HC Deb 01 July 1997 vol 297 cc105-6
40. Ann Clwyd

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment he has made of existing coach safety regulations; and what plans he has to increase the protection of coach passengers. [4703]

Ms Glenda Jackson

Existing regulations on coach safety include requirements for vehicle construction, roadworthiness testing, driver licensing and operational standards. There is a continuing process of improving standards both nationally and internationally, supported by research.

Ann Clwyd

My hon. Friend will remember the Raglan coach crash, in which 10 people died and 33 were injured—many of them were my constituents. It took a long time to bring prosecutions and the families are still distressed at the outcome. Has she given thought to the idea from the Consumers Association to set up an independent accident unit to investigate transport disasters and to ensure that changes to bring about greater safety are properly implemented?

Ms Jackson

I hope that my hon. Friend will accept my sincere condolences, and I can well imagine the trauma that her constituents suffered following that appalling accident. I am aware of the suggestions to which she referred, and her concerns have been expressed to me from a variety of sources. I intend to examine, with all possible speed, the proposal to which she referred, and other representations.

Mr. Fabricant

Will the hon. Lady make use of her existing powers to control emissions from coaches and buses, which endanger both passengers and people in the vicinity of coaches? Is she aware that one of the greatest causes of pollution is the emission of particulates from such vehicles?

Ms Jackson

As the hon. Gentleman knows, it is a requirement for all public service vehicles to be tested annually. I understand that the Vehicle Inspectorate checked 29,000 vehicles at the roadside last year. I find very encouraging the co-operation between vehicle manufacturers, bus and coach providers and the oil industry in pushing forward alternative fuels, which, as I am sure that he is well aware, could reduce some of the worst effects of emissions from existing fuels.