HL Deb 02 November 2000 vol 618 cc1150-2

(" . In the Road Traffic Act 1988, in section 41, after subsection (4) there is inserted—

"(4A) Regulations made under this section shall provide that any vehicle so constructed that it can be unloaded by part of the vehicle being tipped sideways or rearwards must be fitted with an integral safety prop."").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 302 I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 307 and 308. Amendment No. 302 seeks to provide increased operator safety for vehicles equipped with tipping bodies by requiring the fitting of an integral safety prop. The bodies of these vehicles can be raised hydraulically, principally for unloading but also for maintenance and to deal with breakdowns. From time to time, very serious, even fatal, accidents occur when the body unexpectedly descends and traps the mechanic between the body and the chassis. From personal experience, I assure noble Lords that to work under or near an unsupported body is very stressful.

Tipping vehicles enjoy a number of concessions, including exemption from the need for side guards or spray suppression equipment. I believe that an integral body prop is a small price to pay for eliminating a foreseeable cause of accidents. I accept that this is properly a matter for the Motor Vehicle (Construction and Use) Regulations. Does the Minister intend to amend those regulations, or will he allow the risk to continue and rely on the infinitely less specific provisions of the Health and Safety at Work Act?

In Committee I moved Amendment No. 307, which would enable the Secretary of State to relax the requirement for type approval by means of orders rather than regulations. I also moved Amendment No. 308, which would create a new offence of failing to comply with the legal requirements regarding the movement of abnormal loads. The Minister was sympathetic to both amendments. While I appreciate the difficulty of tabling government amendments which are properly drafted by parliamentary counsel, the last opportunity to agree these amendments fast approaches. Has the Minister made a decision, and will he table his own amendments at Third Reading? I beg to move.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, in relation to Amendments Nos. 307 and 308 the noble Earl makes a valiant stab at achieving what we both seek. I assure the noble Earl that if he withdraws his amendment we shall table our own at Third Reading which is not a million miles from his drafting. I believe that that amendment will achieve the objective.

As to Amendment No. 308, to do it in the way proposed by the noble Earl has a number of problems and downsides. I believe that our draft of the previous amendment will achieve many of the objectives that lie behind Amendment No. 308.

Amendment No. 302 effectively requires a prop to be fitted to rearwards or sideways-tipping vehicles. That would provide a safeguard when the vehicle was tipping should the hydraulics fail. There are arguments as to exactly how the provision should be phrased, but I do not believe that this Bill is the appropriate place to deal with the matter. As the noble Earl anticipated, the matter that he raises is more appropriately dealt with under either the Health and Safety at Work Act or the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations. We shall consider the possibility of doing something in that context. I believe that to include it here would be to stray some way from the Bill. Therefore, I prefer not to pursue that amendment.

Earl Attlee

My Lords, I am grateful for the Minister's slight tease that possibly he will seek to amend the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations with regard to tipper props. We must see what happens in that regard. I am grateful for the Minister's support for Amendment No. 307 on type approval but disappointed by his response to Amendment No. 308. I recognise that there are insurmountable drafting problems. However, the Minister has been extremely accommodating to me in the Bill, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.15 p.m.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market moved Amendment No. 303: After Clause 255, insert the following new clause—