§ 3.38 p.m.
§ LORD BROCK
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government the number of fatal and non-fatal accidents involving passengers in taxicabs, and whether the compulsory fitting of safety belts for passengers should be introduced.]
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS (LORD SHEPHERD)
My Lords, information on the total number of such accidents is not readily available as taxicabs are not separately distinguished from cars in the reports on which national statistics of road accidents are based. While we are aware of individual accidents in which a safety belt, had it been worn, might have saved or reduced injury to a passenger in the back seat of a taxicab, we have no information to suggest that such cases are frequent. My right honourable friend the Minister of Transport is concentrating first on policies to require the fitting of safety belts in the front seats of cars, and taxis, and of those registered in 1965 and 1966; to encourage their fitting in older cars, and, perhaps more important, to persuade people to use those belts.
§ LORD BROCK
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his Answer. I am a little disturbed to find that he is not aware of the figures, which were sent to me from the Cabowners' Association. They state that the average number of cab accidents occurring in a year is about a thousand. I would ask him to remember that this constitutes about 20 a week, which is an alarming figure. I hope that the compassion that Her Majesty's Government ordinarily feel towards the prevention of accidents will extend to passengers in taxicabs.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, certainly that information is not available, and I will see that the Department look into it. In fact we have a private taxicab company which has fitted these rear seat belts, and the police themselves are watching this as an experiment. But at 1771 the present moment we feel that we must concentrate our attention where the danger most lies, and that is in the front seats, both for the driver and for the passenger.
§ LORD SEGAL
My Lords, as safety belts are already fitted in taxicabs for the protection of passengers' luggage, is it not more important that they should be fitted compulsorily for the protection of the passengers themselves?
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, the noble Lord may well have a point there, but I can foresee considerable difficulties. Not only have we to protect the passengers who sit in the two main back seats but, on occasion, we should need to provide similar equipment for those who sit on the collapsible seats. This matter is being considered, but the Department feel that the greatest emphasis at the present moment should lie in regard to private cars and taxis; and safety belts being fitted to the front seats.
THE MARQUESS OF ABERDEEN AND TEMAIR
My Lords, if the driver of the taxi were strapped in, would he not have great inconvenience in giving change for fares?