HC Deb 01 December 1976 vol 921 cc894-6
6. Mr. Ashley

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will bring forward legislation to make the wearing of safety belts compulsory.

Mr. William Rodgers

I believe that Parliament will eventually endorse the compulsory wearing of seat belts but I cannot at present say when legislation may be possible.

Mr. Ashley

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Government's failure to bring forward an early Bill on this issue is deplorable? More than 1,000 people die each year because of the absence of this legislation. The House knows my right hon. Friend's fine record on this issue. Will he consult his colleagues and urge that a Bill be brought before Parliament within the next few weeks?

Mr. Rodgers

I entirely share my hon. Friend's concern. In the past Session we probably had the worst of all worlds—a Government Bill with a free vote. The right course now is probably a short pause to enable us to devise the best means of ensuring that the next time legislation is presented to Parliament it will pass through all its stages.

Mr. Carlisle

As the Bill was successfully killed in two consecutive Sessions, does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the right course is to encourage the voluntary wearing of seat belts rather than waiting for compulsion?

Mr. Rodgers

In so far as there is to be a pause, I entirely agree that it is right to encourage the voluntary wearing of seat belts. I have approved a new advertising campaign, which I hope will have that result. Although I understand the hon. and learned Gentleman's views on this issue, the House registered its view by an overwhelming majority. I think that in due course that must take effect in legislation.

30. Mr. Goodhart

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he now makes of the number of lives that would be saved in the United Kingdom in 12 months if the wearing of seat belts in cars were made compulsory.

Mr. Horam

About 1,000, if all belts fitted in cars and light vans were worn.

Mr. Goodhart

If the Minister accepts the improved figures, why do not the Government make more strenuous efforts to get seat belt legislation through the House?

Mr. Horam

The hon. Member will have heard my right hon. Friend's reply. We intend to make every effort to get the legislation through the House. The situation is well known and I am glad of the hon. Member's support.

Mr. Michael Stewart

Was it not the House of Lords that struck the seat belts provision out of a road traffic Bill more than 12 months ago? Does not that mean that their Lordships carry a heavy responsibility?

Mr. Horam

My right hon. Friend is correct.

Mr. Ford

Has any estimate been made of the number of lives that would have been lost had the wearing of seat belts been compulsory?

Mr. Horam

Our estimate is that it would have been fractional. The consequences of wearing a seat belt and the likely damage as a result are infinitesimal compared with the advantages of wearing one.