PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES

HOUSE OF COMMONS

OFFICIAL REPORT

First Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments &c.

DRAFT PUSHCHAIRS (SAFETY) REGULATIONS 1985

Tuesday 26 November 1985

LONDON

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The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Mr. Ted Leadbitter (in the Chair)

Barnett, Mr. Guy (Greenwich)

Bottomley, Mrs. Virginia (Surrey, South-West)

Bright, Mr. Graham (Luton, South)

Brown, Mr. Robert C. (Newcastle upon Tyne, North)

Burt, Mr. Alistair (Bury, North)

Caborn, Mr. Richard (Sheffield, Central)

Gale, Mr. Roger (Thanet, North)

Godman, Dr. Norman A. (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

Greenway, Mr. Harry (Ealing, North)

Hancock, Mr. Michael (Portsmouth, South)

Hannam, Mr. John (Exeter)

Hawkins, Mr. Christopher (High Peak)

Hayward, Mr. Rob (Kingswood)

Hind, Mr. Kenneth (Lancashire, West)

Howard, Mr. Michael (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry)

Nellist, Mr. Dave (Coventry, South-East)

Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey (Coventry, North-West)

Thompson, Mr. Donald (Calder Valley)

Mr. C. Wookey (Committee Clerk)

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3 First Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Tuesday 26 November 1985

[MR. TED LEADBITTER in the Chair]

Draft Pushchairs (Safety) Regulations 1985

10.30 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Trade and Industry (Mr. Michael Howard): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the draft Pushchairs (Safety) Regulations 1985. We already have safety regulations on pushchairs—and on perambulators—which were made in 1978. Those regulations—the Perambulators and Pushchairs (Safety) Regulations 1978 made under the Consumer Protection Act 1961—set requirements for pushchairs relating to parking devices, stability, harness attachment points, and locking devices for folding pushchairs. The requirements referred to are contained in British Standard 4792: 1972, Safety Requirements for Pushchairs. For some considerable time anxiety has been expressed by enforcement authorities, consumers and the media that these requirements are inadequate to deal with the problems exhibited by the more modern lightweight pushchairs. Since the 1978 regulations were made, the emphasis on the design of pushchairs has shifted from the heavyweight and robust type to the adaptable, convenient but lightweight version. In practice this has meant that many pushchairs cannot withstand the wear and tear of everyday use. Common failings include failure of welds and rivets, shearing of cross-bars and other metal parts, and wheels dropping off. Moreover, parking devices on some swivel-wheeled pushchairs have been found to be inadequate. A major revision of British Standard 4792's safety requirements was, therefore, undertaken, and a new standard was published by the British Standards Institution on 31 May 1984. It sets endurance tests and additional strength tests which experience has shown to be essential in the interests of safety, and contains new proposals on parking devices, marking, construction and materials and instructions on safe use and maintenance. My predecessor agreed to the making of revised pushchair safety regulations calling up the whole of this new British Standard for the technical requirements. A consultation process has been carried out and confirmed that there is general support for the new regulations from all United Kingdom interests, including suppliers, consumers, local authorities, medical experts and the media, and I am glad to be able to propose them to the Committee. They will come into operation on 1 June 1986. The existing perambulators legislation will remain, as a revised British Standard for perambulators is still being formulated by the relevant technical committee of the British Standards Institution. The reason that these new regulations have not been introduced earlier is the intervention of the 4 European Commission. The United Kingdom's proposals were notified to it under the terms of directive 83/189/EEC in October 1984 and the automatic three months embargo on further action came to an end on 30 January 1985. On that day the Commission notified member states of its intention to propose a directive relating to the control of chemical substances, dangerous to health, where these substances are present in objects manifestly intended for children. It considered that pushchairs would be covered by its proposal and that article 9(2) of directive 83/189/EEC obliged the United Kingdom to postpone making the regulations until 30 October 1985, the maximum delay allowed under this directive. Subsequently, in a letter dated 20 March 1985, the Commission notified the Government that it considered that the United Kingdom's proposed Pushchairs (Safety) Regulations would hamper the free movement of goods between member states in breach of article 30 of the treaty of Rome. The Government replied that the proposed regulations were needed on grounds of public health and safety and were thus fully warranted under article 36 of the treaty. I consider that in view of the known accidents involving pushchairs these regulations are fully justified and should be introduced without further delay. I invite the Committee to consider the Regulations.

Mr. Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry, North-West): It would not be right for me to delay the Committee unduly this morning. The Opposition generally welcome the proposed legislation, and I should like to thank the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the brevity and succinctness with which he introduced it to us. However, may I put a few points to him before we adjourn this morning? I am sure that there is no question of us having a vote. The Minister spoke of consultation. Can we take it that the manufacturing industry involved has been fully consulted on the new standards and can meet them? We welcome the fact that having delayed the introduction of the measure from the spring when his predecessor had originally wished to introduce it, he has gone ahead despite the absurd reservations of the EEC Commission. Equally, we welcome the fact that the British industry will now be required to meet certain standards which are not in general application throughout the Community: I hope that that will not put it at any disadvantage. Perhaps the Minister can assure us that it can meet those standards and confirm that we have now moved ahead of the rest of the Community in setting standards of safety, durability and strength for pushchairs which could perhaps improve our industry's ability to compete within the Community. The Minister will doubtless be aware of the other points that were raised, for example, in the Which? report of 1982 which examined pushchairs, buggies and similar products. The Minister referred to endurance and strength. However, several makes of pushchair failed to meet the tests that Which? had set for them. Could he therefore assure us that the other aspects raised in the Which? report, notably on brakes, harnesses, stability and folding and unfolding have been dealt with in the new standards?

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Mr. Howard: I am grateful to the hon. Member for Coventry, North-West (Mr. Robinson) for his welcome for these regulations. I can confirm that manufacturers were fully consulted about the need for them and the date on which they come into operation. I foresee no difficulty in their being able to meet that date. I can also confirm that we hope that the manufacturers will see their need to comply with the standards as affording them a competitive advantage in domestic and export markets. They will be able to take credit for the fact that a higher degree of safety will be afforded by the products for which they are responsible. I have no doubt that the contents of the Which? 6 report were fully taken into account by those responsible for drawing up the relevant British standard and that where they considered it necessary to deal with the points that he raised they have been incorporated in the standard.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That the Committee has considered the draft Pushchairs (Safety) Regulations 1985.

Committee rose at twenty-three minutes to Eleven o'clock.

THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:

Leadbitter, Mr. Ted (Chairman)

Bottomley, Mrs. Virginia

Bright, Mr. Graham

Burt, Mr. Alistair

Gale, Mr. Roger

Godman, Dr. Norman A.

Greenway, Mr. Harry

Hannam, Mr. John

Hayward, Mr. Robert

Howard, Mr. Michael

Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey

Thompson, Mr. Donald