HC Deb 13 May 1988 vol 133 cc588-621

'In section 199, subsection (2A) of the Road Traffic Act 1972 (exercise of regulation—making powers and Parliamentary control thereover), leave out "section 33A" and insert sections 33A and 33C", and leave out "that section" and insert "those sections" wherever those words occur.'.—[Mr. Waller.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

9.36 am
Mr. Gary Waller (Keighley)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 1, in clause 1, page 1, line 7, after 'regulations' insert 'approved by affirmative procedure by both Houses'.

No. 2, in page 1, line 15, after 'regulations' insert 'approved by affirmative procedure by both Houses'.

No. 3, in page 1, line 30, after 'section,' insert `approved by affirmative procedure by both Houses'.

No. 18, in page 2, line 3, at end insert— '(2A) In section 199 of the 1972 Act (exercise of regulation-making powers and Parliamentary control)—

  1. (a) In subsection (3) after "33A" there shall be inserted 33C"; and
  2. (b) In subsection (4) for the words "or 33A" there shall be substituted the words ", 33A or 33C".'.

Mr. Waller

As there has been some speculation about the intention of my hon. Friends and I in the House today, I wish to make it clear immediately that my intention—I speak for myself only—is to address myself specifically to this Bill. It has been said that others are interested in other Bills today. I favour the Bill in the name of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) and I am certainly sympathetic to the Bill in the name of the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith).

I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Day) that, whatever happens today, I shall certainly be anxious to ensure that I do everything in my power to promote the safety of children in cars. If his Bill achieves its Report stage and Third Reading today, I shall be happy to work with him and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport to ensure that it works as effectively as possible in the interests of all car occupants, particularly children.

The new clause relates to the Road Traffic Act 1972 and I shall explain precisely what it seeks to do. There are three provisions. First, when the Secretary of State proposes to make the first regulations for which this Bill makes provision he would be required to lay before each House of Parliament a statement: explaining those proposals. Secondly, after that, a period of three months would have to ensue before the regulations were laid before Parliament. Thirdly, and equally important, the regulations would expire three years after they came into force unless their continuation in force had been approved by both Houses. Those provisions are similar to those which apply to the original seat belt regulations for drivers and front seat passengers. The two principal requirements are the explanatory statement and the need for regulations to be renewed once we have experienced them over three years.

It is vital to have a statement before regulations are laid before Parliament because essentially the Bill is to be regarded as a shell. The essence of the legislation—I do not think that hon. Members will disagree strongly with this—will be incorporated in the regulations that the Minister will lay before Parliament. I fear that the regulations may have to be more complex than they appear to be at present. It is important that the Minister explains his proposals before he puts them into practice.

It may be said that after regulations are laid before Parliament there is a period before they are passed, whether it be by the affirmative or negative procedure. I think that the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) intends to speak about that. The problem is that when the House considers a statutory instrument it can pass it or reject it, but it cannot amend it. Given the complex nature of the regulations, the chances are that the Department may not get them right. In one respect at least, the legislation is defective at present because it does not provide for exemption certificates.

If there had not been an opportunity to amend the Bill, it could have passed into the law in a defective form or would have had to be withdrawn. There is provision to amend the Bill but not a statutory instrument, so an explanatory statement should be made.

If the regulations are laid without the House having an opportunity to examine the issues involved, the chances are that they will be defective. If the House had an opportunity to study a statement there would be a period of three months to make representations to my hon. Friend the Minister so that improvements could be made to the Bill. We all agree that it is important to get regulations and the legislation absolutely right.

Mr. Eric Forth (Mid-Worcestershire)

My hon. Friend has implied on more than one occasion that, at the current stage of thinking and development, this measure may have been defective when it was introduced. Would the procedure that my hon. Friend is outlining be adequate to deal with its possible shortcomings? Is he sufficiently unhappy with the regulations that he feels that what he is suggesting may not be enough to provide safeguards against the shortcomings that have been identified?

Mr. Waller

We are still at an early stage. We have had an opportunity to listen to the views of my hon. Friend the Minister. He has said that he must consider the exact form of the regulations and that he will listen to representations at this stage. There is a long way to go before we can begin to think about whether the regulations are right or wrong. There is no guarantee that when they are laid before the House we will have got them right. There should be a wider debate before the regulations are laid so that everybody can express their opinion.

9.45 am

If this legislation becomes law it will have benefited from the fact that it has been open to amendment. I hope that we shall pass amendments that will improve the legislation and make it more acceptable. The difficulty is that the legislation is drafted in very general terms and it is difficult to know the exact form that the regulations may take.

Mr. Forth

I must press my hon. Friend about this matter. He has said once or twice that we are in the early stages, which slightly puzzles me. We are in the late stages of the Bill, and if major reservations are being expressed we shall have to address them fully. I am slightly alarmed that my hon. Friend is suggesting that it is all over bar the shouting and that we may not have to look in considerable detail at this measure. Are we at the late or early stages?

Mr. Waller

The Bill will have to be considered in another place if it is passed. We are at a late stage of this legislation, but I must emphasise that the meat of the new rules will be in the form of regulations, and we are not at an early stage of the regulations. I am concerned to ensure that when the regulations are laid we have an opportunity to get them right.

I should like to consider some of the issues that would be included in an explanatory statement and which subsequently would have to be addressed by the regulations. I hope to show that we need a statement to get the regulations right. The first problem is one to which hon. Members favouring and opposing the Bill have referred. It arises when the number of children carried in the rear of a vehicle exceeds the number of seat belts fitted. One thinks of a large family with three or more children when there may he only two rear seat belts fitted to the car. What happens if it is not possible to provide restraining devices for all the children because there are not sufficient mounting points? An explanatory statement would have to address whether it would be more dangerous to put two children in seat belts, thus providing less space for the other children than they would have in other circumstances.

Many people have spoken of the school run and the way in which parents share the duty of taking children to and from school. There may he two adults in the front and three children in the rear of a medium or large motor car. The permutations are endless. If parents are to consider what it is best to do for their children, they must be given guidance on the permutations for placing children in restraining devices. We must not have legislation that does not address these matters.

Mr. Stephen Day (Cheadle)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the points that he is making were well covered on Second Reading? It was explained that the Bill does not in any way materially affect the number of children carried in the back of a car. It applies only to the number of seat belts fitted. The moral dilemma about which child should be restrained exists at present; it does not arise because of the existence of the Bill. My hon. Friend took part in the debate on Second Reading, and if he looks at Hansard he will see that the matter was well covered.

Mr. Waller

My hon. Friend is over-simplifying the matter. On Second Reading and in Committee my hon. Friend the Minister addressed this problem quite carefully, although we have not voted on it at any stage or considered it in great detail. I do not want to labour the point, but I mentioned it as an issue that will have to be considered in the regulations and therefore should be considered in a statement before regulations are laid.

Ms. Harriet Harman (Peckham)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the evidence that appeared on Second Reading and in Committee and the evidence that led to the Bill being introduced showed that if a child is unrestrained in the back seat without a seat belt it is in danger? Does he not share the simplicity of my view that if it is dangerous for a child to be in the back of a car without a seat belt, it should not be in the back of the car and other arrangements should be made? It is very difficult to balance convenience with children's lives. Is it not inconsistent for the Bill to claim that children should wear seat belts in the rear of the car, but if there are more children than seat belts some children may be unrestrained?

Mr. Waller

The fitting of child restraints in the rear of cars is not compulsory. It is conceivable that people will have to carry children whom they do not normally carry in the car. I would not want to tell people that they should never carry children in the car whom they do not normally carry simply because there is no restraining device fitted for that child. That would be going too far and many people would regard that as an unreasonable demand.

The problem of the child who is not normally carried in the car is very important and should be addressed in the statement. Would it be necessary to install a seat belt rather than a child restraining device for a child who was too big or too small for a restraining device in the car? People need guidance on that.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster used to be a Transport Minister and referred to the dangers that might exist if children who were too small were placed in a seat belt normally used for larger children or adults. We cannot expect car users to carry with them all the pads, adaptors or other equipment necessary to make a normal seat belt suitable for a child of any size. Those issues must be dealt with in a statement.

Clause 1 refers to the description of seat belt to be worn by children of any prescribed description. That is a very wide definition. Clause I gives considerable prescriptive power to Ministers and future Transport Ministers who, unlike my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport who has responsibility for roads and traffic, may not take such a reasonable attitude.

I have spoken to mothers over the past few days and I am aware that there is some difficulty in placing some children in a restraining device. Should there be an exception for short journeys of up to half a mile where the danger involved in causing distress to some children may exceed the safety benefit of putting them in a restraining device?

Mrs. Audrey Wise (Preston)

While the hon. Gentleman is referring to short journeys, has he given any thought to the problems that might arises with taxis? Unlike me, he had the benefit of being a member of the Standing Committee. I have taken it for granted that the Bill is all right. However, he is shaking my belief in that. Can he guide us about the problem with taxis?

Mr. Waller

In Committee the hon. Members for Glasgow, Shettleston (Mr. Marshall) and for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd) referred to the problem of taxis. I will deal with that in a moment because I believe that it is important.

Another issue which must he dealt with in some detail in an explanatory statement is the reasonable excuse provision incorporated in clause I. Many people have given different views about what a reasonable excuse might constitute. It has been suggested that it might be a reasonable excuse for someone stopped by a policeman and told that he or she had a child in the rear of the car who was not belted in to reply that the child had undone the buckle or slipped out of the restraining device. We can all readily visualise that happening. Only last night a mother told me that her child aged one and half can slip her way out of a restraining device in the rear of the car in only a minute and a half. She learnt that trick from her brother aged 4. We should not underestimate the ability of small children to act as little Houdinis and get out of all kinds of positions in which they do not feel comfortable.

