Pupils launch seat-belt test case

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THREE children are taking a county council to court in a battle to have seat-belts fitted in school buses. In a test case that could have national implications, the Harris family will argue that all children using school buses should be belted in and have a seat each.

Angharad, 12, Myfanwy, nine, and Patrick, six, used to travel to primary school in Gwent with 15 other children in a 12-seat minibus. They sat three to a double seat, and Angharad had to hold on to the smaller children to stop them being flung forward whenever the bus stopped suddenly.

Their mother, Pat Harris, now takes the two younger children to primary school by car but Angharad goes to secondary school in a coach with no seat-belts. Gwent County Council says it is complying with the safety regulations: there is no obligation for minibuses or coaches to have seat-belts except in exposed front seats, and children do not have to have a seat each.

The family will argue that the council is acting unreasonably in refusing to fit seat-belts.

Mrs Harris has launched a national campaign, Belt Up for School Kids, and will present a petition of more than 100,000 signatures to her Conservative MP, Roger Evans, at the House of Commons this week, calling for an individual seat with a seat-belt for each child and for a code of practice on school-transport safety.

The campaign, along with recent tragedies such as the M40 minibus crash in which 13 people died, has already prompted government action. Robert Key, the transport minister, announced a review of the regulations on seat-belts in coaches and minibuses.