He announced that:
the UK is to act ahead of the EU and seek agreement to introduce compulsory fitment of seat belts to all minibuses and coaches used specifically for the transport of children;
he is to request the European Commission to set the shortest possible timetable to require seat belts on all new minibuses and coaches;
operators are to be again encouraged to fit belts to existing fleets where practicable;
the three for two concession for children where seat belts are fitted is to be ended;
The announcement follows a study by DTp road safety experts into the technical and cost implications of compulsory fitment of belts in minibuses and coaches.
The report demonstrates the strength of the case for compulsory fitment as a standard for all European manufacturers.
Mr MacGregor said:
'The government is totally committed to safety on the roads. Deaths and serious injuries are now at their lowest level since records began.
'Mile for mile, it is already twice as safe to travel by minibus and coach as by car.
'Many schools and voluntary organisations have already fitted seat belts in minibuses and coaches and virtually all new minibuses now coming off the production lines have seat belts fitted.
'The department has had standards for the fitment of seat belts in new and existing minibuses and coaches in place since 1987 and has been urging operators, wherever possible, to take action for nearly four years.
'Further action is however required, and after full consideration of the technical study, today's measures will provide for that. I am particularly concerned to introduce new measures to minimise the risks to children .
'There has been support from the insurance industry for the department's action.'
The Department of Transport has just finished consulting on a number of proposals resulting from the second EC Directive on Driver Licensing.
the introduction of more stringent requirements on competence and health tests for minibus drivers and a decision on whether drivers in the voluntary sector should continue to be exempted from such standards;
the requirement that from 1 July 1996, new drivers who pass their car driving test would no longer have automatic entitlement to drive a minibus without taking an additional test.
The views of the voluntary sector, as well as road safety and other interests, will be fully taken into account in reaching a decision, Mr MacGregor said.