If a parent or driver of the car was to say that the child had undone the buckle or slipped out of the restraining device, what is the policeman to do? Should he ask the child, "Is it true what your mum says? Is it correct that you managed to get out of the seat belt?"

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield)

Is it not a fact that in nearly all cases the policeman will use his common sense, unlike some hon. Members who have spoken in Committee and this morning.

Mr. Waller

I think that most police officers are men and women of common sense. However, we all know of occasions when police officers have wanted to throw their weight about.

The question of reasonable excuse would put the police officer in a very difficult position. More significantly, it would be very difficult to enforce the legislation. If a driver made an excuse such as that to which I have referred, there would be no way of ascertaining whether it was correct. If a driver was stopped, the excuse to which I have referred would be the obvious thing to say. The driver would say, "Of course he was in the device at the beginning of the journey. Oh dear, he must have slipped out." It is difficult to see how a prosecution could be brought because no one would be able to gainsay that excuse.

Mr. Day

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) is addressing this matter as if we were debating Third Reading and not specifically new clause 1.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

As far as the Chair is concerned, the hon. Gentleman is making a valiant attempt to introduce new clause 1.

Mr. Waller

I am anxious to address myself only to points of detail that should be included in an explanatory statement.

Ms. Harman

Would it not be helpful for the Minister to tell us this morning that he will take some initiative to encourage manufacturers to develop rear seats and other devices for small children specifically designed to enable parents to put children into them and take them out easily but which would be very difficult for a child to gel out of? The buckle of some devices is fixed on a child's tummy and the first thing that the child fiddles with is the buckle. Is that not a design problem which the manufacturers must address? Should not the Minister encourage them to do that? Does he not agree—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The new clause deals with regulation-making powers, not manufacturers' powers.

Mr. Waller

You have taken the words out of my mouth, Madam Deputy Speaker. However, I entirely agree with the hon. Lady's comments. Many people with whom I have discussed this issue have said that they would be more willing to use such devices if they were better designed.

10 am

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is it in order to discuss regulations that could apply to manufacturers to ensure that the devices are workable?

Madam Deputy Speaker

Not under this clause. There may be an opportunity to do so later, with the amendments which are before the House. This clause relates to regulations.

Mr. Waller

I have made careful note of your comments, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I shall seek to avoid being drawn into issues that may be relevant to other amendments or to the Third Reading of the Bill. Essentially, I wish to confine my comments to the new clause.

Another "reasonable excuse" to which the statement should address itself is whether it would be reasonable never to restrain a child because of its tantrums. Some people might consider that to be a reasonable excuse, and others might not. Some courts, seeing the child in question and having sympathy for the mother or father, might not expect the parents to restrain the child.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Fair point.

Mr. Waller

I would find it a reasonable excuse. I am grateful for the support of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), who, like other Members, might also consider it to be a reasonable excuse. Some magistrates might, but others might not. The only way in which we can start to provide greater safety for children is to allow for such matters in the regulations—but they should not be included unless the House has first had an opportunity to consider them by means of a statement. Once the regulations themselves arrive on the Floor of the House, we shall have no opportunity to amend them if we believe that, on this occasion, the Minister has got them wrong.

Mr. Skinner

The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) mentioned my support for him. On occasions, and however difficult the situation may be, somebody has to say in this Chamber, "Most of the country wants these seat belts. It all sounds good, and it looks good in the tabloids. But what about the regulations?" What will the public say when they see the regulations and ask, "Who passed this lot?" We shall have to reply that it was pushed through one Friday morning, because the House was a bit conscious of something else.

The hon. Gentleman is drawing to our attention the fact that the regulations must be spot on, because we shall all be held responsible for them. I should like to know, for instance, whether the regulations will apply to ministerial cars. Will rear seat belts be fitted to ministerial cars? Not many Ministers could use them, but they do sit in the back. some of them tell me that they lie down in the back of their cars, late at night. Who could use such seat belts? Could the Minister for Sport slip into one? It is just possible. I should like to know whether rear seat belts will be fitted to ministerial cars and to the other vehicles in the car pool.

Mr. Waller

One of the Sunday newspapers printed a story the other week that the Minister for Sport had four children. The following week, the newspaper had to print a retraction, saying that the Minister for Sport had never been married and had no children at all, and apologising to him for any distress the story caused.

As to the hon. Gentleman's first point, and as is often the case, he has hit the nail absolutely on the head. Often, it is only when laws come into effect that we receive complaints from our constituents and are asked why we did not do something at the time. The country is not at this time aware of what is passing through the House and we have a responsibility to act on behalf of our constituents to ensure that we get this legislation right. The best way of doing that is by giving the House an opportunity of seeing a statement before the regulations come before it.

Even if the courts try to create criteria for what constituted a "reasonable excuse", the point is bound to be reached where courts will have a totally different concept of what is or what is not reasonable. I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree that it is very unsatisfactory to have laws enforced in haphazard and varied ways, if they can be enforced at all. Indeed, I have suggested that there might be some difficulty in enforcing such laws.

Another "reasonable excuse" which a driver might give, and which the House should consider before the regulations are put before it, is this. The driver might say, "I am only the driver. There is someone in the back of the car who knows the children far better than I do. If that person has undone the seat belt, I can hardly be held responsible."

I come to the points made by the hon. Members for Shettleston and for Stretford in respect of taxis. A taxi driver who claimed that he asked at the beginning of the journey for the children to be restrained but that, by the time his taxi was stopped by the police, they were not, would have a reasonable excuse. I have suggested that it might be worth while incorporating in the Bill a different provision so that the person in charge of the child could be held responsible. In some cases that might be fairer than expecting the driver to be held responsible for what happens. Those are alternative approaches and they should both be considered.

Mr. Forth

Can my hon. Friend tell those of us who did not have an opportunity to serve on the Standing Committee or to follow this matter closely until now whether he has received an indication from the sponsor of the Bill or from the Minister that exemptions will be made for taxi drivers? He has skipped rather lightly over that point. We have made exemptions for taxi drivers in other legislation because of their individual and unique situation. I am sure that my hon. Friend will not forget mini cabs. He may be referring only to black cabs, but mini cabs are an increasing force to be reckoned with in the transporting of fare-paying passengers. Will there be exemptions to deal with those problems?

Mr. Waller

I can best respond to my hon. Friend's comments by quoting what was said by the Minister in Standing Committee on 27 April: There are many issues still to be resolved when deciding how the law should apply in practice. However, as far as I can recall, he said nothing about any exemptions that might apply to taxis. He may do so later.

Mr. Forth

I hope that he does.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

I may be able to help the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller). I have, for example, passed correspondence and representations from the Bradford Taxi Proprietors' Association to the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Day) and to my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd). The association has made extremely sensible representations about the need for exemptions—I hope to make a short contribution later this morning. It is important that the Minister, when he replies, makes clear the fact that the consultations will include taxi interests and that there will be specific exemption for taxis from the provisions of the Bill.

Mr. Waller

I agree with the hon. Gentleman; it is important that consultations should go as wide as possible. They must obviously include those representing taxi drivers. The best way of ensuring that we get all of this right is to allow the House, after the consultations have taken place, to consider the proposed regulations. Our debate today shows that many hon. members have their own views. There cannot be detailed consultations with every hon. Member without something being put before the House.

Another issue to which a statement should address itself is that raised by my hon. Friend the Minister in Standing Committee, when he stated: The Bill requires only that restraints which are fitted should he used, not that all children in the rear of cars be restrained."—[Official Report, Standing Committee C; 27 April 1988, c. 9.] I believe that that is the answer to the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman). My hon. Friend appears to agree that at this stage it would be unreasonable to tell the public that all children must be restrained whether or not suitable restraints exist. The provision does not seem to be limited to ordinary seat belts, and I feel that people could be deterred from fitting restraints if, once fitted, they must always be used. The Bill appears to require a belt to be used even if it is not the law of the land that they be fitted. This is an important point.

Mr. Michael Stern (Bristol, North-West)

I am glad that my hon. Friend has raised that point, which is of concern to parents with very young children. When my daughter was one year old, I was strongly advised that in no circumstances should the rear seat belts be used. I was advised instead to acquire a specific restraint which became useless after a couple of years. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is necessary for the regulations to address that point?

Mr. Waller

I am sure that my hon. Friend was given wise advice, and that that is exactly the sort of issue that would be considered in regulations.

Ms. Harman


Mr. Waller

I will give way this once, but I do not want to do so too many times as it delays our proceedings.

Ms. Harman

May I refer to the regulations as they affect clause 1(3)(c), concerning the description of the seat belt to be worn and the mariner in which it is to be fixed and used? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the point made by the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern), and the point that he himself was making when the hon. Gentleman intervened, could be met if the Minister took the initiative to ensure that design advances, particularly in relation to removable shells which can be put in ordinary adult seat belts—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. That does not arise on the new clause.

Mr. Waller

I should like to read a quotation from Hansard which I think is relevant to what I have been saying: As things stand—and I cannot conceive that any Government will move from this position—the intention is not to require compulsory wearing where there is not compulsory fitting. I cannot believe that if any Minister of Transport brought forward regulations on any other basis, the House would give its approval to them."—[Official Report, Standing Committee C, 23 January 1980; c. 78.] Those were the words of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, then a Transport Minister, during the Committee stage of the Road Traffic (Seat Belts) Bill. However, as I understand it, this Bill would enable a Minister to say that because a child restraint is fitted, even if it is not a legal requirement, it must be used. We are apparently making provision for something that a Transport Minister in 1980 said that he could not imagine any Government of any persuasion doing.

