HC Deb 14 December 1993 vol 234 c821
7. Mr. Roger Evans

To ask the Secretary of State for Education what plans he has to advise local education authorities to ensure that children travelling on school buses are wearing seat belts.

Mr. Boswell

In 1991, the Department endorsed a report by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents on school transport safety and arranged for its distribution to all LEAs and schools. The report included a code of good practice, which recommends that children should always wear belts where fitted on school buses and minibuses.

Mr. Evans

As my hon. Friend's advice currently extends only to those buses already fitted with seat belts, does he think that it should be extended further? Does he acknowledge the force of the BUSC campaign, which began in my constituency? Will he advise LEAs to restrict contracts for bus operators to those that guarantee that every one of their buses will be fitted with seat belts and that children will be made to wear them?

Mr. Boswell

My hon. Friend should be aware that it is for LEAs to decide their own policies in these matters. He should also be aware that a high proportion of school buses and coaches—indeed, coaches generally—are not currently fitted with seat belts. In addition, the overall requirements of the construction and use of motor vehicles are the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. Nevertheless, I shall certainly listen to what BUSC has to say and reflect on it in the light of recent events.

Mr. Battle

Is the Minister aware that only last week there was a tragic accident in Leeds involving a school bus that was taking the children of St. Michaels school on a day trip? The common practice of having three children to two seats was in operation on that bus. Will the Department urgently issue a code of guidance to schools on that practice? Some of us think that three children to two seats is a budget-saving measure rather than a measure to ensure the safety of our children.

Mr. Boswell

About 850,000 of our children either travel on school buses or receive other help with school transport and, sadly, accidents happen from time to time. They are of very different natures and we consider all the circumstances surrounding them.

The working party that prepared the RoSPA report on school transport safety found no evidence that the three-to-two concession had caused any accidents. If the hon. Gentleman has any evidence to the contrary, perhaps he will bring it to my attention.