Road Safety Bill [HL]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:30 pm on 22nd November 2005.

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Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Spokespersons In the Lords, Local Government Affairs & Communities, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Transport 4:30 pm, 22nd November 2005

My Lords, this is a simple, straightforward amendment that would require the fitting of retro-reflective tape on the side of new heavy goods vehicles. The Government acknowledge that they have the power to act in the UK and that research indicates that they should act to introduce such a measure. During the debate in Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, said:

"Yes, the powers exist and yes, because of the updated research, we are reconsidering the matter".—[Hansard, 4/7/05; col. 440.]

Yet the Government opposed the proposal at the recent meeting of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and continue to resist action in the UK.

The regulatory impact assessment published as part of the consultation found that,

"There is a cost benefit for fitting line or contour markings to newly registered HGVs greater than 7.5t."

The study by the Ergonomics and Safety Research Institute at Loughborough University, which informed the RIA, found that mandating ECE 104 for HGVs newly-registered in the UK would save lives without putting a disproportionate burden on the industry. At a recent UNECE meeting it was decided to progressively make ECE 104 retro-reflective tape mandatory on the side and rear of HGVs in all UNECE countries. This will apply to all new types of HGVs from 2007, but newly-registered HGVs only from 2011.

However, we understand that the UK was the only country to oppose even this very modest proposal. Indeed, given the UK's excellent reputation for road safety, it is disappointing that it is so out of step with the other countries. Furthermore, the DfT has recently completed a consultation on making ECE 104 retro-reflective tape mandatory on the side and rear of HGVs. The consultation closed on 16 September.

In a House of Commons Written Answer on 18 October, the Government said that the results of the consultation would be published shortly. They have still not been released. We are aware of at least 16 positive responses to the consultation from road safety groups, industry bodies and parliamentarians.

Further evidence points to the benefits of introducing such a measure. A study by the European Commission published in late 2004 found that there was a cost benefit in requiring all new HGVs in the European Union of more than 3.5 tonnes to be fitted with this tape. The Loughborough study, commissioned by the Department for Transport and published in May 2005, found that for the UK:

"There is a cost benefit for fitting [ECE 104 retro-reflective] line markings to newly registered HGVs greater than 7.5t".

All the evidence is in favour of it. The Department of Transport's own study found that mandating ECE 104 would not only save lives but also reduce road safety-related costs. The Government have found that the measure will save lives and is cost-effective, but have continued to drag their feet about it. All arguments against making ECE 104 mandatory on the side and rear of HGVs newly registered in the UK have been countered. It should be made mandatory. The overwhelming majority of vehicles can easily be fitted with this tape. The number of vehicles which cannot is minuscule. The Government should ask the industry to find ways of dealing with that small number.

The noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, acknowledged in Committee that the Government have the power to act in the UK, as I said earlier, and the research indicates that they should act. Why do they continue to oppose this proposal? I beg to move.