HC Deb 29 July 1997 vol 299 cc139-40
28. Mr. Flynn

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what proposals he has to ban bull bars on vehicles used on public roads. [9376]

The Minister of Transport (Dr. Gavin Strang)

Unfortunately, progress on the European initiative to control bull bars has been slow and we are therefore reviewing other available options to tackle the bull bar issue effectively. My noble Friend the Minister for Roads will be making an announcement on how we intend to take this forward.

Mr. Flynn

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the major improvements in road safety in recent decades has been the redesign of vehicles, resulting in vehicles that absorb and reduce the shock of collisions by crumpling objects or by deflecting the objects or people that are hit? Bull bars reverse that trend and concentrate and multiply the force of a collision, often at the level of a child's head or vital organs. Was it not a disgrace that the previous Parliament and the former Minister for Transport in London talked out a Bill to reform and to ban bull bars, despite support for the Bill from 250 hon. Members on both sides of the House? When will this Government do better?

Dr. Strang

I agree with my hon. Friend that the redesign of vehicles has certainly enhanced driver and passenger safety. Furthermore, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend's determined campaign on this issue. We intend to ensure that it reaches a satisfactory conclusion—if we cannot get European action, we will take national action.

Miss McIntosh

On that point, is the Minister prepared to consult with the European Commission? Does he accept that unilateral action to ban bull bars in this country will be strictly illegal under the terms of the European treaty and our membership of the European Union?

Dr. Strang

No, I do not accept that. Of course we will maintain a dialogue with the European Commission. The hon. Lady will be aware that the previous Government had a rather long dialogue, not only with the European Commission but with other members of the Council. We are determined that action will be taken. Of course European action would be better and more effective, but if we cannot get it, we believe that there is scope for national action.

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