My hon. Friend the Minister has said that if there is a seat belt available for a child, the child should wear it. Of course, we agree that if a seat belt is available the child should wear it; but is my hon. Friend also saying that if the seat belt is available the child must wear it? That is what I understand from the Bill.

Mr. Forth

My hon. Friend has put his finger on another important point. He has illustrated very elegantly the difference of view that can occur with a change of Minister. He has suggested that a Conservative Minister took a view at one time, while our present Minister—whom we all love and respect very dearly—might take another view. But does my hon. Friend share my view that were our Minister to move on to greater things, as we all hope that he will in due course, his successor may in turn take a different view of this important matter at precisely the time that the regulations are being dealt with?

Mr. Waller

That is one reason why I am always very sceptical about statutory instruments, and the possibility that new statutory instruments may be laid before Parliament which the House has not envisaged in the past. Regrettably there has been a trend away from primary legislation toward incorporating more and more substantial proposals in secondary legislation. That could be avoided to some extent if a statement were laid before Parliament before the regulations came before it.

Mrs. Wise

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that during this Parliament there has been an increasing and distressing tendency for Bills to be shells? Does he extend his strictures to Government and private Members' Bills alike? Should not the House accept its responsibility for considering the detail of legislation?

10.15 am
Mr. Waller

I do not want to be drawn out of order. I am continually being tempted, and I find it difficult to resist temptation when posed by hon. Ladies such as the one who has just spoken. Nevertheless, I shall resist it.

We have only to look at the words of Ministers to see the difference that can emerge over a very short time. In Committee, my hon. Friend the Minister said: If passed, the Bill will require restraints to be used where fitted. Nothing could be clearer. If the belts are not fitted, they do not have to be used, but once fitted they must be used. My hon. Friend appears to be saying that the Bill will require what his predecessor said that he could not conceive of any Government requiring—wearing when fitting is not compulsory.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Will the hon. Gentleman cast his mind over the difference raised a moment ago between statutory instruments being dealt with in a private Member's Bill such as this, and statutory instruments tabled by the Government? Is he not concerned that, once the private Member's Bill is passed, it will be the Government who produce the statutory instrument? There is always a danger that, whatever the defects of a statutory instrument, Conservative Members will be required by the Whips to go willy-nilly into the Lobbies and vote for any rubbish that the Government lay on the Table.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I see the point—it is most interesting—but the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) is speaking to new clause 1, on regulations.

Mr. Waller

I always listen carefully to what the hon. Gentleman says, and I look forward to what he will probably say very shortly.

In Committee, the Minister said: It is up to Parliament to decide what to do with the Bill, but it will be up to Government to consider what regulations to bring before Parliament if the Bill passes successfully through both Houses. That is the distinction between Parliament and Government. We should have a little more input from the House. Perhaps it would be a good idea for an explanatory statement to be laid before the House before any statutory instrument was put forward, so that it could be discussed in advance.

My hon. Friend the Minister also said: we have a responsibility to provide legislation so that parents know what is right."—[Official Report, Standing Committee C, 27 April 1988; c. 10–12.] Many issues relating to our efforts to do our best for children are promoted by organisations and by the Government. Some are in the highway code, but in very few cases do we consider legislation desirable, especially when it is so difficult to enforce it sensibly. Before considering a statutory instrument, we should consider carefully whether a regulation is necessary or whether it would be better for advice to be given in the highway code, and for persuasion rather than compulsion to be exercised to ensure that children are carried in cars as safely as possible.

I want to come to the second part of the—

Mr. Skinner

The hon. Gentleman may not have considered this but I think that it is important. He knows my views about the Common Market, harmonisation and all that jazz. I am not keen on, in fact I am very much opposed to, us having to knuckle under to the Germans, French and all the rest of them. However, I have no doubt that the regulations would have to be framed in such a way by the Tory Government, who crawl to the Common Market, as to satisfy the other nations around the table.

I want to know whether he has taken into account, and whether he will ask his hon. Friend the Minister to take into account, whether any discussions have taken place. If the Minister is to come back from the Common Market at any time with some tinpot harmonisation scheme on seat belts for kids, I will want to know from where it is derived. It would be a good thing if the hon. Gentleman drew the Minister's attention to that matter before it goes any further.

Mr. Waller

The hon. Gentleman has made a fair point. Often, we come forward with proposals that are out of step with those of other Community countries.

Mr. Skinner

I want them to be out of step.

Mr. Waller

Some people think that they should be out of step but other people, such as motor manufacturers, would prefer them to be in step. For example, one thinks of the dim-dip regulations, on which we are out of step with many other countries. One thinks also of the proposal for compulsory leg guards on motor cycles. That is different from the safety proposals for motor cycles in other countries. That is a fair point and it would be helpful to see in a statement laid before the House what account my hon. Friend the Minister, or whoever may be the Minister or the Secretary of State for Transport, has taken of the practices of other countries.

I take a rather different line on that. I believe that it is beneficial on the whole if our proposals are in tune with those of other countries. Then, people travelling from one country to another will know that the same laws apply and motor manufacturers who have to produce the vehicles will know that they can produce vehicles according to the construction and use regulations that will be satisfactory in other countries.

Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley)

While the hon. Gentleman is dealing with other European countries may I ask him whether he has seen the briefing done in relation to compulsory seat belt wearing by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety? It says: In the majority of European countries, seat belt legislation for adults has preceded child restraint legislation, although many now require belt use in the front seat only. This is the important point— This has had the effect of encouraging children to travel in the rear, usually unrestrained.

Mr. Waller

It is interesting how different countries have different laws. It is certainly true that there has been a tendency for small children to be carried in the rear of vehicles in many cases, even though there may not be a restraint. That is something to which there have been many references in previous debates about the issue.

Mr. Cryer

One of the interesting aspects of this is that under the European Communities Act 1972 a Minister can be designated for the purposes of that Act and that enables a Department to use the powers in the Act to supplement and extend the scope of regulations that may be brought under this legislation. In a way, it is a back door method of increasing a Minister's delegated powers without anything being brought before the House. Will the hon. Gentleman give his attention to the fact that he should consider the consequences of the widening of powers through that designation? The designation instrument itself is generally by negative procedure and is hardly ever brought to the attention of hon. Members.

Mr. Waller

There is obviously a great danger with any regulations, which would inevitably be brought before the House late at night without the attention of the media. However, I am sure that the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) would do his best, with his customary diligence, to ensure that they received adequate attention.

The second major element of new clause 1 is the requirement for the House to have another opportunity of considering the regulations by their coming before it again after three years. After those three years we shall have had an opportunity of seeing how they operate in practice. Before the previous seat belt regulations were renewed the Department of Transport commissioned a statistical survey on the effects of seat belt wearing. It was carried out by two academics, Messrs. Durbin and Harvey. Some interesting conclusions emerged from that report, and it would be useful to have another such report.

In such a report, which could be considered by Parliament, I would like to see more reliable statistics based upon accidents as well as casualties. The statistics relating to casualties should be put in a way that provides more real information. I wonder whether people are aware that if one fractures a finger, it is classified as a serious injury because it is a fracture. The same applies if one is in hospital for a night. Yet, there are many injuries that we would consider more serious, but which happen to be classified as minor. It has been estimated that as many as 60 per cent. of all cyclist casualties—I want to show in a moment how the question of cyclists relates to the issue—are not recorded because the cyclist does not go to hospital or receive medical treatment.

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

My hon. Friend is right in saying that there is high under-recording of injuries to cyclists. It is not because they do not go to hospital, but because they do not say that they received their injuries in a traffic accident.

Mr. Waller

I wondered how that came to be. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for explaining how the statistics appear to under-record road accidents to cyclists. That makes me even more concerned about the possible effects of the Bill because of the risk compensation theory put forward by a number of academics such as Dr. John Adams. Dr. Adams suggests that by introducing seat belts we are transferring the risk from the occupants of the car to other road users.

Mr. Peter Bottomley


Mr. Waller

I see that my hon. Friend the Minister wishes to intervene but I should say that it is my belief that the risk compensation hypothesis applies to the rear seat occupants of cars as well as drivers because drivers take account of the people in the car and the extent to which those people are secure. As I said on Second Reading, if there is a crate of eggs in the rear seat of the car and it is bolted down, one will drive more carefully—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. May I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are not on Second Reading. He keeps referring to the points that he made on Second Reading, in which I was interested. However, we are no longer at that stage of the Bill. I believe that he was dealing with the second element in his new clause.

Mr. Waller

I shall give way to my hon. Friend the Minister who tried to intervene earlier.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

The second part of my hon. Friend's new clause would be better informed if he knew that the number of pedestrians killed was the lowest since records began in 1926. That demolishes part of any exaggerated case of homeostasis, which is the fancy way of describing risk compensation.

Mr. Waller

Yes, of course. I am as delighted as my hon. Friend the Minister to know that pedestrian casualties are down. However, I am afraid that this is a classic case of post hoc ergo propter hoc.

Many other improvements in road safety have been to the benefit of pedestrians. For example, construction and use regulations now require that cars should not have dangerous projections, so that cyclists and pedestrians are less likely to suffer injury. As we now have evidential breath testing rather than the need to take samples of blood or urine, perhaps there is a greater tendency for people who might be drunk to decide not to take the car out, or not to drive it home. Therefore, pedestrians will be more secure, because a very large proportion of pedestrians are hit during the hours of darkness, the drink-driving hours.

