Commission makes U-turn in row over bus seat belts

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The Independent Online
THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION backtracked in its row with Robert Key, the roads minister, over the compulsory fitting of seat belts in coaches.

In the wake of Wednesday's accident that killed nine tourists and the driver, Mr Key complained that the commission had prevented Britain introducing compulsory belts. The head of the commission's transport directorate retorted on ITN's Channel Four News that nothing in EU law prevented Britain from introducing the legislation.

But yesterday a commission spokesman admitted legislation in Britain would be unenforceable. He said: 'Under the single-market rules, until other member states are prepared to legislate too, it remains the case that imported European- manufactured coaches, or indeed UK manufactured vehicles, can point to the existing law and say they are conforming to EU norms,' he said. The UK would have to agree because it was party to the legislation establishing those norms. Compulsory seat belts in coaches and buses were first mooted in 1988 by the commission, but only Britain, Germany and Denmark gave wholehearted support.

The consultant who treated the victims at the roadside said seat belts might have saved all the lives. Dr Susan Brooks, of the Kent and Canterbury hospital, said: 'They would not have been thrown around. They would have stood a better chance of survival if these people had been restrained in their seats and stayed inside the coach . . . The framework of the coach did not collapse.'

Yesterday, 10 people were still in hospital but none was in a serious condition. The driver was named as Leslie Golds of Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, and the tour guide, the only other Briton, as David Phillips. He was released after treatment for minor injuries.

The US embassy named the nine tourists, all American, who died as: Elizabeth Roguz, of Florida; Debra Becnel of Lafayette, Louisiana; Frances Lynn Becnel-Hubbard of Houston, Texas; Carolyn Calabrese and Shirley Smith, both of Newtown, Connecticut; Carolyn and Harry Faull of Dearborn, Michigan; Jill McCartney of Texas; Caroline Martin-Stokes of Hamden, Connecticut.

Leading article and letters, page 17

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