Government whip slaps down helmet compulsion bid

Lord Davies of Oldham, the deputy chief whip in the House of Lords and a former president of the Royal Society of the Prevention of Accidents, this week rebutted an amendment to the Road Safety Bill calling for compulsory helmets for children under 16. Lord Davies said the "compulsory use of helmets might reduce cycling, which would be a loss to the nation."
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The Road Safety Bill is going through the final committee stage in the House of Lords.

Lord Swinfen wanted to add an amendment, entitled 'causing or permitting a child under 16 to ride a cycle on the road without protective headgear.'

This was discussed by the Lords on Wednesday, with the standard heavily-disputed statistics being wheeled out to support the cause for compulsion. See BikeBiz.com passim.

Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen, the current president of RoSPA, said she supported the amendment because "the saving of one child from death or injury would prove the worth of the amendment."

Lord Berkeley pointed out that were this emotive argument to be carried to its logical conclusion, pedestrians and motorists should also be forced to wear helmets.

"We must a look at the proposal in a proportionate way," said Lord Berkeley. "Why do we not make all pedestrians wear helmets because they might be run over by a car? We have to stop somewhere."

Lord Berkeley agrees that wearing a helmet while cycling is sensible and is to be commended to all but that an imposition to do so should not be enshrined in law.

However, Lord Davies of Oldham, speaking for the government, said the amendment, while laudable, should not be carried:

"I have some difficulty in accepting the notion of the compulsory wearing of helmets. We are concerned to increase cycling. It is healthy for children. It is an excellent way of getting about. We want to encourage it. Increased exercise is a major part of our strategy to deal with child obesity. Cycling is an excellent form of exercise so we want children on their bikes.

"We are fearful that if we indicate that you cannot get on your bike without a helmet the use of cycles will decrease and that will be our loss in so many ways.

"The compulsory use of helmets might reduce cycling, which would be a loss to the nation."


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