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We have to be cautious about such statistics. Of course, they should be covered in a report which is brought before Parliament three years after the regulations initially come into effect, but we should be particularly careful about them. We should not necessarily assume that the measure we have brought into effect has produced any improvement.

Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay)

Is my hon. Friend aware that a report sponsored by the Department of Transport and quoted in Dr. Adams' book says that, although there was an overall fall in the number of deaths relating to cars—pedestrians, cyclists and the people in cars—on analysis, the number of pedestrians and cyclists killed increased above that which would have been anticipated in relation to car accidents, while the number of deaths in accidents involving heavy duty vehicles where belts are not required decreased. The statistics show that one would expect a decrease. but on analysis there was no decrease in relation to belted-up people. Perhaps the Minister would like to clarify that, as the study was carried out by Durbin and Harvey and sponsored by the Department of Transport.

Mr. Waller

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. One has to draw a distinction between the pedestrians and cyclists hit by private cars to which the seat belt legislation applies and those hit by vehicles to which it does not apply. If one compares the figures for the two categories, there is a notable distinction, so we have a control group. My hon. Friend's suggestion about reduced injuries to pedestrians is very welcome, but should not necessarily be taken as an indication that the benefits are due to seat belt wearing. In fact the opposite could apply.

If there is another report along the lines of the one by Durbin and Harvey, The Lancet may make the same kind of comment that it made about the previous report, when it stated: There will be regret that the evidence on death is not more one-sided; and disappointment that the measure has fallen short of its promise. I do not want the new measure to fall short of its promise. One way of ensuring that it does measure up to its promise if it becomes law is to ensure that a proper report is brought before Parliament, and that at every stage Parliament has the opportunity of considering the statistics.

I ask my hon. Friend whether it would be possible to provide the House with better statistics than we have been able to rely on until now. One problem is that we have no figures about non-injury accidents. Therefore, we cannot properly test the hypothesis of Dr. John Adams that, if one requires the occupants of cars to be belted in, there are more accidents, and, although the occupants of the car will be better protected, perhaps the risk will be transferred to other people who are less well protected than those in the car.

Mrs. Gorman

Material is emerging to show that although the number of fatalities among car drivers is dropping, and although the number of children who go through the widscreen may be reduced by the legislation, the nature of accidents is different and many people survive only to be paralysed for the rest of their lives.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I have to remind the hon. Lady that we are dealing with regulation-making powers and not with accidents. Later in the debate the hon. Lady may have the opportunity to develop her point.

Mr. Waller

I entirely agree with you, Madam Deputy Speaker. That point could be made better in relation to other amendments, or perhaps on Third Reading.

However, if a report comes before the House, I do not want to have to read statements such as appear on page 51 of the report by Durbin and Harvey: There remains strong evidence of a substantial increase in the number of cyclists killed in accidents with cars. That situation is undesirable, and perhaps can be avoided if the House has the opportunity to consider the regulations and reports from the Department of Transport before the regulations are made, and at a subsequent stage before they are renewed. Essentially, that is what the new clause is about and I hope that the House will accept it.

Mr. Madden

I shall speak only briefly. I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Day) on presenting a very important Bill which will save many young people from death or serious injury.

I declare an interest as a sponsored member of the Transport and General Workers Union which organises and represents the interests of taxi drivers in many parts of the country. I wish to speak on that specific point. As I said earlier, I have passed correspondence from the Bradford Taxi Proprietors' Association to the hon. Member for Cheadle and to my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd). I am aware that the Minister has seen that correspondence and is concerned to do what he can to reassure taxi drivers, taxi proprietors and taxi interests.

The position was clearly illustrated by the Minister in Standing Committee. He said: Child injury in cars is one form of human adversity from which we do not want lawyers to profit, and that is why it is important that the regulations are well discussed, laid in draft and involve as many people as possible, including family organisations … We want to be sure that all practical possibilities are covered. We may say in some cases, 'The good is necessary; the best is impossible.' If three adults and two children were packed into the back of a car, in practice, none would be able to wear seat belts; there would be two seat belts that could not be used. I am not saying that under the regulations that would be one of the exemptions, but we must consider such cases. If there are three small children aged, say, eight, in the rear of a car that has two seat belts, the regulations are likely to say that two children must be belted up while the third will be unrestrained. It is not pleasant to look at three children, play the balloon game and decide which is to be unprotected, but that need not detain us this morning. We shall try to produce regulations that make exemptions. I am getting advice from my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley and others. But the exemptions must be the necessary exemptions. I emphasise time and again that most children travel, most of the time, in their own family car with their own parents, and there is likely to be no trouble. The Minister went on to say: A more tricky question is what happens if so many people are being carried in the back of a car that they cannot wear the belts. The debate has illustrated the difficulties of trying to write into primary legislation some of the exemptions known to be necessary. But, as well as emphasising the sensible way in which the Bill has dealt with the issues the debate has shown that the regulations will need to make the wearing of child restraints practical, so that children have that extra, necessary protection."—[Official Report, Standing Committee C, 27 April 1988; c. 14–15.] I am sure that we all agree with that, because we want the legislation to be acceptable to the vast majority of the public, in this case the parents of children. We also want the legislation and the regulations to be enforceable. Therefore we need regulations to exempt taxis, private hire vehicles and other categories of vehicles that are used for public hire.

The Bradford Taxi Proprietors' Association believes that under the Bill taxi drivers would have to refuse to carry families if all children under 18 were unable to wear seat belts in the rear of taxis or other public vehicles, thereby losing fares and income. If they did otherwise they would be in breach of the law. The Minister must clearly spell out the position.

Ms. Jo Richardson (Barking)

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the difficulties about the regulations might be that working women with children at school might ask neighbours or friends with children at the same school to pick up their children, which would lead to additional children being in the back of those cars? That often happens when women who are working have children at school. How would the regulations apply to such cases?

Mr. Madden

My hon. Friend has pointed, as did the Minister in Committee, to another set of circumstances that show that the existing regulations are defective. The Minister said in Committee that he would consult widely. He needs to be more specific today and to give clear assurances.

Many tributes have been paid to the Minister. He is a reasonable person. We are all impressed by the diligence he has shown, but I wonder what would happen if the Minister were to meet with an unfortunate accident caused, shall we say, by the proverbial No. 11 bus or, even worse, if he were to receive an unwelcome telephone call from No. 10 Downing Street? We have to provide for the time when an unreasonable Minister might not make sensible regulations and sensible exemptions.

The Minister must reply to the points that have been put to him by the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) and by a number of my hon. Friends. I urge him specifically to exempt from the regulations taxis, private hire vehicles and other public vehicles that come into that category. The public and the trade would welcome such an exemption. It would ensure that the important provisions of the Bill are well received by the vast majority of the public and by those whose responsibility it will be to enforce its provisions.

Mr. Day

While speaking to new clause 1, may I take the opportunity also to speak to my amendment No. 18.

The Bill seeks to implement the negative resolution procedure. As my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) said, that is quite correct. In that respect, it mirrors the legislation that provides for the wearing of seat belts by children in the front seats of cars. The hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) has tabled amendments that are similar to mine, and I have discussed them with my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley. My amendment No. 18 deals with the same issues and would achieve the same results as the amendments that stand in the name of the hon. Member for Bradford, South. When he deals with his amendments, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will say that he intends to withdraw his amendments to support my amendment No. 18.

I do not believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley was right to suggest that my hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic should say now what the regulations will contain. That would make nonsense of the consultation procedure that my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley believes is so important. If there are to be consultations, they must be meaningful.

10.45 am
Mr. Waller

My hon. Friend misunderstands me. I have said that my hon. Friend the Minister cannot be expected to spell out now everything that will be contained in the regulations, but when he is thinking about the kind of regulations that ought to be laid he ought to make a statement so that the regulations can be considered properly and amendments made before it becomes impossible for amendments to be made.

Mr. Day

I accept the majority of the points that my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley and the hon. Member for Bradford, South have made, but my amendment No. 18 covers them. It would provide for the regulations to be discussed by the House. I think that my hon. Friend the Minister accepts the validity of amendment No. 18.

The hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) referred to the fact that he had approached me about the representations made by the Bradford Taxi Proprietors' Association. The National Federation of Taxicab Associations has also been in touch with me and it attended the Committee sittings. I have kept in informed about progress. The National Federation of Taxicab Associations does not oppose the principle of the Bill or its aim. I assured the federation that its point of view would be put before the Committee. It was also put before the Committee by other hon. Members, and the Minister is aware of its views. I hope that the Minister will take those views into account.

A few hon. Members have tried to disprove the validity of the safety factor when seat belts are worn in the rear of motor cars, but most of the statistics are overwhelmingly in favour of their use. The Bill is designed to save the lives of young children. They are unable to make decisions for themselves. I ask those hon. Members to reflect on what they have said. The fact is that 91 per cent. of drivers support the principle of the Bill: that there should be compulsory restraint of children in the rear of motor cars, and 90 per cent. of the public support the principle of compulsory restraint. The view that those hon. Members hold may be honourable, but it is mistaken. It is out of step with the views of most hon. Members and with the majority of public opinion.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Have you received any notification that a Minister will come to the House to make a statement on a factory closure in my constituency? Yesterday, KP Foods announced that it would close a factory, with the consequent loss of 1,000 jobs. As you will understand, this has left the town dazed and in complete shock.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Mr. Speaker has had no indication from any Minister that a statement will he made today.

Mr. Cryer

I should be happy if a Minister came to make a statement to allow my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) to ask questions. I understand that you can do nothing about that, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is a dereliction of duty on the part of the Government not to make a statement when such a serious decision has been made.

