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10 Dec 1997 : Column WA27

Written Answers

Wednesday, 10th December 1997.

New Housing: Urban Intensification

Lord Hampton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What research has been undertaken at a national and regional level to assess the scope to increase the capacity of urban areas for new dwellings and to encourage people to choose to go back into such areas.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): We are not aware of any national studies of the scope to increase the capacity of urban areas. The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions has, however, studied the possible impacts of increased development and activity in such areas in a research project titled "Urban Consolidation: the Impact of Intensification", the results of which we hope to publish soon. The department has also part-funded research with the London Planning Advisory Committee (LUAC) on "Sustainable Residential Quality: New Approaches to Urban Living", which examines the potential for new housing whilst maintaining urban environmental quality and fostering sustainable developments. LPAC hope to publish the report early in the new year.

The Housing Sub-Group of the UK Round Table on Sustainable Development commissioned a review of a sample of local authority urban capacity studies, published in February as Housing and Urban Capacity.

Seat Belt Wearing by Children

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their estimate of the number of children who regularly ride unrestrained in:

    (a) the front seat; and

    (b) the rear seat of motor vehicles, and how this compares to the practice in 1987.

Baroness Hayman: In October 1988 the then Transport and Road Research Laboratory, on behalf of the Department of Transport, began a series of six-monthly surveys on the use by car occupants of seat belts and other restraint systems. These surveys continue to be carried out by the Transport Research Laboratory.

In April 1997, the latest published survey, 6 per cent. of children aged 0-13 who were travelling in the front seat of motor vehicles were estimated not to be wearing seat belts or other restraint systems compared with 9 per cent. in October 1988.

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In April 1997, 24 per cent. of children aged 0-13 who were travelling in the rear seats of motor vehicles were estimated not to be wearing seat belts or other restraint systems compared with 47 per cent. in October 1988.

These surveys do not provide evidence of the frequency with which a particular child travels without a seat belt or other restraint systems.

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What advice they give to those wishing to carry a child aged two in the rear seat of a motor vehicle in the absence of a car seat or booster cushion.

Baroness Hayman: The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions leaflet Seat Belts and Child Restraints provides the following advice to those wishing to carry a child aged two in the rear seat of a motor vehicle in the absence of a car seat or booster cushion:


    "If no child restraint is available for children under three years of age, it is generally safer for them to wear an adult belt alone, in the back seat, rather than no restraint at all".

The leaflet also provides advice about the law, selecting the right child restraint and advice on wearing for pregnant women.

Copies of the leaflet are being placed in the Library of the House.

The advice is also provided in the 1996 version of the Department of Transport publication Choosing Safety, published by the Stationery Office, a copy of which is in the Library of the House.

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will provide guidance on the dangers of rear seat passengers placing a belt around both themselves and a child.

Baroness Hayman: The Government already provide guidance on the dangers of rear seat passengers placing a seat belt around both themselves and a child. The section on safety belts and child restraints in the 1996 version of the Department of Transport publication Choosing Safety, published by the Stationery Office, advises:


    "Never put a child inside the safety belt which you are wearing. In a crash you would crush the child against the safety belt. At 30 mph, if you are of average weight, you would exert a force equivalent to the weight of an elephant on your child's body. Your child could be seriously injured or crushed to death."

A copy of Choosing Safety is in the Library of the House.

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Minicabs: Child Safety Seats

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will introduce legislation to require minicab companies to provide a proportion of vehicles operated by them with child safety seats.

Baroness Hayman: The Government have no plans to introduce legislation to require minicab companies to provide a proportion of vehicles operated by them with child safety seats. The wide variations in age and size of children carried in minicabs means that no one type of restraint would be suitable for all, and minicab companies would find it extremely difficult to be prepared for all eventualities.

Seat Belts and Casualty Figures

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their estimate of the number of:

    (a) deaths; and

    (b) injuries, that would be prevented if the rear seat belt wearing rate was:

    (i) 90 per cent.;

    (ii) 95 per cent.; and

    (iii) 100 per cent.

Baroness Hayman: The Government's estimate of the number of deaths and injuries that would have been prevented in 1996 if the rear seat belt wearing rate was either 90 per cent., 95 per cent. or 100 per cent. is set out in the table below:

Number of casualties that might have been saved in 1996 if rear seat wearing rate were at target rather than actual level

Target wearing rate (per cent.)KilledSeriousSlight
90931,0884,011
951061,2444,643
1001181,4005,275

Radioactive Material: Carriage by Road

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What amount of dangerous radioactive material is carried on the roads in this country; for what purposes; and what precautions are taken against what hazards.

