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Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, I hope the Minister may have some good news for us, but, like the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, I have heard the terms "shortly", "early in the new year" and "later in the year" so often that I wonder whether those in the Department for Transport have a calendar or clock, or whether time, for them, is measured in seasons.
On 7 November, three people were killed on the southbound hard shoulder of the M1, when their car drove into the back of a lorry. The head injuries were quite dreadful. That is exactly the sort of accident we could stop. The means of stopping it are easy to envisage and to find, and it could be done very simply. I fully support what the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, has said and I await the Minister's response.
Earl Attlee: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Hanningfield for moving his amendment again. In respect of the word "shortly", I was advised that the special types general order would be coming shortly, and that meant 10 years.
I am convinced about the effectiveness of the materials, but I have two concerns. First, I am not convinced that a competitive market exists for this material. Perhaps the Minister has done some work on this and can tell us whether he believes there is a competitive market for it.
Secondly, I believe that older vehicles are slightly more prone to involvement in side impact accidents, which are very serious. So if we go down this route, the material ought to be applied to all vehicles after a period of, say, four years, rather than just new vehicles. Heavy goods vehicle trailers, for example, can have quite long lives of 10 or 15 years. If it is a good idea, the material should be applied to all heavy goods vehicles after a few years.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, is correct that it should be applied to all vehicles, but I get the impression that in this case perfection may be the enemy of the good, and it would be better to start with the amendment. This is a no-brainer. Of course the Freight Transport Association and the Road Haulage Association will oppose it. They would, wouldn't they? In the same way, the road safety organisations will support it. We need to think about the effect and the cost.
How long are we going to wait and how many more people are going to be killed in the way illustrated by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, before we get on and do this? Apparently, the powers exist. Let us get on and do it. I cannot understand how we can oppose this in
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a European forum. I hope that the Minister has brought the good news that we are going to go ahead tomorrow.
Viscount Simon: My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, asked whether there is a competitive market for these fittings. If they benefit road safety and reduce the number of people killed and injured on the road, that is totally irrelevant. It is the lives of the people who might be injured that one has to take into account.
The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, drew attention to a fatal crash on the M1, where a car went into the back of an HGV. That could have been a car going into the back of a car, which would have resulted in exactly the same thing; that is, people being killed. Why is this regulation not being applied to all vehicles? I refer to the amendment in Committee. I still think that it should be applied to all vehicles. I give the example of going round a corner and meeting side on a vehicle that has crashed into it. You would not see it in darkness or you might not have sufficient time to brake. You might crash; you might kill yourself. The regulation should be applied to all vehicles.
Earl Attlee: My Lords, a competitive market is important because one manufacturer is advising us to go down this route. We were caught out in the past with spray suppression equipment for heavy goods vehicles. One manufacturer managed to get Parliament to agree to fit spray suppression equipment. It was quite expensive; the whole fleet was fitted with it; and we subsequently realised that we did not need it. So it is an important point.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am glad that noble Lords expect me to be the harbinger of good news. I am always a harbinger of good news because I bring the Government's view on these complex issues. I begin by apologising for the absence of the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, who replied to this debate on the previous occasion. She is unfortunately ill with food poisoning, so noble Lords will have to put up with my answer today.
As we indicated then, this amendment is unnecessary because powers to regulate the use of the material in question already exist. The issue with which we are faced is that Europe is concerned to provide a whole series of regulations for all types of heavy goods vehicles. Compliance with these regulations will become mandatory in the UK through the forthcoming introduction of a European system of,
As I have indicated, UK regulations already permit the use of ECE 104 tape. If we began work now to change UK regulations to mandate the tape, there would be only a short period before the introduction of the amended regulations and that of the European approval system. We do not consider the cost and time that would be needed to make these changes separately to be justified, given the small benefit which would be achieved by a slightly earlier introduction. I am not underestimating the importance of the concept for road safety, but we are talking about a very limited period between our capacity to introduce the limited powers that we have and the whole vehicle position which the European Union is developing.
The introduction date for that has still to be agreed, but it will be mandatory for all new goods vehicles and their trailers. Therefore, the House will recognise that we do not see that we would derive benefit from acting on powers which already exist in legislation. But in any case the amendment is unnecessary, because we enjoy those powers at present. I hope that the noble Lord will recognise the strength of that argument.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the answer is, "not just yet". But let me just make the obvious pointnor would any regulations that we proposed within our own powers. All that I am indicating is that the gap is marginal between achieving what we could create, operating unilaterally, and complying as we shall be obliged to with the European requirements. That is the why I am resisting the amendment.
Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. We have had an interesting debate. This is a road safety Bill, and we on these Benches are interested in implementing as soon as possible real measures that save lives. Some things that we have discussed might helpbut then there are others that have been proven to save lives, and this is one of them. All the evidence, as the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, said, such as accidents on the M1, suggests that these strips could save livesand we can all cite incidents of that kind. The Minister referred to a whole tranche of European regulations; there may be some that we decide not to implement or that we delay implementation on over time. In this amendment, I am proposing 2007. That still gives two years for the industry to prepare, and it is a date that would be effective. If the European legislation arrives too fast, it would give us time to tie in with that European legislation. I should like to test the opinion of the House on whether we should introduce these tapes in 2007.
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