I shall deal briefly with the amendments because the slowest marathon runner in the House, the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller), dwelt extensively on new clause 1, to which my amendments relate. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will exercise much stricter judgment when Ministers abuse their powers and bring before the House statutory instruments which have validity only because they were passed by a large Conservative majority.

My three amendments are straightforward. I accept the comment of the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Day) that amendment No. 18 deals with the proposition in the same way and provides that the regulations should be made by affirmative procedure. My amendments set out the position much more clearly. I sometimes wish that those who draft legislation would aim to keep legislation as readable as possible. It is not satisfactory to the ordinary user of legislation to have to refer to sections in a 1972 Act. My amendments provide for the insertion after "regulations" of approved by affirmative procedure by both Houses". It is necessary for the House to adopt the affirmative procedure more extensively. We do not deal effectively with delegated powers. Other legislatures are well ahead of us in scrutinising Ministers' powers. This worthy legislation has the power of criminal sanctions behind it and we do not oppose it, because it will reduce the number of lives lost. Legislation exists because people are not universally of good will and we must set a pattern of conduct. That conduct is enforced by the application of criminal sanctions. We leave it to Ministers and civil servants to produce the words that enforce these standards of conduct. We give that important obligation to the Minister, but we do not have a procedure by which we can scrutinise or change the Minister's measures. My amendments unfortunately provide no opportunity to change the legislation.

The Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, which I chair, was set up after major errors were made in 1945 in the wording of a statutory instrument. Before then, there had been several criticisms of the way in which the House was handing over more and more detail to Ministers. In his book, Lord Justice Hewart, who was no Left-wing judge—not that there ever have been any—described the powers that we give Ministers as the "new despotism". I do not accept that all-embracing criticism. The Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments frequently deals with instruments that are ambiguous, ultra vires—beyond Ministers' powers—and badly drafted, and reports on those matters to the House. It reports also on any other matters that do no go to the merits of the policies behind statutory instruments. The Joint Committee's terms of reference do not allow it to debate those merits. The Joint Committee does a reasonable job, but its position is not well regarded. It has no power to require a debate or to hold up legislation.

The negative procedure on statutory instruments may remain a mystery to most hon. Members. A consultative document may be issued and people told that a statutory instrument will be produced. They do not have a clue what that means. They certainly do not know that, when an instrument is laid before the House for 40 days and there is a prayer against it, there is only a chance that the instrument will be debated.

Back Benchers know that if we table a prayer, the chances of the Government giving time for it are slim. A prayer is debated only if Front Benchers add their names to it to put a bit of pressure on the Government and to ask them—it is not a statutory requirement—to provide time to debate it. That is unsatisfactory, especially for an instrument of this calibre, which imposes criminal sanctions and exempts people from fitting seat belts. Under the regulations, certain vehicles or classes can be exempted.

I endorse the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) and support the representations of the Bradford Taxi Proprietors' Association to exempt hackney carriages. The exemptions will be made under regulations. Section 33C(3)(c) prescribes the description of seat belt to be worn by children…and the manner in which such a belt is to be fixed and used. The detailed application will be made by regulation. A system that allows these matters to be dealt with by negative procedure is a poor system.

The regulations will be complicated. They will be widely applicable to every vehicle that is prescribed. Every child within a certain prescribed age will be required to be restrained by a seat belt of the description given in the statutory instrument. The statutory instrument will be widely read and widely used by the motoring organisations, daily press and so on. If we allow it to proceed under a negative resolution, hon. Members may try to lay a prayer because there are loopholes or inconsistencies. The Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments may report that the Minister has used more powers than he has been given in the Bill and in the linked legislation, the Road Traffic Act 1972.

The prayer may be debated, but what happens then? A prayer is considered for an hour and a half after 10 o'clock. If a number of votes are taken, there is only just over an hour, with luck, to debate the regulations. The House cannot take statutory instruments in separate parts. We have to decide on the whole thing, whether we like it or not. The temptation is for a Government caught out with an ultra vires provision not to admit that they have made a muck of things. Ministers do not tend to say, "I shall certainly get hold of the draftsman and tell him to be more careful in future." They usually say, "It is a technicality; I urge my hon. Friends to vote for the statutory instrument." The Minister's hon. Friends then go into the Lobby to vote for the instrument because the Whips have imposed a three-line Whip.

11 am

Our method of dealing with genuine questions of procedure and matters of error and poor judgment may have nothing to do with the merits of the instrument. Hon. Members who agree with the policy merits of regulations but feel that they are poorly drafted do not have the opportunity to amend them. The Procedure Committee should consider carefully improving our procedures for delegated power because there is now such a volume of legislation in the hands of Ministers—and therefore civil servants—that the House is losing its ability to scrutinise matters that ought to be very much within its power.

Mr. Waller

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is particularly important that there should be scrutiny in this case, given that it is literally a matter of life or death?

Mr. Cryer

I agree that it is important in this case and my amendments would have that effect. However, such scrutiny is also important in many other cases. I have repeatedly argued in Standing Committees that the affirmative procedure should be used more widely and that the negative procedure should be used only for genuinely minor statutory instruments such as those bringing into operation an Act that the House has already passed. Most hon. Members are not in my fortunate position. I have to examine every statutory instrument produced by every Minister that goes before the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. They are legion. On average, we deal with 2,000 of them a year. Some of them simply bring into operation an Act of Parliament, but even they are often 10 and 15 pages long. They are minor works of complicated legislative art. I urge the House—

Mrs. Wise

I apologise if I have missed something. Has my hon. Friend dealt properly with the fact that we seem to have no control over ultra vires provisions that are brought before the House?

Mr. Cryer

Such matters are better dealt with by the affirmative procedure. That is why my amendments urge the adoption of the affirmative procedure, whereby a statutory instrument is not approved until it has at least 1½ hours' debate on an affirmative resolution on the Floor of the House. Even so, I agree with my hon. Friend that that is still very unsatisfactory. I am advocating the best of a very poor choice of options.

Let us suppose that a Minister brings before the House on the affirmative procedure a provision that is ultra vires. If he will not sink his pride and accept the view of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, what happens then? Incidentally, we do not pull our opinions like a rabbit out of a hat. Mr. Speaker's counsel is our legal adviser. When we recommend that provisions be regarded as ultra vires, we do so only after serious consideration, and generally on his recommendation. If the Minister does not sink his pride but says, "It is a technicality" and the instrument is passed, any challenge must then go to the courts. That is a very expensive procedure. Most ordinary people cannot possibly go to law. Like the Ritz hotel, it is open to everyone who can afford to pay, and most people cannot. As regulations under the Bill will affect millions of people—all those who carry children in the back of their cars—we should make absolutely sure that we get them right. That is why I argue that the affirmative procedure should be used.

Even if the affirmative procedure is used there are still faults to be found. The first is the lack of time on the Floor of the House, although we have the full 1½hours which we do not for the negative procedure. That debate cannot be interrupted, so if we are given the affirmative procedure we should be humbly grateful for the extra 20 minutes or so of debate on instruments that affect millions.

Sometimes, there is not enough time on the Floor of the House, so statutory instruments are dealt with by merits committees. Some hon. Members may not yet have served on them. I suggest that they contact their Whips who will be only too happy to appoint them to such committees. It has to be said that the merits committees are not an overwhelming success. People frequently ask me about them because they are called Standing Committees on Statutory Instruments. That simply means that they have the power to pass a resolution affirming a statutory instrument. The provisions are dealt with on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday morning in one of the Committee Rooms. The Government organise a quorum, and the Labour Opposition generally turn up. I cannot recall that the Liberals, or the SLD or the SDP—or whatever they are called these days attend zealously.

Mr. Ronnie Fearn (Southport)

I have been to four.

Mr. Cryer

The hon. Gentleman is becoming a veteran in these matters.

The committees' sittings are often over in 10 or 15 minutes. That procedure, with all its shortcomings, is still preferable to the negative procedure because it gives hon. Members an opportunity to oppose a faulty statutory instrument. They have merely to go to their Whips and ask to serve on the committee. One of the virtues of the merits committees is that any hon. Member can speak but not vote. I hope that over the coming weeks many hon. Members will be attending the committees and practising their speeches so that they are prepared when regulations under the Bill come before the House. It is a useful device. Although this place has its shortcomings, one of its great virtues is that it consists of a lot of loopholes strung together. If one wants strongly enough to raise a subject one can always find a loophole. The merits committees provide such an opportunity. I urge my hon. Friends to make use of them when the need arises.

I do not want to speak for too long because of the amount of time taken by the hon. Member for Keighley. However, I must deal with the question of EEC harmonisation, to which I referred in an intervention. It is important, because harmonisation is growing through delegated powers. There has been a change in legislative functions by virtue of the fact that under the European Communities Act 1972 Ministers are designated for the purposes of the Act as Ministers under the Act. That gives them more powers to produce wider delegated legislation. Therefore, I would argue that that legislation should be brought to the attention of the House, and hence of the public, through the affirmative procedure. We would then know about any move by the Common Market to harmonise standards for seal: belts. The hon. Member for Keighley said that he favoured such a standard. However, we may find that for our manufacturers and for our purposes there are certain differences that we want to retain. We should be told whether that is the case. Thai is why the affirmative procedure is the important procedure. We would be more likely to find out about such moves.

I could ask all those hon. Members who take the daily statutory instrument list to raise their hands. My guess is that there would not be many takers. However, only those who take the daily statutory instrument list know about the instruments that are going through the negative procedure—or the affirmative procedure, for that matter, but the negative procedure is the most arcane—and they are the only ones who would know whether the Minister was attempting to extend his delegated power under the European Communities Act 1972, which would have wide repercussions because of harmonisation pressures from the Common Market.

