Roger Stott – 1986 Speech on Seatbelts

Below is the text of the speech made by Roger Stott, the then Labour MP for Wigan, in the House of Commons on 13 January 1986.

It would be impertinent if the Front-Bench speakers took more than the minimum time in this debate, because this is a House of Commons matter. Each hon. Member must make up his or her mind whether to agree with the proposition. I do not intend to spend a great deal of time advocating my support for the points made by the Under-Secretary of State. That is not to say that I do not believe implicitly or fervently in what he said, but I believe that I should give other hon Members time to deploy their arguments.

I do not know what motivates hon. Members to walk down a particular Damascus road, but I note that the Under-Secretary of State and the Secretary of State for Transport have decided that the evidence compiled by their Department has convinced them that the way in which they voted the last time this matter was discussed was wrong. I presume that they will reverse that decision and vote in favour of the continuation of the compulsory wearing of seat belts. I do not say that in a malevolent sense; I say it in a spirit of good will to them, because I believe that they have now had an opportunity to look objectively at the overwhelming evidence that has come forward since the experiment.

I appreciate the efforts, work and commitment of the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker) in all the road safety matters that we have discussed since she has been a member of the Government, especially since she has been concerned with transport. There are not many measures during the six years of the Conservative party’s term in office with which I am proud to be associated. There is little legislation that I would commend to anyone. I am, however, proud to be associated with the 1981 transport legislation. The hon. Member for Wallasey deserves credit for ensuring that it reached the statute book. She is right in claiming credit for the lives that have been saved and the accidents and fatal injuries that have been prevented as a result of the wearing of seat belts.

It would be academic of me if I were to rebut the views of the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) with a typewritten script from the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety on the virtues of compulsory seat belt wearing. I doubt that I would convince him of its arguments. Many important people concerned with road safety support the council’s claims, including the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Automobile Association, the British Medical Association, the Casualty Surgeons Association, the Child Accident Prevention Trust, the County Road Safety Officers Association, the County Surveyors Society, the Institute of Road Safety Officers, the Medical Commission on Accident Prevention, the Motor Conference, the Royal Society for ​ the Prevention of Accidents and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. I concede that the Cyclists Association and Friends of the Earth might take a different view and might disagree with the overwhelming evidence on the compulsory wearing of seat belts which the House has received during the past three years. I accept that in a democracy they have an absolute right to do that, in the same way as I accept that Dr. Adams has a right to proffer his analysis. Unfortunately, my record shows that the hon. Member for Keighley did not vote in the last Division on this issue. I refer him to Hansard of 28 July 1981 where I took Dr. Adams to task for his assertions that the compulsory wearing of seat belts would not be beneficial. Dr. Adams tilts at conventional windmills. I do not disregard that. Long may he continue to do so, but I believe that on this occasion, as on the last, his evidence is seriously flawed. He has not satisfied me—

Mr. Lawrence

The hon. Gentleman is an ordinary Member of the House.

Mr. Stott

He must satisfy me as an hon. Member. The fact that I am propped up against the Dispatch Box gives me no more rights than the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence). Dr. Adams has failed to convince me that what he is saying is correct. I do not believe that it is.

There is abundant evidence to support our case. The compulsory wearing of seat belts has saved lives and has prevented injuries to and the disfigurement of many car drivers. If the House of Commons is about doing anything it is about doing that. I rest on what I said a little earlier: this is one piece of legislation with which I have been proud to be associated during the past six years. I shall vote for its renewal this evening.