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Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, at this time of the evening, I do not intend to do any more than thank all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate, and I particularly congratulate those making their first-team debuts in a football debate. I think that that includes the right reverend Prelate; it certainly includes the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Bolton, and my noble friends Lord Rosser and Lord Jones. In the case of the noble Lord, Lord McNally, it is the first time
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that he has worn his captain's armband with "PC" written on it, certainly in a football debate. I congratulate him, too.
All sorts of very interesting themes have come up in the debate, and I do not intend to cover any of them now. It is interesting that the right reverend Prelate raised the issue of sin bins; perhaps he is particularly well qualified to talk about that. He went on to talk about technology for referees, but I shall resist the temptation to go down that road.
It occurred to me during the debate that, if I am asked what the House of Lords has in common with Mr Tommy Docherty, I can say that it has more clubs than Jack Nicklaus. The allegiances of your Lordships up and down the country, into Scotland and north Wales, are very impressive, and we have enjoyed the insights brought out in each speech.
I shall close with a speech that was not made this evening, but the words were on a note passed to me by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth as he left after the previous debate. He wrote:
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the regulations amend existing regulations. They provide a revised exemption from compulsory seat-belt wearing for goods vehicle users while delivering or collecting anything. They clarify when the exemption applies to make it more understandable and to make it easier for the police to enforce. The regulations are about improving road safety, and therefore about saving lives and reducing casualties. They also make two minor changes to bring the current regulations up to date.
It was recognised when compulsory seat-belt wearing was first introduced that those making house-to-house deliveries or collections would be inconvenienced by having to unbuckle and buckle seat belts at very frequent intervals. However, there is no definition of,
As a result, many of those who use vans and goods vehiclesand possibly their employers as wellwrongly believe that there is a general exemption for anyone making a delivery or collection, whatever the distance they travel. Consequently, too many of them fail to use their seat belts when they are at work.
The Government are concerned that regular surveys of seat-belt wearing carried out for the Department for Transport show that seat-belt use by van drivers is much lower than for car drivers. The last survey was carried out in October this year and shows that only 70 per cent of van drivers and 57 per cent of their passengers wear seat belts, compared to more than 93 per cent seen in the front seats of cars. We estimate that if seat-belt wearing rates by drivers and passengers in vans increased to the levels seen in cars, some 20 deaths, 240 serious casualties and 1,000 slight injuries could be prevented each year.
In order to reduce casualties, we need to increase seat-belt use by goods vehicle users. The House debated changing the current law when the then Railways and Transport Safety Bill came before it in June 2003, when it was agreed that the existing exemption should be changed. Therefore, in accordance with Section 110 of that Act, new regulations must now express the exemption as a maximum distance that may be travelled before a seat belt has to be worn.
As explained to the House last year, the department undertook public consultation on what that prescribed distance should be, suggesting that it should be either 10 metres or 20 metres. However, we invited views on other distances. There were 64 responses from businesses, trade associations, the police and members of the public. Inevitably there were many different views. Some people wanted no exemption at all, while others wanted a significantly greater distance than we had proposed in the consultation document.
All the views received were carefully considered, and we decided that the distance to be specified in the regulations should be 50 metres. That was announced in a letter from the Department of Transport dated 30 September 2004 and sent to everyone who responded to the consultation. A summary of the responses to the consultation, a list of those who had responded and a regulatory impact assessment have also been made available.
The distance of 50 metres provides sufficient flexibility for the majority of vehicle users to undertake their tasks without serious inconvenience. Seat belts today are much better than they were when seat-belt wearing first became compulsory. They are easier to use, more comfortable to wear and we believe that it will not be difficult or unreasonable for users to comply with the new requirement. However, we recognise that some vehicle
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users who do not currently wear seat belts will have to do so in future. The time spent undoing and doing up seat belts will increase journey times and this may have cost implications for those making frequent stops to deliver or to collect. In some cases this may be because the existing exemption has been interpreted too widely. The requirement of the new regulations better reflects Parliament's original intention and will not seriously inconvenience those who are genuinely making door-to-door deliveries or collections.
This change is now incorporated in Regulation 2(2) of the draft order. It replaces the equivalent exemption provided for in the 1993 seat belt wearing regulations. We have also taken this opportunity to make two minor technical amendments to the 1993 regulations to replace references to the Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) Regulations 1987, which have been revoked, with references to the current Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) Regulations 1999. Regulations 2(3) and 2(4) of the draft make these minor changes.
These regulations will apply throughout Great Britain and implement the new provision in the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003, while maintaining the spirit of the original legislation. I commend them to the House. I beg to move.
Earl Attlee: My Lords, I am extremely grateful for the Minister's full and detailed explanation and I am quite content with the order and its contents. I am confident that the police will sensibly implement them.
In 1998 one of my sergeants in the TA unit that I commanded at the time was driving his civilian truck on the M25 motorway. He had an accident and was thrown out of the cab, presumably because he was not wearing a seat belt. Unfortunately, he was travelling over a flyover and did not survive the impact with the ground below. But even without such a problem, if you are not wearing a seat belt and you have a bad accident you will lose control of the vehicle when you do not need to.
So I fully support all regulations on seat belts and I always wear one. As the Minister mentioned, seat belt compliance is only 93 per cent for front seat drivers. That is despite hard-hitting government adverts that are welcome. But it is so disappointing that we cannot move nearer to 100 per cent compliance.
Could we do more? Could we have more road safety advertisingperhaps more advertising in prime time television, not just for seat belts, but for other road safety issues, too? I sometimes see such adverts very late at night. After all, one of the few ways that young people come to grief and a tragic, unexpected end is through a road traffic accident. I am very happy with the order.
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