Therefore, the affirmative procedure seems perferable. As the instrument is included in the Orders of the Day we know that the instrument is being dealt with. Orders of the Day are taken by all hon. Members, and as there are notices about the instruments that are dealt with in Committee, hon. Members are much better notified with that procedure. Therefore, the arguments for the affirmative procedure seem overwhelmingly superior.

Mr. James Cran (Beverley)

Yes, we understand that now.

Mr. Cryer

Well, the hon. Gentleman says that he now understands. It is true that I have spent between 10 and 15 minutes explaining it, but I do not often get the opportunity of talking about statutory instruments and I get frustrated at not being able to talk about them—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely on the point of his amendments, but the House is extremely well informed by this time. I am sure that he does not want to become over-repetitive.

Mr. Cryer

I do not want to go over ground that I have gone over before but I do not want any doubts to arise. As I have said, Madam Deputy Speaker, I want to be brief because of the enormous amount of time that was taken earlier. I know that many more hon. Members wish to speak about the Bill and about the Bill that follows it on the Order Paper, so I am willing to withdraw my three amendments following an assurance from the promoter of the Bill that the arcane amendment that he has tabled meets my point and that the affirmative procedure will be used.

Mrs. Wise


Mr. Cryer

I shall deal with this point first.

The hon. Member for Beverley (Mr. Cran) raised an eyebrow at the fact that I have taken between 10 and 15 minutes to elaborate my point. However, the fact is that until I tabled my amendments, the regulations, of such wide coverage and importance, were to go through on the negative procedure. Everybody, including the hon. Gentleman, is now convinced that the affirmative procedure is the best procedure. I convinced him in 10 to 15 minutes. Why was the Department of Transport not convinced earlier that that procedure would be better when it advised the promoter? Why did the civil servants not bring forward the affirmative procedure so that we would not need this debate? Today the scrutiny of this House has improved the Bill.

If I have to spray it on the eyeballs again and again so that the Minister and the civil servants in the Box will take back the message that the affirmative procedure should be used every possible time, I shall. When we receive evidence from civil servants in Committee and ask them which procedure they would prefer, they always say the negative procedure because it is more convenient for them. There is less likelihood of a debate so they do not have to provide ministerial briefs. The arguments are not brought out into the open and are less open to scrutiny, as is the Minister. By and large, Ministers do not like to be under too much scrutiny.

My remarks may have been a little tedious, but I am sure that they were absolutely fascinating to my hon. Friends. However, although I regret it, the fact is that we must go through this process to improve the procedures of our House.

Mrs. Wise

I am worried by my hon. Friend's agreement to withdraw his amendments. I may be entirely wrong so I am asking for clarification. My hon. Friend's amendments have the great advantage that I can understand them. They state clearly: 'by affirmative procedure by both Houses'". One need only look at them to understand exactly what my hon. Friend means. I find amendment No. 18, which is to be used instead, more obscure. I should like to know whether my hon. Friend is absolutely certain about accepting amendment No. 18 and that he is not relying on assurances from across the Floor. Unless he is certain in his own mind that his amendments are properly dealt with by amendment No. 18, he should ask the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Day) to withdraw amendment No. 18 in favour of his amendments.

Mr. Cryer

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. However, I have received assurances in good faith and one must accept them. I have no doubt that the Minister, who will probably be called next, will give me a further categorical cast-iron guarantee that amendment No. 18 meets the points without putting them into the clear language that I have used.

I advised my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise) earlier that we have got into a mess with drafting. There is no question about it. Our legislation is utterly incomprehensible to the average citizen. It should not be incomprehensible, because it affects the average citizen. Legislation such as this should certainly not be incomprehensible. When the Minister produces regulations under the legislation, it is not sufficient for the average citizen with his car, rear seat belts for children and children in the prescribed age range simply to look at the instrument. He will almost certainly have to look at the Road Traffic Act 1972. However, where will he get a copy of that Act? Her Majesty's Stationery Office is in London, although there are a few branch offices, one of which is in Leeds. However, they are sub-offices and are not run by the Government. They do not carry a wide range of legislation, so the Act will have to be ordered. In other words, it is awkward for the ordinary citizen.

Although I accept the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, I do not want to insist on amendments which may produce consequences that have not been entirely foreseen. The Minister might say that he accepts my first amendment, which sets out clearly that the affirmative procedure in both Houses must be used. It states: after 'regulations' insert 'approved by affirmative procedure by both Houses'. The Minister will give his views. Amendment No. 18 could be accepted and the Bill altered to make the position a little clearer to the average citizen. I advise the Minister that people in Bradford, South do not talk all day about affirmative resolutions of both Houses. However, they may have a clearer understanding, so I accept the Minister's point of view.

We have had a useful discussion and I am absolutely delighted that, following my suggestion, the promoter of the Bill has accepted my point and purpose without any hesitation as, I understand, the Minister does also. That is a useful demonstration of the way in which a Back Bencher can improve legislation by scrutiny. I hope that my points are taken on board and I certainly accept the promoter's amendment and the spirit behind it.

Mrs. Mahon

Further to the point of order that I raised earlier, Madam Deputy Speaker, about the factory closure in my constituency, could you give me some guidance about how a new hon. Member gets a Minister to make a statement and accede to the will of the House?

Madam Deputy Speaker

I am sure that there are several opportunities that the hon. Lady could use. One is parliamentary questions, or she might like to consider tabling a private notice question. However, that will have to be done next week. As the hon. Lady knows, the Chair has no authority to request a Minister to come here to make statements.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) has pointed out that what we are discussing is literally a matter of life and death and I believe that the House agrees. There is indisputable evidence that if a child is restrained in a car its chances of death or injury in a crash or collision are reduced by two thirds.

To some extent, we are involved in lotteries. Following the exemption regulations that will be made if the Bill is enacted some children will still be exposed to risk. The House must accept that this is one of a set of compromises. There seems to be general agreement that the approach of my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Day)—to provide that where restraints are fitted children should be restrained unless they are exempted—is the better way forward, but it is not perfect. There is plenty of scope for the criticism that my hon. Friend or the Government should have proposed that no child should be carried in a vehicle unless he or she is restrained, but we are not going that far and we are taking this position openly.

The second lottery is that to a large extent it is a matter of chance when the family becomes aware of the importance of restraints in cars. Esther Rantzen, who headed the highly effective "That's Life" television campaign in 1986, which trebled the sale of restraints from 300,000 to 1 million per year, was one of those who put restraints in their cars only after the campaign had begun. For the child, it is a lottery as to when the parents decide to fit and to use restraints.

Frankly, it is also a lottery whether a Bill of this kind gets through the House. There are important amendments and new clauses for consideration and the whole House is aware that it does not take much to leave a Bill insufficient time to get through. I make no further comment.

The new clause and the associated amendments address the question whether the regulations should be subject to the affirmative procedure. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) for raising that issue. Other issues are coming forward, including one from my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley, which I believe will also improve the Bill.

Mr. Waller

I should be grateful if my hon. Friend would respond to this important point. His predecessor said that he could not conceive of any Government moving from the position that the intention is not to require compulsory wearing when there is not compulsory fitting. It is my hon. Friend's intention, as his comments at earlier stages of the Bill suggested, that even though there is not compulsory fitting it will be compulsory to use a device if it is fitted?

Mr. Bottomley

Perhaps I may answer that question somewhat obliquely. Those who regard themselves as libertarians may say that one should not compromise—either we have our liberties or we do not—but I am not of that group. I believe that it would be going too far for the Government to support a Bill requiring every car which might carry a child to have restraints fitted, covering all generations—for instance, a rear-facing infant carrier and a booster cushion as well as an adaptor for an adult seat belt. I am a compromiser and I do not wish to go that far.

I suspect that in 1980 when my right hon. and learned Friend the present Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was responsible for these matters he had in mind that the next stage would be compulsory fitment of restraints. The present Bill does not propose that, and neither do I. To some extent, therefore, I am resiling from what my right hon. and learned Friend said. As I have said, I am a compromiser. The Government support the intention in the first part of the new clause that the affirmative procedure should apply. The negative procedure was previously acceptable to the Government because the fact that it was used in relation to children in the front seats of cars constituted a reasonable precedent. The issue having been raised by the hon. Member for Bradford, South and accepted by my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle in amendment No. 18, however, the Government are content with the affirmative procedure.

I shall certainly add the representatives of taxi operators and drivers to those to be consulted before the Government bring forward regulations. It is sensible to listen to the views of taxi drivers and important to consider the views of taxi users. We do not know whether a majority of drivers and users wish the regulations to cover children in the backs of taxis where restraints are already fitted. I certainly give an assurance that taxi interests will be taken into account.

The second part of the new clause deals with whether there should be a three-year experiment. The regulations covering children in the front seats of cars were not the subject of a three-year experiment and there is no good reason for making such a provision in this context. We publish the annual casualty report, "Road Accidents Great Britain", all the information is likely to be available and special studies can be undertaken. If the House discovered—I am sure that it will not—some counterproductive element in the combination of this legislation and the exemption regulations, we could return to the matter.

To put the matter in graphic terms, if in any other circumstances I held a child 5 ft above a glass table and dropped it head first, "criticism" would be an understatement for the way in which people would describe my action. If I took a child and threw it at a glass window as hard as I could, the effect would be less than that of a child hitting a windscreen in a crash at 20 mph. There is every reason for parents to fit and use restraints. The new clause and the amendment deal with whether it is appropriate—that is where the exemptions, affirmative resolutions and regulations come in—to get many more parents to ensure that our children who, most of the time, travel in our own cars, have a basic element of protection. All the public response that the Government have received shows that the public want that.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

I am grateful to be able to make an intervention rather than a speech, as I want the Bill to reach the statute book. It is an important measure and the all-party disablement group certainly takes that view. Will the Minister give an assurance that, in drafting the regulations, he will consult bodies such as RADAR, the Spastics Society and Mencap, which have an interest in the position of disabled children, which will have to be taken into account in the detailed aspects of the regulations?

