New Clause 18

Road Safety Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:30 pm on 20th April 2006.

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Prohibition of retrofitting of bull bars

‘The Road Traffic Act 1988 is amended as follows—In section 41(2), after paragraph (l) insert—

“(m) prohibiting the modification or retrofitting to the front of vehicles which reduce the crashworthiness of the vehicle.”.'.—[Mr. Carmichael.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

We now come to new clause 18, and we have a new face—Mr. Alistair Carmichael.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Thank you, Sir Nicholas, although I am not sure that I am so much a new face as what is known in this trade as a retread, although this is the first time that I have had occasion to welcome you back to the Chair and to move the motion for a new clause.

I hope that the new clause can be dealt with in fairly short compass. The title says it all. It would empower the Secretary of State to introduce regulations prohibiting the retro-fitting—that is a ghastly word, but it seems to be the term of art used—of bull bars to vehicles. We all know what we mean by such things: they are pretty hideous appendages, to four-wheel drive vehicles in particular. In this day and age, they have limited use in the rural context. In my youth, I might have had occasion to use them, as a farmer’s son, but they are generally not regarded as being best practice for animal husbandry. I do not think even that many involved in agriculture or sporting activities would have any real clamant need for them. Certainly in a town or city they are a menace. They significantly increase the likelihood of a fatality resulting from an accident involving a motorised vehicle and a pedestrian.

As such vehicles are generally higher sprung, bull bars are particular dangerous for small children, who are more likely to be hit on the head and sustain head injuries, and for older people who are much more likely to sustain bone injuries to the hip. The time has come  for us to say that there really is no need for the retro-fitting of bull bars, and I hope that the Minister agrees.

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Minister of State, Department for Transport

I entirely agree. I see no place for bull bars on the roads of the United Kingdom. I suppose that they may have some use if one is driving a Land Rover through the African plains chasing rhinoceroses for photographic purposes, but since there are few rhinoceroses in London or elsewhere in the United Kingdom, I can see no reason for them whatever. They are unsafe. They cause damage to pedestrians. The hon. Gentleman need not press his new clause to a Division because I can assure him that the European Union is already alive to the problem. Consultation with the EU has led to a directive that will ban the retro-fitting of bull bars. We are currently in the process of transposing it into UK law. It will become mandatory from next May, so the objective of the new clause will be achieved.

Photo of Greg Knight Greg Knight Chair, Procedure Committee

Will the Minister confirm that the new directive will not have a retrospective effect wider than the problem of bull bars? For example, can he confirm that it will not prohibit the continued display of, for example, the “Spirit of Ecstasy” on a vintage Rolls-Royce?

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Minister of State, Department for Transport

Once again, the right hon. Gentleman puts his finger on the nub of political debate. My postbag contains nothing but letters on this very subject. I can assure him that the “Spirit of Ecstasy” does not count as a bull bar, nor will the directive ban the fitting of devices to the front of vehicles that make them safer. People may wish to retro-fit equipment to the front of their car to improve its safety to pedestrians and that will also be allowed under the new directive. With those assurances, I hope that the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland will withdraw the motion.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

If the Minister is not careful he may rekindle in me some latent enthusiasm for the European Union. In view of his comments, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.