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Mr. Greg Knight:
Can the Minister confirm that she would be prepared to consult on a possible list of exemptions to the directive? For example, where would it leave the 4x4 vehicle that is under 2.5 tonnes and has a winch affixed to the front? Can she confirm that the directive will not be retrospective and would not require any changes to be made to historic vehicles and any adornments they may have on the top of their radiators?
8 Mar 2005 : Column 1455
Charlotte Atkins: The directive will not be retrospective, and we will consider any exemptions necessary. The directive is being discussed at present, and it will be put forward very soon. It would then have to be transposed into UK law, using the existing provisions of section 41 of the Road Traffic Act 1991. Therefore, no changes to primary legislation would be necessary. We all recognise that such adornments can be dangerous. The press has also focused in recent weeks on those vehicles whose front ends are not safely designed, and the impact that they can have on pedestrians.
Mr. Greg Knight: We have had an interesting, wide-ranging and constructive debate. The more I listened to the Minister, the more alarmed I became, because I found myself agreeing with most of what she said. That is always a dangerous position to be in.
The House accepts that the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) spoke from the best of motives and with the best of intent, but the Opposition agree with the Government on that issue. Education on the need to wear helmets must come first, and we hope that public acceptance will follow. None of us would want fewer cyclists to take to the roads because of what they regarded as heavy-handed legislation.
I was pleased to hear what the Minister had to say about new clause 21 and I hope that we will have the opportunity to consider a list of exemptions. In the light of the discussion that is taking place in Europe, and given that so many car manufacturers are internationalwith parts for vehicles of different makes supplied by a relatively small number of companiesI hope that the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (John Thurso) will be satisfied by the Minister's response.
On new clause 13, I was pleased and heartened that the Minister suggested that the Government will consider safety measures along the lines of those adopted by our European partners. When I mentioned the new clause in my introduction, I was not suggesting that we should follow the Spanish example. However, there are lessons to be learned from that and I think that the Government should take them on board.
New clause 11 touches on a matter of ongoing concern to heavy goods vehicle operators and to those who want road safety improved. I am pleased that the Government are pursuing research on this matter. Before we reach any conclusion about what new rules and regulations may be necessary, we need to be aware of the effectiveness of any statutory requirement that we may decide to impose.
The Minister said that locking wheel nuts were not the way forward and that more research was needed, which she thought would take another year to complete. I hope that she will stay on the case to ensure that there is no slippage, as action needs to be taken as soon as possible. However, the Minister's positive response to new clause 11 means that I shall not press it to a vote.
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