HC Deb 18 April 1988 vol 131 cc540-1
10. Mr. Gregory

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what proportion of tyres tested on motor vehicles in use have a tread depth below 1.6 mm; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

This information is not available.

Mr. Gregory

I am slightly surprised by my hon. Friend's comment. Should not the United Kingdom be moving towards a minimum tyre depth of 1.6mm, which has been adopted in a number of countries and proposed as a minimum tyre tread depth for the European Community, bearing in mind that Government car tyres must be changed when they reach a tread depth of 2mm? My hon. Friend is treating United Kingdom citizens with rather less grace than those who travel in Government cars. Further, will he consider the whole width of the tyre tread, rather than a proportion of it? Will we continue to put lives at risk?

Mr. Bottomley

My hon. Friend knows perfectly well that we are not putting lives at risk. He knows perfectly well also, as does the tyre industry, that in this country we have safer tyres than most other European countries, as the MOT test detects not only defective but worn tyres. It is not true that the Government car service replaces tyres when the tread reaches a depth of 2mm. Research shows that the present tyre regulations produce the required safety standards.

Mr. Tony Lloyd

The Minister may want to reconsider his answer. The hon. Member for York (Mr. Gregory) is right to say that it is necessary to take into account the whole width of the tyre tread. to improve safety standards. Why will the Minister not come clean with the House and accept the overwhelming case for moving to a minimum tyre depth of 1mm across the whole of the tyre?

Mr. Bottomley

I suggest that the hon. Gentleman meets me to discuss in detail the discussions that I had with the tyre industry about 18 months ago, during which we considered research evidence about cars' cornering ability in addition to the information that we already had about cars' breaking ability. I think that the hon. Gentleman's fears would then be set aside.

Mr. Waller

Will my hon. Friend resist attempts to force conformity upon us, when it has been shown clearly that spending extra money and imposing extra costs on motorists will not bring commensurate benefits in road safety?

Mr. Bottomley

I agree with my hon. Friend. We should concentrate our efforts on aspects of the vehicle, as well as driver and road safety, that produce results. That is how we achieved the lowest death rate since 1954. It is one reason why our safety standards are the highest in the European Community. It is right that we should continue doing what works rather than just what is asked for in the House of Commons or meets a ministerial prejudice.