HL Deb 27 October 1975 vol 365 cc8-11

3 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 any discussions have taken place between the responsible Government Department and motor car manufacturers to provide laminated glass in order to reduce the effect of accidents.


My Lords, motor car manufacturers in Great Britain are required by law to provide safety glass in windscreens but they are free to use either laminated or toughened glass to do so. They are kept informed of Government intentions and of progress in relevant inter-Governmental negotiations by means of regular consultations between the Department of the Environment, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders and representatives of the glass industry.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that research has demonstrated that the use of laminated glass in preference to other materials minimises the effect of accidents? Will he also take note of the fact that the EEC countries, with the sole exception of the United Kingdom, endorse the use of laminated glass and can he explain why there is this exception? Can he also say whether the motor car manufacturers. having been consulted about the use of laminated glass in preference to other materials, have declined to endorse the use of it because of the expense involved?


My Lords, to take the second and third questions first, I think my noble friend has obtained his information from a television programme. If I may say so, it was an unfortunate source to choose, because he is wrong on both counts. It is not true to say that the United Kingdom is the only member of the EEC who stood out against the Directive. In fact, the majority of the Member countries of the EEC shared our view that the Directive should not be adopted. Secondly, my noble friend said that the motor car manufacturers are against the adoption of laminated glass for windscreens. That is not true either. As for the question of research, my advice is that at the moment the results we have are inconclusive. One of the problems is, of course, that very few cars in this country have laminated glass windscreens, and therefore it is difficult to get a representative sample in any statistical examination of the injuries caused in accidents.


My Lords, as it seems that all the points I have made are untrue, in the opinion of my noble friend, can he say whether the research that is now being conducted will take a long time, and whether it will be at the discretion of the motor car manufacturers and not at the discretion of the Government?


My Lords, research is conducted by the Transport and Road Research Laboratory, and has absolutely no connection with motor car manufacturers. My understanding is that the manufacturers have no strong views either way about the introduction of laminated windscreens. I have spoken to my right honourable friend about this subject, and I understand that he intends to ask the Department to look into the research which is being conducted in other countries where the use of laminated windscreens is widespread.


My Lords, will my noble friend agree that there are two types of laminated glass. The one that is used in this country is the thin laminated glass, and this is the one that has been investigated by the Road Research Laboratory relative to toughened glass. Will he also agree that the laminated glass used in America, which has been suggested for Europe, is twice the thickness of the laminated glass used in this country and that there is no doubt at all, on all the evidence available, that it is far superior to toughened glass and ought to be used in the interests of safety?


My Lords, I am glad that somebody has asked me that question. In fact, there are four types of laminated glass. There are 15 thousandths or 30 thousandths, which are the two types normally used in this country, and an intermediate stage, 20 thousandths, which I understand the Italians use, as well as a new British version called 10/20. It is because of the development of this latter version of laminated glass, which I understand at the moment has distinct possibilities, that my right honourable friend is asking for this investigation and research to be carried out. The problem is that if one is to make it a legal requirement that all cars shall have a certain sort of windscreen and say that drivers will be committing a criminal offence if they do not have it, we ought to have very clear evidence that injuries will be reduced. But as we have seen in regard to seat belts, opinions differ.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that there has been formed this year in this country an association of the vast majority of people concerned in the glass industry, called the Safety Glazing Association, known as the SGA, of which I have the honour to be the honorary president? We are hoping and endeavouring to provide a code setting out the right material to use in the right place and at the right time, and I ask the Minister whether he is aware that we hope our expert advice, coming as it does from all the major manufacturers and distributors, will be sought on this problem, because we have advice to give.


My Lords, may I congratulate the noble Lord upon his important appointment and I look forward with eager anticipation to any advice he can give me.


My Lords, on a point of information may I ask the Minister this? Like my noble friend Lord Shinwell, I imagine, I, too, saw that television programme. Does the Minister know whether any correction was given to the broadcasting company, if they broadcast all this wrong information—because, as I understand it, this is normally done on the ensuing day—and is he aware that it must have disturbed a great many people?


My Lords, I do not know whether a correction was given, but I will certainly look into that point. I imagine that if Government Departments were to issue corrections every time facts were misrepresented, we should do nothing else.

The Earl of DENBIGH

My Lords, can the noble Lord say whether injuries to occupants of motor vehicles who go through windscreens made of laminated glass are far more severe than when safety glass is used? Secondly, if laminated glass were to be introduced, would he also introduce the compulsory use of seat belts?


My Lords, it is certainly the case that all injuries caused by windscreens would be lessened if people wore seat belts, just as all injuries in accidents would be reduced if people were to wear seat belts. There is no doubt that wearing seat belts is the most important thing anybody can do. But my information is that, in general, the occupant does not go through a laminated glass windscreen the glass bulges and stops the person going through it. It is when toughened glass is used that the occupants are likely to be thrown through the windscreen. But I imagine that if anybody hit a laminated windscreen hard enough to go through it, then he would receive serious injuries.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether he would be kind enough to withdraw any reflection on my conduct in having looked at a television programme?