HC Deb 05 July 1978 vol 953 cc436-7
5. Mr. Litterick

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what powers he has to require motor vehicle manufacturers to report to him the occurrence of defects in new vehicles being sold to the public which may place lives at risk; and if he is satisfied that existing procedures provide adequate protection for the public.

Mr. Horam

We have no powers at present to require such information, but certain powers will be conferred by the Consumer Safety Bill, which is now at an advanced stage. The current voluntary arrangements for notifying us of defects have worked well, but we intend to review them when the Bill becomes law.

Mr. Litterick

I am grateful for that answer. Is my hon. Friend aware that last year, for example, the Volkswagen company of Germany discovered that two of its models had serious defects that resulted in fatalities on the Continent of Europe, and that the two models were at that time being marketed in Britain? As it happens, so far as we know no fatalities occurred in Britain as a result of the weaknesses. Does my hon. Friend agree that the present situation is unsatisfactory and that what is desired is a mandatory obligation for motor car manufacturers to inform his Department, so that at least it has the discretion, where it thinks it appropriate, to advise the motoring public that a certain model has a dangerous defect?

Mr. Horam

Clause 4 of the Consumer Safety Bill will give the Department power to require information from manufacturers for the purpose of deciding whether to prohibit sales of unsafe vehicles or components. Obviously we shall look at that power most carefully when it comes into operation.

Mr. Anderson

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the manufacturers' recall procedures in the case of defects have been much facilitated by the existence of a centralised computer giving the names and addresses of the registered owners of vehicles?

Mr. Horam

Yes, indeed. My hon. Friend makes a very serious and important point, and I entirely support it.

Mr. Tebbit

Has the Minister any idea why his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick) mentioned the Volkswagen motor car rather than those particularly lethal motor cars—and they have been described as lethal—which are imported from East Europe?

Mr. Horam

I think that the hon. Gentleman should address his question to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick) and not to me.