Debate on trailer safety follows death of Bedminster child

Devolution intervention Oct 15 2015A Bristol MP will lead a Parliamentary debate today (19 January) on laws governing the safety of trailers attached to vehicles, following the tragic death of a three year-old Bedminster child.

Freddie Hussey was killed in January 2014 as he and his mother, Donna, walked home along Parson Street after dropping off Freddie’s older brother at school. A two tonne trailer became detached from a Land Rover and careered across the pavement, fatally crushing Freddie.

Shortly after becoming Bristol South MP in May 2015, Karin Smyth took up the family’s case and today will directly question the Transport Minister, who will respond, in a public adjournment debate.

“Through no fault of their own, Scott and Donna Hussey found themselves facing every parent’s worst nightmare,” Karin Smyth said. “Like many other Bristol residents I still remember where I was when I heard the awful news of Freddie’s death. The depth and cruelty of the disaster felt almost unreal: shattering the very special home-to-school journey thousands of Bristol parents make every day.”

The focus of today’s debate will be the legislative position surrounding the roadworthiness of trailers – and the ability of a driver to ensure safe attachment. Freddie’s parents are calling for a roadworthiness MOT-type test to be introduced. Karin Smyth says her primary objective is to articulate the views of Freddie’s parents and those who have supported their calls for the law to be changed.

“Having experienced this personal tragedy, they have impressed upon me their absolute determination that some good comes from Freddie’s death, and that other families should not be forced to undergo the same nightmare,” she said.

“Since taking up the case on their behalf, I have been very disappointed by the written replies I have received from the Transport Minister when I have probed the pros and cons of the change they would like to see. Andrew Jones’s responses to date failed to give answers to key questions posed and in fact begged further questions.

“It cannot be right that a family that has suffered so much has no voice – that they must endure the tragedy and all that has followed and will follow in months and years to come, without being given answers about how others can be spared similar horrors.

“So I’ve called this debate to articulate their experiences and to publicly raise the profile of a vital road safety issue which I believe is far more widespread and potentially life-threatening than might at first seem to be the case.

“When they first contacted me in June 2015 the family provided information about a number of similar incidents that had come to their attention since Freddie’s death, and they have added to these since – for example in North Yorkshire, Kent, Essex, Tameside, Dorset and Somerset. Luckily none resulted in death or serious injury. They assure me that many more similar incidents have come to light – this is far from uncommon. The work they have undertaken to highlight the issue means they have been alerted to new trailer danger incidents on an ongoing basis by a network of people across the country who share their concerns.”

Karin Smyth said she is not calling for the government to immediately introduce a compulsory MOT test for trailers. “I do expect the government to set out the comparative position of UK law compared with other countries which DO have roadworthiness tests for towed trailers, and to outline what measures – legislative or otherwise – Ministers believe can be enacted to further protect public safety.

“I also want to pay tribute to my constituents for their dignified response to a disaster which saw them hoist into the public eye.

“My constituents know they cannot rewrite history, but they want to help shape a better future and to do all they can to help avoid any other families suffering as they do.”

The special debate will take place in Westminster Hall at 4pm, Tuesday 19 January, opened by Karin Smyth, with Andrew Jones, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, responding for the government.

The family deserve and expect to be allowed to continue to reflect on the tragedy that ripped apart their lives without any intrusive media interest, and Karin Smyth expresses in anticipation her thanks to media representatives for their understanding and respecting that. Any attempted direct media contact with the family will be referred directly to the MP.