HC Deb 20 June 1988 vol 135 cc825-6
1. Mr. Gregory

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what information he has as to how many European Community states conform with the draft directive for a minimum tread depth for tyres; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Peter Bottomley)

First, I present the apologies of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who is at an important meeting of Transport Ministers in Europe.

One, Luxembourg.

Mr. Gregory

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that helpful information. How much longer are we going to wait before we agree to the EEC draft directive? Does it not make a shambles of the Government's policy of being seriously concerned about road safety when all the organisations concerned with road safety have said that a minimum tyre depth of 2 mm is appropriate—yet we shelter behind this lower figure? When will my hon. Friend take their representations into account?

Mr. Bottomley

I apologise to my hon. Friend for the way in which I answered him the last time that we debated this issue. If any of these organisations want to send the safety case to me, we shall of course consider it.

Mr. Dalyell

Many of my constituents work in Uniroyal. What is the cost of the Government's review of the safety regulations? What figures does the Minister have?

Mr. Bottomley

The cost is estimated at about £70 million a year. The real question is what the benefit is. All the research has demonstrated that this may make a marginal difference at more than 50 miles an hour on roads with smooth surfaces; other than that, there is no safety advantage in having a lower or higher tread depth.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. Is it not the case that many of the countries that have deeper tread depth requirements also have, as a representative truth, far more days of snow a year that we do? Is that not a major consideration, and is not tread pattern in many cases of great importance, too—not just tread depth?

Mr. Bottomley

There is a good deal in what my hon. Friend says. It is important to realise that a Government of any political persuasion in this country would want to do what is effective. Going for higher tread depth in this country would not be particularly effective. I have told my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Gregory) that if one of the tyre manufacturers wants to put forward a serious safety case we shall, of course, consider it.