Baroness Hayman: Data on the amount of radioactive material carried by road are not routinely collected by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. However, it can be estimated that of the order of 500,000 packages of radioactive material are carried by road annually in the United Kingdom (source: Radiation Exposure from the Normal

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Transport of Radioactive Materials within the UK 1991 Review, by R. Gelder, NRPB Report NRPB-R255, a copy of which is held in the Library). The majority of these packages carry only small quantities of radioactive material which are used for a great variety of purposes in research, medicine and practically every industry. For example, radioisotopes are used in research on pollution measurement, plant breeding, soil fertility, irrigation, insect and pest control; medical diagnosis and a variety of industrial applications such as level gauging, leak detection, wear measurement, flow measurement, light sources, moisture/density gauges used in road construction and smoke detectors used in factories, shops, offices and homes. Nuclear techniques are also widely used in geochemistry and geophysics--for example, in prospecting for oil, water and minerals.

Larger sources of radioactive material are used in such applications as industrial radiography to detect flaws and cracks in pressure vessels and pipelines, medical cancer therapy and sterilisation of medical and consumer goods. Radioactive material associated with the nuclear fuel cycle, including unirradiated and irradiated material, accounts for a relatively small proportion of the total package movements by road.

The transport of radioactive material by road is regulated in Great Britain by The Radioactive Material (Road Transport) (Great Britain) Regulations 1996 (511996 No. 1350). These, in common with regulations of all other modes of transport, are based upon the international recommendations of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which provide standards for ensuring a high level of safety to people, property and the environment against radiation and criticality hazards as well as thermal effects associated with the transport of radioactive material, under both normal and accident conditions of transport. The basic requirements are:
(i) Effective containment of radioactive material;
(ii) Effective control of radiation emitted from the package;
(iii) A subcritical condition for any fissile material; and
(iv) Adequate dissipation of any heat generated within the package.

Road transport of radioactive material, in common with any work activity giving rise to ionising radiation, is also subject to the Ionising Radiations Regulations 1985 (S.I. 1985 No. 1333).

Year 2000 and Air Traffic Safety

Lord Gainford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps are being taken to ensure that all computerised systems affecting air safety are ready for a smooth transition to the year 2000.

Baroness Hayman: The Civil Aviation Authority and National Air Traffic Services Ltd. (NATS--a wholly owned subsidiary of the CAA) fully recognise the importance of addressing the year 2000 issue. In May 1996, NATS began reviewing its operational computer systems, and work is now in hand to

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implement the necessary remedial action prior to the start of validation testing in September 1998.

NATS has covered some 700 pieces of equipment in the review. A number of solutions to potential problems are available, and each piece of equipment will need to be evaluated to determine which solution is the most appropriate in terms of cost effectiveness. Options for possible solutions are based on system or component replacement, modification of existing software or changes in the way the equipment is operated. NATS believes the technical issues are in themselves relatively simple to resolve. It is the number of potential changes required, the amount of testing, the short deadline and financial and staffing restraints which present the biggest challenge.

In addition to the NATS review of air traffic control and related systems, the CAA's Safety Regulation Group (SRG) initiated a study in May 1997 to identify the scale and nature of the problem in all their applications, including those which are safety critical. The study will look at any equipment containing a microprocessor chip, personal computer hardware and software, all other computer systems and paper forms, whether provided by CAA or by external suppliers. The study will set implementation dates for solutions to any problems encountered, which SRG has undertaken to meet.

SRG, along with the other CAA Groups (Economic Regulation and Directorate of Airspace Policy) and NATS, is also part of the CAA Year 2000 Liaison Working Group, which has met representatives of the US Federal Aviation Administration and will work with them at future meetings in order to share experiences and plans.

The Government are monitoring closely the steps the CAA and NATS are taking to ensure a smooth transition. Between now and the date of implementation of all solutions, progress reports will be requested and examined.

I would also refer the noble Lord to the reply the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State gave to the honourable member for Crewe and Nantwich, on 19 June 1997 (Official Report, Vol. 296, col. 277).


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