HC Deb 01 July 1981 vol 7 cc862-3
15. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what was the number of fatal and serious road accidents, respectively, in 1980.

Mr. Fowler

The complete figures for 1980 are not yet available, but the preliminary estimate indicates that about 6,000 people were killed and 80,000 seriously injured in road accidents. The position is, therefore, undoubtedly serious, but the figures do show that casualties have fallen in each of the last two years and the number of deaths for 1980 looks like being the lowest since 1958. This is in spite of motor traffic having trebled over that period.

Mr. Dormand

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that if that number of people were killed in aircraft or railway accidents each year there would be a huge outcry? Surely the Government should be launching a massive campaign about the seriousness of the situation. The right hon. Gentleman says that the casualty figures are reducing but he has admitted that they are still extremely serious. Does not that attitude reveal serious complacency on the part of the Government?

Mr. Fowler

There is no complacency on the part of the Government. In the Transport Bill that is currently in another place we are taking action in some of the most serious areas of road casualties—for example, drink-driving and motor cycle safety. The hon. Gentleman should not deny that. The trend is for road casualties to decrease. If the hon. Gentleman compares our record with the records of other European countries he will find that ours is one of the best in Europe.

Mr. Henderson

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the number of road accidents could be reduced if more people knew what the legal speed limits were? Is not it time to enshrine statutory instruments in primary legislation?

Mr. Fowler

I shall consider that. If my hon. Friend feels that there is confusion we shall consider making more publicity available. We have changed the rather eccentric position that obtained at the time of the fuel economy speed limits. There is not as much confusion as there once was.

Mr. Sheerman

I welcome the low level of casualties last year. Does the right hon. Gentleman not feel that it is a sad reflection on this Chamber that we have to rely on another place to give the House the opportunity to vote on the single most cost-effective way of reducing deaths and serious accidents—namely, compulsory seat belt legislation?

Mr. Fowler

I am not clear about the hon. Gentleman's complaint. If the proposal of the other place remains in the Bill the House will have the opportunity to vote upon it.