HL Deb 20 November 1963 vol 253 cc331-2

2.42 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will introduce legislation to make the fitting of safety belts compulsory in all new cars.]


My Lords, a proposal that regulations should be made requiring new cars to be so fitted has already been circulated to representative organisations and their replies are being carefully considered. Some of these replies show support, but others express opposition on various grounds, including objections in principle to legislation which would require belts to be fitted without requiring them to be worn. My right honourable friend does not at present consider that it would be appropriate to make the wearing of belts compulsory.


My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend for his reply, but I rather hoped that he might have gone further. Is he aware that the French Government have already brought in legislation to this effect, and that all new French cars as from the beginning of 1964 must have these belts? I think I am also right in saying that several other European Governments are considering the same thing. If we lag behind in this matter we shall find that our great motor companies will be unable to export their cars. I should have thought that on those grounds alone it is essential that we give a lead in the matter.


My Lords, I should have thought that the question of exports was a matter for the commercial judgment of the firms concerned. But my noble friend must be aware that a safety belt is only as safe as the anchorage to which it is fitted. So far there is no standard of anchorage, but it is hoped, as a result of a Working Party on an international scale of the International Standards Organisation, that it will be possible to make regulations regarding the anchorage of safety belts as well; and, in fact, a meeting is being held to-day with the trade interests concerned.


My Lords, can the noble Lord say when we might anticipate a report from this particular meeting?


My Lords, I cannot say when, but I intended to indicate that we were trying to get on with this matter as rapidly as possible.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether he has arrived at any estimate of the proportion of the occupants of motor cars who would be likely to use belts if they were fitted in motor cars?


My Lords, that is too fast a ball just at the moment.


My Lords, so far as the anchorages for safety belts are concerned, there is no question but that the proper time at which to fit suitable anchorages is at the time of manufacture of the chassis, when the anchorage points can be fitted to the car without any expense at all.


That, my Lords, is the reason for getting the anchorage matter right at the same time as we tackle the belts.


My Lords, is "a Working Party on an international scale" what used to be called a committee?


Yes and no, my Lords. To make the matter quite clear, I understand that in fact this is not a committee of the International Standards Organisation; it is a Working Party.