Mr. Bottomley


Mr. Forth

The House owes much gratitude both to my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) for introducing new clause 1, in which I am especially interested, and to the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), who has enlightened us considerably on the relationship between the role of Parliament writ large and the Executive. The hon. Gentleman speaks with the authority of one who has been a member of two Parliaments. He has also had the advantage of seeing, as I had the honour to see some time ago, the different way in which these matters are dealt with in the European context. In many ways, we can learn from other institutions and draw on what we have seen. The hon. Gentleman eloquently set out the difficulties involved.

I support the new clause because it has become obvious to me, even at this stage, that there is a considerable lacuna between what hon. Members wish and the position, as far as we can understand it, of my hon. Friend the Minister and his Department. As long as there is that difference or gap, we are entitled to ask, as my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) has asked, for a full statement at an early stage of the direction in which we are heading, in advance of the detailed regulations being produced.

When we are dealing, as has been suggested many times, not just with life and death, but with matters that involve intervening in detail in the behaviour of families and individuals in the car, or wherever they are, we are entitled to know as fully and as early as possible exactly what will be involved, what the regulations will mean and how they will be put forward. A fact that has been alluded to more than once is that Ministers change. I have the greatest respect for the Minister for Roads and Traffic, but we cannot guarantee that he will be the Minister who will guide the regulations through all their stages and that the assurances and the insight into his thinking that he has given us today will be the guiding influence throughout the development of the regulations.

Given that fact, it will be of great importance that the House is given the opportunity at every possible stage of knowing what is in Minister's minds and how their thinking is developing, especially in view of representations such as those made just now by the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) about specific groups that may have a real interest in amending and developing the regulations to suit their own needs, to say nothing of taxi drivers. I have not heard anyone answer the point that I made in an intervention about mini cabs, and whether they will be regarded as different from taxis. Such matters will have to be considered and it will be of the greatest importance that we are made aware early on of the way in which thinking is developing.

11.30 am
Mr. Peter Bottomley

I should like to be helpful to my hon. Friend because he has raised an important point, which I should have liked to cover at some length, but it was difficult to do so under the new clause and the associated amendments.

We have given clear assurances on the question of wide consultation, and the Act of Parliament requires consultation anyway. It will include a consultation document, which will be laid in the Library of the House of Commons and will be available to Members of Parliament. We shall give as much publicity as possible to the consultation process. We shall also try to make sure that our conclusions after the consultation are made known before we introduce the regulations.

I should have liked to discuss the matter at greater length, as we did in Committee, but new clause 1 is about the affirmative resolution procedure, which has been accepted by those who have spoken in the debate. The only remaining issue is whether there should be a three-year experiment, and I have given the argument against that.

I should like to make just one other point because most matters have been dealt with fully and there are many other amendments to be discussed, which will have to be dealt with in detail. We must consider carefully the European dimension of such legislation. With 1992 very much in mind, increasingly we shall have to be aware of the extent to which measures that we take in a public arena such as this are in harmony with those that may apply at the European level. We are not yet satisfied that enough thought has been given to that. The promoter of the Bill, my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Day), has not mentioned it yet, but he may take the opportunity to do so. The Minister has not done so. It has been touched upon only lightly. We should be foolish to go too far down the road of detailed regulations at this stage.

Perhaps this is one of the answers to the Minister's point about a three-year trial period. It would take from when the Bill comes into effect until 1992, which would give us the opportunity to appraise the way in which the legislation was working. We could have another look at it in view of everything that we are trying to achieve, with the free movement of trade, in 1992. So I give that answer to the Minister when he says that we have not had such a trial period before. We have not had 1992 before, nor have we been faced with the rapid development of the harmonisation concept across Europe. We are dealing with vehicles, traffic regulations and individual freedom, so I should have thought that the European dimension was of the greatest importance.

For all those reasons, I support my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley in new clause 1 and I pay tribute to what the hon. Member for Bradford, South told the House. I thank the Minister for accepting what has been said.

Mr. Tony Lloyd (Stretford)

I support the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) about the relative merits of the affirmative and negative resolution procedures. When important legislation is being considered, most hon. Members are too familiar with the practice of Governments of all political persuasions to slip through secondary legislation which has serious consequences. Because the promoter of the Bill, the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Day), has accepted the merits of the argument, he does the House a great service and thereby strengthens the case for the legislation.

The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) knows that my view is that there is no merit in his proposal that there should be a three-year trial period. That would merely allow those who have acted with self-indulgence on the issue to go through the same routine once again in three years' time.

There is a widespread understanding of the Bill's merits. The limited number of bogus statistics that have been produced to try to contradict the case would no doubt be produced three years into any trial period, but they could not disprove the case about the benefits of child restraints.

Mr. Waller

I do not recall whether the hon. Gentleman contributed to it, but the debate on renewing the regulations was useful and provided an opportunity for statistics to be produced and argued about, and for road safety issues to be considered by the House. There are not so many opportunities for such issues to come before the House. So I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman feels that another debate would be pointless. Debates have been useful previously.

Mr. Lloyd

If the hon. Gentleman manages to persuade his Government to have a debate on road safety, the Opposition would be more than happy to take part, but it should not be on the specific issue of renewing the regulations once they have been in force for three years. That is the distinction that the hon. Gentleman must accept.

I do not think that it would serve any purpose if I were to detain the House any longer on an issue that has received a thorough airing.

Mrs. Wise

I add my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer). I assure him that in future I shall take the daily statutory instruments list, and I shall recommend all my hon. Friends to do so. My hon. Friend made me shiver in my shoes at the thought of what I had been missing.

I assure hon. Members that I am extremely interested in road safety. Indeed, the Minister and I correspond from time to time on the matter. He knows that, as a general rule, I am also in favour of compulsion in road safety. I do not regard myself as a "libertarian". I am in favour, for instance, of the helpful regulations that the Minister introduced to ensure that there are mandatory speed limits in contraflows.

I started by being favourably disposed towards the Bill and I looked at the amendments with great scepticism. However, I now think that there is much more merit in the criticism than I at first realised, and I have become extremely worried. I am afraid that the sponsors of the Bill and the Minister have not addressed my anxieties. I veer from side to side, thinking, "Are we passing something impossibly draconian? Are we passing something eminently reasonable?" through to, "Are we passing anything at all?" My last point is relevant to the regulations.

I was worried that I did not know what the Bill contained because it depended so much on regulations. Now I am worried about whether the Bill exists at all because I do not know whether there will ever be any regulations at all, good, bad or indifferent. The Minister has not allayed my anxiety and I must rely on what he said in Committee. He said: The powers that the Bill would introduce are the same as those that we already have in respect of adults travelling in the rear of cars. We have not used those powers and we have no plan to do so. I believe that timing is critical. The Minister said that one reason why we have a high compliance rate is that we were in tune with the climate of opinion when the law was introduced. He continued: For the time being, I want to continue to do everything I can to encourage voluntary use of rear restraints by adults…There is a growing body of public opinion that we should move towards obligatory use of rear restraints by children. The Bill reflects that shift."—[Official Report, Standing Committee C, 27 April 1988; c. 10.] I did not think that the Bill was about moving towards that, and general propaganda. If that is the intention behind it, I am not worried because I am completely in favour of seat belts and restraints for children.

Mr. Day

So what is the problem?

Mrs. Wise

I am describing what the problem is. If the hon. Gentleman had put more thought into this, he could have produced a better Bill which we could have insisted the Government should activate. We are debating we know not what. We started by discussing matters that are contained in regulations, whether there should be explanatory statements and how much consultation there should be. Then I was electrified to find when I read the Committee reports that the Minister is not contemplating introducing any regulations.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

We have a moving group of people interested in this subject and one needs to take the Second Reading together with the Committee stage for enlightenment. If Parliament gives the Government the power to introduce regulations for exemptions for certain categories, which is what the whole regulation-making power is about, the Government's intention would be to activate the Bill so that children must wear restraints, where they are fitted, unless they are covered by an exemption category. I hope that makes the position plain. The distinction that I drew in Committee about the position of adults was that the Government did not intend to be unnecessarily draconian in proposing exemption regulations to Parliament.

Mrs. Wise

There seem to be far more good reasons for activating regulations in relation to adults than in relation to certain categories of children because with adults regulations can be enforced. If we pass Bills or regulations which may not be reasonable and certainly are not workable or enforceable, it will bring our laws into disrepute, and that is a serious matter.

Mr. Day

These matters were covered fully on Second Reading. If the hon. Lady takes the time and trouble to read Hansard, she will see that all these matters, including enforcement, were covered riot only by me in a lengthy speech, which I do not propose to make again today, but by other hon. Members from both sides of the divide on this question. The Hon. Lady is dragging out the proceedings unnecessarily.

Mrs. Wise

The matter before us is not the hon. Gentleman's speech on Second Reading, but the Bill which he has introduced. The Government's intentions in relation to the Bill and the regulations are not as meritorious as some of the arguments used to promulgate them.

I read the briefing from the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety and I agree with everything in it, but it does not meet my anxieties. The Minister said that it was up to Parliament to decide what to do with the Bill and that it was up to the Government to decide what regulations to introduce if the Bill passes successfully through both Houses. We have heard how unsatisfactory our procedures are for regulations, even under the affirmative procedure. They receive cursory examination. This is the only opportunity that the House has to show what bothers us and what must be dealt with when regulations are introduced.

