HC Deb 18 July 1979 vol 970 cc760-1W
Mr. Mellor

asked the Minister of Transport when he expects to receive the Transport and Road Research Laboratory's report on the performance of certain inertia reel seat belts; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Fowler

A report of investigations into the performance of several models of belts with inertia reels (TRRL Laboratory Report No. 8821)—" The Edge-Locking Performances of some Seat Belt Inertia Reels "—is being published today. Copies have been placed in the Library. The report indicates that two types of belts which are no longer in production are subject to a slight but significant risk of malfunction. This arises from the possibility of imperfect meshing of the reel mechanism in an accident and subsequent excessive reeling out of the belt. The report also shows a lesser risk of malfunction in another type of belt due to the possibility of incorrect assembly.

The findings of the report do not provide any grounds for doubting the value of wearing seat belts; nor is there cause for major concern about the quality of existing belts. I am nevertheless urgently considering the practical implications of the report and will be discussing them with the manufacturers.

Mr. Jessel

asked the Minister of Transport what is his estimate of the number of lives that would be saved and serious injuries that would be prevented, annually, in the event of the enactment of the Road Traffic (Seat Belts) Bill, assuming a similar wearing rate to that obtaining in Australia.

Mr. Fowler

As the wearing rate in Australia ranges from 70 per cent, for passengers in South Australia to a claimed 100 per cent, for all front-seat occupants in Queensland I cannot give a precise answer. For an illustration of the potential savings to be achieved from higher wearing rates I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) on Wednesday 27 June.

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