extremely regrettable, but it appears that the lap belt that might be fitted would not be an economically viable proposition.

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