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Mr. Martlew: My right hon. Friend is right. I was pleased to see that the Select Committee did not fall into the trap of saying, "We know it is unsafe, but if we want fitter children, we should allow this practice to continue." What the Committee wants and what I want is for more children to cycle, but to cycle safely.
In conclusion, the Minister must realise that the slaughter of youngstersI do not use emotive languagemust stop. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Reading, East (Jane Griffiths) scoffs. I find that quite distasteful. We must stop the slaughter. The Government have it in their power to stop it, and sooner or later they will do so. Obviously, that will not be part of the Bill, but I hope legislation will soon be introduced to do it.
John Thurso: I shall speak principally to new clause 21 in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Teignbridge (Richard Younger-Ross), but before I do so, I shall comment on the other clauses grouped with it.
The first two were introduced by the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight) and described by him as probing amendments. New clause 11 deals with secondary locking devices. I had a briefing some months ago from the company with which he has been in correspondence. As I understand it, the problem, which mostly affects heavy goods vehicles, is that the normal wear and tear of road use could cause a securely and tightly locked nut to become loose through vibration. The secondary device deals with that. I shall be interested to hear what the Government have to say in that regard. The proposal seems straightforward and sensible, if the problem that has been highlighted is, indeed, caused by vibration. It would be interesting to know the outcome of any relevant research.
New clause 13 deals with reflective clothing. We had an interesting debate on that in Committee. I am not sure that I am ready yet to legislate that everybody should have a reflective jacket in the back of their car. It is bad enough remembering to have the red triangle, although when I broke down outside Edinburgh not long ago, it was a very useful thing to have in the boot of the car. I wonder whether any research has been done to see whether there is a genuine lifesaving impact. I wait to hear the Government's response.
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On new clause 15, which the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) has just discussed, I was here when his private Member's Bill was debated, although I was prevented from contributing because the Bill was talked out. At that point, I examined the evidence, and although I fully understood the safety case, I was seduced by the fitness case. Although I did not agree with the hon. Gentleman then, I have since attended many briefings and discussions, and my views have changed.
The terms in which new clause 15 is couched make it easier to support than the private Member's Bill, some aspects of which I did not agree withfor example, the hon. Gentleman has introduced the important distinction that the legislation will be confined to the road. I have also heard that some of the facts that were adduced at that time were not accurate, so I am moving in his direction.
Mr. Martlew: I am grateful for the way in which the hon. Gentleman is addressing new clause 15, but I shall be churlish. On Second Reading, he wrote me a nice letter saying that he had not made up his mind on which way to vote. However, somebody slipped me a copy of a letter that he sent to Liberal Democrat Members, which stated that although the Liberal Democrats oppose the Bill, responses should be couched in personal terms to avoid their looking like part of a campaign. He has now seen sense, for which I am grateful.
John Thurso: That point is not churlish; it is an accurate reflection of the truth. When I wrote to the hon. Gentleman, I had not made up my mind, but I would have opposed the private Member's Bill, had it come to a vote. I gave that advice to my hon. Friends, but I added that they should make up their own minds, because I should not dictate what they should do on such an issue. I also said that my hon. Friends should couch their responses in suitable terms.
We have not yet discussed new clause 18, which I hope that we reach. At this point, I should declare my non-pecuniary interest as a patron of Reflect. I tabled an amendment on that matter in Committee, so I can safely say that I completely agree with new clause 18.
As the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire has rightly said, I tabled new clause 21 to deal with the question of the retro-fitting of bull bars, which serve no purpose in this country. Bull bars may have a purpose on safari, but they serve no purpose on the M4.
Turning to the points raised by the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire, I was fascinated to discover that rubber bull bars are available. If rubber bull bars work and are not dangerous, new clause 21 would not cover them. Given that the vast majority of bull bars in this country are fitted to vehicles as adornments to make a fashion statement, I suspect that wobbly rubber bull bars that do not cause danger will not attract the same adornment value as shiny chrome bull bars, but if they are safe, I have no particular objection to them.
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The right hon. Member for East Yorkshire has raised a serious point about foreign vehicles. I agree with him that this is one of those areas in which the European Union could successfully introduce a helpful pan-European law and would welcome his party's support for such an obviously correct European initiative. However, we should not be deflected from legislating domestically because we may cover a few foreign cars.
Mr. Greg Knight: Is not the drafting of the hon. Gentleman's new clause defective in that any vehicle that had, for example, a snow plough attachment fitted to the front would fall foul of his definition? I happen to know of someone in the construction industry who has more than one JCB, and in the winter fits a snow plough scoop on to one vehicle to help him to clear snowbound roads. As I read it, the new clause could oblige the Secretary of State to ban such vehicles.
John Thurso: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for raising that point, but I do not agree. I worded the new clause as carefully as I could. That does not mean that it is not defectiveit means that it is the best effort that I could come up with. I deliberately did not include a prescriptive list detailing specific equipment, but referred instead to
I suspect that the Secretary of State would, on balance, be of the opinion that a snow plough, used properly, would not fall into that definition because of the vehicle's likely speed and location. The same might apply to other equipment, as long as it is properly fittedfor example, winches are required on some 4x4 vehicles that are used in the country.
The fitting of bull bars, however, would be covered by the new clause. We have to take into account the fact that large 4x4 vehicles have become far more popular in urban settings, whereas 20 or 30 years ago they were broadly found where they were designed to be usedin the countrysideand by their very design tended to be suited for that use. Since then, they have been developed as vehicles that are also comfortable to drive on motorways and in towns and are therefore extremely popular in urban use. As I walk to the House from my flat in Pimlico, I pass a school, and at 9 o'clock in the morning it is bumper-to-bumper with extremely large 4x4 vehiclesnone of which, I suspect, has ever seen mud in anger. When living at home in the Scottish countryside, I sometimes use a Land Rover and other 4x4 vehicles. I have never seen any working 4x4 on any farm in my constituency that has bull bars. Some have protective grilles in front of the lightsI fully understand why those are in place, and they would be exempted by my new clausebut none has a full set of chrome bull bars of the kind that it is aimed at.
There are two reasons for that. First, it became obvious as we discussed the matter that there would be considerable difficulty in defining bull bars. As
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is often the case in such circumstances, we may know broadly what we mean, but that is entirely different from defining it in legislation.
Secondly, although bull bars are the most obvious example of what I am considering, it seemed rather stupid to devise a new clause that dealt specifically with them and might have exempted another piece of kit that could be abandoned equally usefully. Consequently, the new clause was drafted to give discretion to the Secretary of State.
It is important to consult users and to allow people to present evidence before the Secretary of State makes his decisions. I have also learned a little from considering the odd Bill: it is easier to draft a new clause and let somebody do the work afterwards than to try to get the primary legislation spot on from the start.
Some 60 per cent. of fatalities and serious injuries occur on roads that have speed limits of 40 or 30 mph. We have often discussed the number of child pedestrians who are killed. Bull bars make the likelihood of serious injury or death that much greater and therefore effectively negate the purpose of the 30 mph speed limit. We all know that the probability of the victim being killed is twice as great at 35 mph as at 30 mph. The lower speed limit is effectively negated by fitting such equipment.
There is no practical reason why that equipment is required in this country. It is only an adornment and many people who have such items on their vehicles are unaware of the possible consequences. The new clause is therefore reasonable. It gives the Secretary of State the power to make the decision and is not therefore prescriptive. I feel strongly that it could usefully be included in the measure. When we reach the appropriate moment, I would like to test the opinion of the House. I commend the new clause to hon. Members.
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