HC Deb 10 February 1982 vol 17 cc971-2
15. Mr. Hal Miller

asked the Secretary of State for Transport when he intends to introduce regulations on the compulsory wearing of seat belts.

Mr. David Howell

I laid a statement of my proposals before Parliament on 8 December. I am required to allow at least three months from that date to elapse before I lay the regulations themselves. I expect therefore to lay them as soon as practicable after 8 March.

Mr. Miller

When preparing the regulations, will my right hon. Friend consider the need to ensure standardisation of seat belts? Difficulties are caused to drivers by the wide variety of release mechanisms and strap adjustments on the market.

Mr. Howell

Release mechanisms are more or less standard on vehicles built since 1973, but I shall bear in mind my hon. Friend's request. There are mechanisms on the market which can be adjusted up and down for different sized drivers. Moreover, the anchorage points by the shoulder can be relocated lower or higher depending on the driver's size.

Mr. Bidwell

Given the practice in most other Western European countries, is the right hon. Gentleman giving due weight to the unanimous opinion of taxi drivers that they should be exempt from the need to wear seat belts owing to the nature of their duties?

Mr. Howell

The official consultation period has now ended, but I am carefully considering representations. including those from taxi drivers.

Mr. Jessel

As each week's delay results in the loss of about 15 lives, will my right hon. Friend ensure that the regulations are introduced as soon as the law allows?

Mr. Howell

I am bound by the law. The debate on the regulations is expected in March or April and, if they are approved, it will be followed by a running-in period, which is vital. The regulations will then be brought into force in the summer.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

As there is irrefutable evidence from throughout the world that lives have been lost because people have been compelled to wear seat belts, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the regulations enable the next of kin of a person who loses his or her life through wearing a seat belt to obtain compensation from the Department of Transport? Surely that must be regarded as a fair and reasonable request, whether or not one is in favour of wearing seat belts.

Mr. Howell

These matters have been fully debated and answered in Parliament.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

My right hon. Friend must answer "Yes".

Mr. Howell

These matters have been fully debated and Parliament decided that I should be required to act. I shall bring forward regulations. We shall carefully consider all requests for exemption, but the broader point raised by the hon. Gentleman was taken into account when Parliament reached its majority decision. Hon. Members had the opportunity to express their views at that time