11.45 am

Sweeping statements have been made in response to anxieties, such as that we can rely on the police and the courts to use common sense. It is a worthy virtue, but it is not always the most useful for dealing with immediate problems with kids. Looking back to my children's childhood, I must admit that I am horrified at the attitude that we all had before seat belts became the order of the day. I will take second place to no one in my advocacy of wearing restraints. That is not the problem. The question is, what is the most effective way of bringing that about?

Children are not passive. They are not parcels that can be wrapped up neatly and trussed for transit. At a relatively early age they develop views, abilities and capacities of their own. I do not think that there is any sign that that problem is being taken on board and it makes me wonder whether it is humanly possible to produce regulations which are sufficiently tight to have any effect. They may be so riddled with exceptions as to give people he impression that there is as much to be said for breaching them as for observing them. I do not want that to happen.

It would be easy for us all if the hon. Gentleman had introduced a Bill about babies—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Lady is going wide of the Bill, let alone new clause 1.

Mrs. Wise

I apologise, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I shall try to show the relevance of my point.

Much of the discussion about the sort of regulations which can be introduced, statements on consultation and whether there should be an experimental period, relates to the problems which will face the Government in drafting adequate regulations. Whereas parents and drivers can be completely in control of what happens to infants in a rear seat because infants can be trussed for transit, that is not the case when a child reaches an age when, for example, it can unbuckle a belt or it develops views about how co-operative it will be. The problem with the Bill is that if children aged 10 or 13 years know that there is a danger that their parents may be regarded as breaking the law, it will encourage a sort of daring and defiant approach in them. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) eloquently said, regulations should not be a series of loopholes. I prefer regulations that are more limited in scope—such as those relating to babies could be, which are and should be enforceable—to those that take on a range of issues that are better left to persuasion.

I am not sure that we are right to discard easily the idea of an experimental period. I would be happier if I could see more clearly what is likely to result from our deliberations. The problem is that none of us can see what will result. The new clause and the amendments are a brave attempt to clarify matters.

Initially, I was in favour of the Bill and I took it for granted that there were no problems with it. It was only when I examined it carefully—starting from the position of being in favour of this compulsory measure—that I realised that it might not be appropriate. I have not received from the Minister any clear idea about how he will cope with the problems. We could not expect him to lay the regulations before us in detail, but he could have said that the problems are capable of solution.

I am against passing legislation that calls on the Government to take measures that cannot reasonably be taken. It is all very well for Conservative Members to say that the Government will consider the regulations, but I do not have such faith in the Government. I am worried that the Bill will fail to introduce—

Mr. Day

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes, 107, Noes 4.

Division No. 303] [11.53 am
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Allen, Graham Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Alton, David Knapman, Roger
Anderson, Donald Knowles, Michael
Arbuthnot, James Knox, David
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Lamond, James
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Latham, Michael
Barron, Kevin Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Battle, John Lightbown, David
Beckett, Margaret Livingstone, Ken
Beggs, Roy Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Beith, A. J. Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Bendall, Vivian McCrea, Rev William
Benn, Rt Hon Tony MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) McNamara, Kevin
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Madden, Max
Bottomley, Peter Mahon, Mrs Alice
Bowis, John Marek, Dr John
Bradley, Keith Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Mates, Michael
Bray, Dr Jeremy Meale, Alan
Caborn, Richard Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Carrington, Matthew Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Corbyn, Jeremy Moate, Roger
Cran, James Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Cryer, Bob Murphy, Paul
Darling, Alistair Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Day, Stephen Paisley, Rev Ian
Devlin, Tim Pendry, Tom
Dickens, Geoffrey Pike, Peter L.
Dixon, Don Rhodes James, Robert
Doran, Frank Richardson, Jo
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Rowlands, Ted
Durant, Tony Ruddock, Joan
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Fearn, Ronald Short, Clare
Fenner, Dame Peggy Skinner, Dennis
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Flynn, Paul Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Stanbrook, Ivor
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S) Stern, Michael
Fyfe, Maria Thorne, Neil
Garel-Jones, Tristan Waddington, Rt Hon David
Goodhart, Sir Philip Waldegrave, Hon William
Gordon, Mildred Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Wall, Pat
Gould, Bryan Walley, Joan
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Widdecombe, Ann
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Wigley, Dafydd
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Wray, Jimmy
Harman, Ms Harriet
Hayes, Jerry Tellers for the Ayes:
Haynes, Frank Mr. Harry Cohen and
Henderson, Doug Mr. Barry Sheerman.
Hood, Jimmy
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Tellers for the Noes:
Primarolo, Dawn Mr. Eric Forth and
Wise, Mrs Audrey Mr. Gary Waller.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Madam Deputy Speaker

There can be no point of order in between putting the two Questions. I shall take the hon. Gentleman's point of order later.

Question put accordingly, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 16, Noes 89.

Division No. 304] [12.03 pm
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Madden, Max
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Primarolo, Dawn
Cohen, Harry Skinner, Dennis
Cryer, Bob Wall, Pat
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Wise, Mrs Audrey
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Wray, Jimmy
Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Lamond, James Tellers for the Ayes:
Lawrence, Ivan Mr. Eric Forth and
Livingstone, Ken Mr. Gary Waller.
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Allen, Graham Knapman, Roger
Alton, David Knox, David
Anderson, Donald Latham, Michael
Arbuthnot, James Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Lightbown, David
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Battle, John Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Beckett, Margaret McCrea, Rev William
Beggs, Roy MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Beith, A. J. McNamara, Kevin
Bendall, Vivian Mahon, Mrs Alice
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Marek, Dr John
Bottomley, Peter Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Mates, Michael
Bowis, John Meale, Alan
Bradley, Keith Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Caborn, Richard Moate, Roger
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Carrington, Matthew Murphy, Paul
Corbyn, Jeremy Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Cran, James Paisley, Rev Ian
Day, Stephen Pendry, Tom
Devlin, Tim Pike, Peter L.
Dickens, Geoffrey Rhodes James, Robert
Dixon, Don Richardson, Jo
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Ruddock, Joan
Durant, Tony Sedgemore, Brian
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Sheerman, Barry
Farr, Sir John Shersby, Michael
Fearn, Ronald Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Short, Clare
Flynn, Paul Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S) Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Garel-Jones, Tristan Stern, Michael
Goodhart, Sir Philip Strang, Gavin
Gordon, Mildred Thorne, Neil
Gould, Bryan Waldegrave, Hon William
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Walley, Joan
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Widdecombe, Ann
Harman, Ms Harriet Wigley, Dafydd
Hayes, Jerry
Haynes, Frank Tellers for the Noes:
Henderson, Doug Mr. Frank Doran and
Hood, Jimmy Mr. Bill Michie.
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Pat Wall (Bradford, North)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Earlier in today's proceedings my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) raised a point of order about the threatened closure of the KP factory in her constituency which employs—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I can help the hon. Gentleman if he will allow me to.

I have had two points of order from the hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon). No breach of order of the House has been committed. Mr. Speaker has received no application from a Minister to come to the House. I can take no further points of order on that matter.

12.15 pm
Mr. Cyril Smith (Rochdale)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is not the chicanery obvious—[HON. MEMBERS: "Name him."]—in view of the fact that the last new clause was debated for almost two and half hours and the major speakers in that debate were people who believe in murder in the womb?

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I have been in the Chair since early this morning. The last group of amendments were correctly debated.

Mr. Cryer

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. You may recall that, to save time, I agreed to withdraw the three amendments in my name in favour of amendment No. 18. Is amendment No. 18 accepted by agreement, or will it be taken at the end?

Madam Deputy Speaker

It will be taken at the end, when we reach it on the Amendment Paper. Mr. Speaker has agreed that it is possible to have a vote on amendment No. 18 if that is the will of the House.

Mr. Madden

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am sure that you heard the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) make an allegation to the effect that those hon. Members who spoke in the earlier debate were in favour of murdering babies—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. That is not a point of order. As I keep saying, no breach of our Standing Orders has been committed and I have correctly responded to the point of order correctly made by the hon. Member for Rochdale. That is over.

Sir Bernard Braine (Castle Point)

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I make no allegations, but we all know what has been happening. When I came into the Chamber earlier in the debate, the majority of hon. Members present were opponents of the Abortion (Amendment) Bill, which was subjected to the same time treatment—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I cannot allow the right hon. Gentleman to discuss legislation which is not before us. It is in the best interests of the House and every hon. Member in it, irrespective of their views on these matters, for us to proceed with the Bill before us.

Mr. Madden

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. With the greatest respect, the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith), who was not in the Chamber during the debate and did not contribute to it —that does not apply to other hon. Members who sought to raise points of order—made an allegation against hon. Members who have been in the Chamber and who have contributed to the debate. Indeed, the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) who spoke for longest during the debate on the new clause and amendments, made clear at the beginning of his speech that he was a supporter of the Bill with which the hon. Member for Rochdale is concerned. I spoke in the debate for eight minutes on behalf of my constituents, who are very concerned about certain provisions of the Bill that we are now debating, I find it grossly offensive to be accused by the hon. Member for Rochdale of being in favour of murdering babies. Therefore I ask you, Madam Deputy Speaker, with the greatest respect, to ask the hon. Member for Rochdale to withdraw the allegation.

Madam Deputy Speaker

I have listened to all these points of order. There is no question of me asking an hon. Member to withdraw his remarks. [Interruption.] It would be in the best interest of the House for all those who are interested in this Bill, and the others that are to come before us, to get on with it.

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