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Coaches (Safety Provisions)

Volume 961: debated on Wednesday 24 January 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a further statement on the implementation of proposals for roofs, brakes and seats, aimed at improving coach safety.

I have this week authorised consultation on draft regulations on the strength of superstructure in new coaches and on emergency exits. Work is also in hand on regulations for new braking standards. It is expected that draft standards for seats and seat mountings will be considered later this year within the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

Will my hon. Friend accept that, although I welcome this news, I regard the progress as being lamentably slow? Does he agree that this is one area of public transport which is expanding rapidly, especially with the greater use of coaches by elderly people? Will my hon. Friend at least ensure that in the further progress on this matter greater speed will be shown?

I accept what my hon. Friend says about this being an expanding area. There are more and more coaches on our roads every year and, of course, we have to proceed as fast as possible on the safety aspects.

Does the Minister recollect that a good many months ago when I wrote to him on the subject of anti-roll bars on coaches, at the instance of a doctor in my constituency who was worried about the frequency of serious crashes on some of our roads, he wrote me a quite soothing letter? Is he now able to say that he is bringing in anti-roll bars which will be effective? Might I tell him that after sending on his letter to that doctor—

The hon. Member must tell the Minister some other time. He can only ask a supplementary question now.

I hope that I always give relatively soothing replies to letters from hon. Members. In fact, we now have regulations stipulating the strength of the roofs of coaches. Whether that is exactly what the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Thompson) has in mind, I do not know, but certainly the principal objective is the same as his.

In view of the Minister's natural concern for coach safety, especially on motorways, will he comment on the fact that 270 motorway maintenance men in the Midlands have gone on strike today, with the result that there is no gritting on any of the motorways within 30 miles of Birmingham?

I shall bring that to the attention of one of our emergency committees immediately.

Has not the time come when we must have a system of official safety vetting and certification of all new motor vehicles, whether they be lorries, buses or private cars, along the same lines as we have for aircraft and pharmaceuticals, for example? Would not this be of great benefit to the public?

There are specific regulations now to which each vehicle type has to adhere. In addition, we make regular annual inspections of vehicles which have been on the road for some time. There is a fairly comprehensive network of rules and regulations which vehicles have to satisfy. I take my hon. Friend's point, but I think that the present position is reasonably satisfactory.