HC Deb 20 July 1977 vol 935 cc1574-5
3. Mr. Tim Smith

asked the Secretary of State for Transport why he did not include a statement on road safety in the transport White Paper.

Mr. William Rodgers

Because the main proposals in the White Paper are about issues which do not directly affect road safety. This can best be dealt with separately.

Mr. Smith

Will the Minister give serious consideration to inclusion in the Queen's Speech of a reference to legislation to implement the recommendations of the Blennerhassett Committee on drinking and driving?

Mr. Rodgers

I greatly welcome the hon. Gentleman's support. He is obviously right to raise these matters in the House. Road safety should concern the House more, perhaps, than it has done at times. I cannot anticipate what may be in the Queen's Speech, but we have already declared our intention to legislate on Blennerhassett in due course.

Mr. Lee

Will my right hon. Friend provide figures, in easy form, comparing railway accidents and road accidents? Is it not a fact that the safety record of the railways is overwhelmingly greater than that of the roads and that this is something that does not get nearly enough emphasis?

Mr. Rodgers

I entirely agree. I am sorry if it does not receive enough publicity, because it is certainly true. The conclusion that I draw from that is that we must get a much better performance on the roads than we do now. It is quite outrageous that over 6,000 people are killed every year on the roads.

Mr. Jessel

Why did the White Paper not make specific reference to the accepted fact that the figure of 6,000 deaths every year could be reduced by about 1,000 by the compulsory wearing of seat belts? When will the Government do something about this, in view of the fact that the House gave the relevant Bill a Second Reading by a majority of over 100?

Mr. Rodgers

The reason why road safety was not included in the White Paper is a fairly reasonable one. It was a long White Paper. This is a separate subject, although a very important one. It seemed to us best dealt with separately. That was a matter of judgment. We may have been wrong, but there was no motive other than that behind it. I personally regret the fact that legislation on the compulsory wearing of seat belts did not go through the House last year. I am sure that it will do so in due course. However, all Governments are bound in part by the views of hon. Members and their determination. The hon. Gentleman was notable for his support of the Bill, and is greatly to be praised for that, but other hon. Members were very determined in their opposition.