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Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I am sorry hear that the noble Lord is against informed research to determine whether a problem exists, exactly what it is and how many incidents and accidents can be attributable not just to vehicles fitted with bull bars but to the bull bars themselves making the accident worse. The noble Lord is right. There are options available, both European and domestic. We should like to see action from the Commission on the draft Pedestrian Safety Directive, which would make the fronts of all cars softer and more "pedestrian friendly"—if that is the right expression. This is a better solution which encompasses all the problems facing pedestrians from vehicles with hard edges.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that bars fitted after the purchase of a car can interfere with the operation of the car's airbag in that sensors will not detect the crash at the proper time?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I am grateful for that information. There is also concern that some bull bars have very hard and sharp edges. They could cut people and injure pedestrians, possibly children, more than vehicles not fitted with them. However, there is a great deal of speculation about the matter. Only when we have the results of the proper research will we know the extent of the problem and what action is appropriate.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that some police authorities have given the department abundant evidence of the dangers that already exist, of accidents that have occurred, of injuries and even some deaths? If the Government want to carry out the research quickly, why does not the Minister ensure that the 21 police authorities which have failed to assist the department are required to do it with some promptitude? This is a matter of great urgency. It is not a question of having detailed research into a problem that already clearly exists and represents a major hazard.

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, the noble Lord contends that bull bars represent a major hazard. The simple fact is that the research is not yet there to support

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his contention. That is why we commissioned the research. When we have the results, we shall decide on the action to take.

Lord Monson: My Lords, is the Minister aware that a number of London delivery vans which are wholly urban, two-wheel drive vehicles, are now being fitted with bull bars for no valid reason? Incidentally, it has the effect of making their drivers drive even more recklessly than hitherto. Is it not time that we followed the example of the Royal Parks, which in the past few days most commendably have banned vehicles fitted with bull bars?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I understand that a number of delivery vehicles are fitted as the noble Lord said. I do not believe that that fact on its own is enough to ban those bars or to bring about a decision on what action to take. I believe that I have already fully rehearsed the Government's position. We want to take a fully informed decision.

Lord Whaddon: My Lords, does the Minister agree that it would make a lot more sense if the Government were to ban the bars first while the research is being carried out and then allow them if the research shows that they are safe?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I am not sure that that is always the best way to go about business, particularly perhaps in view of comments that are sometimes made about legislation which has not been thought out as fully as it might have been. Those are the accusations. We need to have the full facts and figures in front of us before we decide what to do.

The Earl of Kinnoull: My Lords, can my noble friend estimate how long the research will take?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, as I said, we expect it to be complete before the year's end.

Private Members' Bills: Parliamentary Time

3.25 p.m.

Baroness Castle of Blackburn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will provide parliamentary time to allow a Private Member's Bill to amend the Interpretation Act to proceed.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, time for consideration of Private Members' Bills in another place is allocated under the relevant standing order and sessional order. In your Lordships' House, Private Members' Bills are timetabled in the same way as other business.

Baroness Castle of Blackburn: Is it not a fact that the Private Member's Bill introduced in another place is designed to bring into operation the recommendation of the Committee of Ministers in the Council of Europe that all member states should review the terminology of their public documents, and in particular their laws and Acts of Parliament, to remove sexist terminology from them? Is it also a fact that that recommendation, which

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was presumably supported by the British Government representative in the Committee of Ministers, maintains that, as part of the work for human rights and sex equality, it is vital that the need for non-sexist terminology in all public documents and procedures should be pursued; and rejects the claim, often made in this House, that the masculine gender is a generic term which embraces women as well as men?

Can we begin a long overdue reform by this Government, which themselves ought to have introduced such a Bill, at least making time for that brave effort by the Member for Bristol East to reach the statute book?

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I am all in favour of the use of non-sexist language. However, when it comes to legislation, I am primarily interested in Bills being drafted in ordinary language, as simply as their subject matter permits. Most important of all, there should be clarity of language, so that there is certainty of how the law will be applied. In this country the interpretation of statutes is left to the Interpretation Act 1978. That is quite clear in its explanation, under Section 6, that words importing the masculine gender include the feminine, words importing the feminine gender include the masculine, words in the singular include the plural and words in the plural include the singular. What could be clearer than that?

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, to deal specifically with the Question on the Order Paper, will the noble Lord be kind enough to confirm that so far as concerns this House any Member of this Chamber who complies with the necessary procedure in standing orders can introduce a Bill into this House, including the Bill of which my noble friend has given some particulars? Will he confirm that? Otherwise, I might have to give him advance notice that I intend to introduce a Bill at a later stage to repeal the European Communities Act 1972.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, in his customary way the noble Lord has been extremely helpful. He is absolutely right. It is the right of any Member of this House to bring forward a Private Member's Bill and it is up to the usual channels to decide on the allocation of time.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that there has never been the slightest problem in finding sufficient parliamentary time for any of the Private Members' Bills over the past 12 years?

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I hope that is a judgment on the way the usual channels have operated over the course of the past 12 years.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that a number of years ago I tabled amendments to government Bills to refer to the Secretary of State as "it", as has been done in a number of states in America, including Oregon? Those amendments were accepted by the Public Bill Office and debated on the Floor of the House. Unfortunately they were not accepted on Divisions, but would that not be a good example to set for the future?

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Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, as I said in reply to the noble Baroness, Lady Castle, I am interested in legislation being clear and understandable. I am not sure that calling Secretaries of State "it" is helpful in that respect.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone: My Lords, is not "it" a neuter word? If the Secretary of State is referred to in that way, would it not be a breach of human rights to neuter him?

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, as is usual in these debates, my noble and learned friend has been extremely helpful.

Baroness Castle of Blackburn: Can the Minister explain whether, in his reply, he is rejecting the 1990 recommendation of the Ministers of the Council of Europe, who are advocating the very changes to which I referred and which he has just been disparaging? Can he tell us whether or not the Government are in favour of that resolution?

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, there is nothing under the law of this country that stops non-sexist language being used. Therefore we already fully comply with any requirements because it is not illegal to use such language.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that I am pleased that he confirmed that this House has the right to introduce Private Members' Bills? Does he recall that this House passed, without any opposition, my National Health Patients Accommodation Bill? It is designed to outlaw mixed sex wards in National Health Service hospitals. The Bill went to the other place. Can the Minister say why the Government are blocking that Bill in the House of Commons?

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