HC Deb 05 December 1979 vol 975 cc395-6
1. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Minister of Transport if he is now able to announce the measures he proposes to take to improve coach safety;and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Kenneth Clarke)

As I told the hon. Member in my reply to him on 26 November, I hope to be able to proceed shortly with regulations on emergency exits. Following further tests and consultations we are having to revise the draft regulations on strength of superstructure, but I am glad to say that, without waiting for legislation, manufacturers are already designing stronger superstructures. I expect to start formal consultations soon on draft regulations on braking standards for new vehicles. I am pursuing the questions of seat strength and seat belts for vulnerable seating positions in international discussions. As regards licensing and testing, the current Transport Bill includes provisions to ensure the continuance of proper safeguards for the condition of public service vehicles.

Mr. Roberts

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that there is, at long last, some sign of progress in this area, which should be widely welcomed? Will he comment on a matter that I have raised with his Department, namely, the dangers that could arise in vehicles due to the substitution of counterfeit Taiwan parts for British components?

Mr. Clarke

I was glad to hear the hon. Gentleman's first remark. Regarding the piece of equipment to which he referred, I have had inquiries made and I am advised that it is perfectly legal at the moment. We should not wish to encourage the further use of the brake activated device until we have had time to consider it.

Mr. Iain Mills

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the appropriate clauses in the Transport Bill will help to ensure higher safety standards for what are known as back street coach operators?

Mr. Clarke

I certainly will confirm that. There is no intention to reduce the safety requirements on operators of public service vehicles. The standards required of operators and vehicles by the new legislation will, if anything, be more rigorous than those at present.

Mr. Dobson

How does the hon. Gentleman reconcile his last statement with the fact that he is redefining public service vehicles so that a substantial number of vehicles will be taken out of safety control by the Bill's proposals?

Mr. Clarke

When the hon. Gentleman has studied the Bill he will find that the safety requirements are not being relaxed. The relaxation is on the quantity control of public service vehicles because we feel that the present licensing system is too restrictive in that respect.