asked the Minister of Transport to what extent cuts in public expenditure have affected the work of the Transport and Road Research Laboratory.
There has been no significant change in the overall form of the laboratory's programme, although some components of it have been slimmed. I am now reviewing my Department's research needs as a whole, and will decide the laboratory's future financial provision in the light of that review.
May I draw the Minister's attention to the fact that the head of the vehicle safety division, Mr. Ian Nielson, has been quoted in the Yorkshire Post, in an article by Mr. Robert Schofield, as saying that the 17 per cent. cut in staff is seriously hindering the research work of the laboratory and that vital research on, for instance, the chest pad for motor cycle riders has been put back by as much as two years? Is not that a crazy example of forced public expenditure economy when so much money will be spent on the other costs of vehicle deaths and injuries?
I shall look at the matter of motor cycle safety, to which I attach special importance, as I know the hon. Gentleman does. In general there has been no overall change in the programme of the laboratory. We are currently examining the whole range of work being carried out.
Will the Minister confirm that every piece of research into the damage caused by heavy axles on roads proves that the position is even worse than anybody ever dreamt? Is not that an argument for more, not less, money to be spent on research?
That is one of the arguments that we will consider. I know of the hon. Gentleman's concern in this matter and I should like to make it clear that we will always publish the information that comes from these studies.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that, having been to the Transport and Road Research Laboratory recently, I have seen the chest protection device installed on a motor cycle? How soon will we make such devices legally enforceable on motor cycles already on the road?
I shall be visiting the TRRL in the next few days, and I shall take the opportunity of looking into the matter raised by my hon. Friend.