§ 2.37 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether their attention has been called to a statement in The Times of the 25th May with regard to a demand for crash helmets on the part of motorcyclists; whether it is a fact that manufacturers of these helmets in this country are unable to supply sufficient to meet the demand; and, if so, whether Her Majesty's Government will consider the advisability of reclassifying crash helmets as motor-cycle accessories, and thus enable them to be imported from France.]
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, I have seen the statement in The Times newspaper referred to by my noble friend Lord Hampton. I am advised that crash helmets for motor-cyclists are classified for import licensing purposes as headgear, imports of which from Western Europe are, for balance of payments reasons, subject to quota restrictions, and that it would not be appropriate to classify these helmets as motor-cycle accessories, as to do so would involve giving a similar classification to the whole range of apparel which may be worn by 800 the motor-cyclist. While there may be shortages here and there, I have no evidence that supplies of crash helmets are, in general, insufficient to meet demands from motor-cyclists. In view of the importance that Her Majesty's Government attach to the whole question of road safety, and in view of the increase in demand for these crash helmets, the Government are prepared to give sympathetic consideration to applications to import reasonable quantities of crash helmets for this purpose from Western Europe, in addition to the published quota for apparel and headgear.
I am most grateful to the noble Lord and relieved by his reply. I should like to ask just one supplementary question—that is, whether the Government will reconsider the decision, which I think they have announced before, with regard to purchase tax on these helmets, so as to make them easily available and to popularise them as much as possible. If it were possible to remove purchase tax on them, it might help a great deal.
§ LORD MANCROFT
The question of purchase tax is, of course, an entirely different question. As this matter is now being debated upon the Committee stage of the Finance Bill in another place, perhaps we had better wait until we see that stage completed before I answer the noble Lord's questions any further.