Karin Smyth MP responds to Joint Spatial Plan delay

The Joint Spatial Plan which lays out the proposals for house building across the region has been put on hold as central government officials demand more justification for the location of development. Bristol South MP Karin Smyth has written to the relevant Minister to seek assurances that this will not impact the application for funding from the Housing Infrastructure Fund. See full letter below.

Government releases report into trailer safety as result of campaign by Bristol South MP Karin Smyth and family of Freddie Hussey

The government has released an important report into trailer safety in the UK in response an ongoing campaign by Bristol South MP Karin Smyth and the parents of 3-year-old Freddie Hussey who died when he was hit by a runaway trailer in Bedminster in 2014.

Working closely with Donna and Scott Hussey, Karin has been pushing for action in Parliament to address the problem of ill-fitted and faulty trailers as well as raising awareness among motorists.  In April, Karin launched the new All Party Parliamentary Group on Trailer and Towing Safety, which will consider the report in its next meeting in September.

Both the Hussey family and Karin have welcomed the report as a key step forward in the campaign and the report’s author Michael Ellis MP, Minister of State for the Department of Transport, in turn thanked the Hussey family and Karin for their role in improving trailer safety.

“No family should have to go through what Freddie’s family has,” said Karin, “We’ve seen some significant progress this year with the launch of the new trailer and towing safety parliamentary group and I’m really pleased that the government now recognises the importance of improving trailer safety. This report marks another crucial step in protecting families in Bristol South and across the country from further harm by defective trailers.”

Until now, there was a lack of data to show the full extent of the problem but following Karin’s intervention to secure an amendment to the Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Act 2018, the government pledged to gather this information. The report released today is the result of this.

Data gathered from 2017 showed that there were 20 collisions involving trailers which resulted in injury or death and which were a result of a vehicle defect; something which would’ve been identifiable if present at testing. It is recognised that this figure may be higher as it is based on current reporting methods, which may not capture every relevant incident.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) carried out hundreds of spot checks over a six month period to help inform the report – analysis of this revealed that half of the light trailers (between 750 and 3,500 kgs) stopped did not comply with basic safety standards.

Karin said: “As soon as we started looking into trailer safety, it became clear that the Hussey’s weren’t the only family to have lost a loved one due to faulty trailers. The latest figures have confirmed what we suspected. The report estimates 1.4 million trailers are in use in the UK – many of which are light trailers – if half of these are defective, that poses a huge risk to road users. We need action to address this before another family has to suffer.”

“It is clear, including from roadside checks by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) undertaken for this report, that many light trailers are used on public roads in a defective state,” said Mr Ellis. “A focus must be maintained on driving up the safety of these trailers.”

The report went on to look at the existing laws and guidelines around trailers and considers whether these are sufficient in light of a number of tragic incidents involving trailers, including the death of young Freddie.

The report explores ways to improve these standards – considering registration and testing requirements, but deems this not to be a cost-effective way of reducing the number of trailer related incidents, most of which it puts down to driver error.

It instead suggests that awareness raising and more spot checks could help – commending the #TowSafe4Freddie campaign launched in Freddie’s memory as a great example of this. The DVSA will continue to undertake checks, including more caravans over the summer months, to check compliance.

Karin said: “I very much welcome this report which outlines some of the main issues and offers us a valuable first step in gathering relevant data to gain insight into the extent of the problem of defective trailers. I thank the Minister for giving this the attention it deserves and his team for creating a comprehensive first look at the issue. However, it is clear that more data is needed. The report noted that more caravans use the roads in the summer months than in the winter when the DVSA carried out these checks.”

Donna and Scott Hussey said: “We were initially disappointed that, despite 50 per cent of light trailers being found to be defective, the government had no plans for registration or testing. The report clearly shows there is a problem with unsafe trailers and proved the need for safety checks. We are pleased that the government has collected the data and delighted that further checks will now take place to gather a truer figure, which we believe may be even higher. We don’t think the government should rule out registration and testing.

“When this first happened, and as the police investigation grew and after the court case, we had so many questions such as why was a trailer with a faulty hitch allowed to go out on the road in the first place. We couldn’t understand how, in a health and safety conscious country, there was no requirement on what was classed as a small trailer to be checked. We can only hope that, after collecting further data, change will come and this can be prevented from happening again, as sadly we know it has happened before and since.

“It’s heart-breaking that this could have been prevented and we would still have our beautiful son. He would be coming up his 9th birthday and we can’t imagine how different life would be. We have missed out on so much and seeing our son grow up over something that could have been prevented. The only positive is that we can prevent this happening to another family and save lives in Freddie’s name and memory. There is still a lot of work that can be done.”

Karin added: “I’m pleased that the report includes consideration of compulsory registration and testing and recognises that this is required in several other European countries, including Italy. I don’t think we should be ruling this out. I know that the Hussey family is keen to explore this further and it’s something we will discuss again at the next trailer and towing APPG in the autumn.”

Mr Ellis concluded the report, saying: “This report is an important milestone with data underpinning it and is not itself an endpoint in the consideration of how to improve public safety effectively in relation to light trailers. I look forward to working together with those involved in trailer safety to ensure that momentum is maintained in this area, and that trailer safety continues to improve.”

You can read the full report here:

New trailer safety group launches in Parliament thanks to campaign by Bristol South MP and local family

Karin Smyth MP at the 2018 trailer summit in Bristol – part of an ongoing campaign

Bristol South MP Karin Smyth is pleased to be chairing the inaugural meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Trailer and Towing Safety in Westminster on Tuesday 30 April 2019. 

The creation of this cross-party group is a significant step forward in the campaign to improve trailer safety. As part of the meeting, The National Towing Working Group, chaired by Highways England, will be launching their first ever Safety Framework, with the aim of reducing towing-related incidents, both business and leisure related, across the GB road network. 

It follows two Trailer Safety Summits, which Karin hosted in her Bristol South constituency in 2017 and 2018, an amendment to the Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Act requiring the government to collect data on trailer related incidents and ongoing talks with the government’s Road Safety Minister Jesse Norman MP over further potential changes to legislation. 

Karin first spoke about the issue in Parliament in 2016 after meeting with constituents Donna and Scott Hussey – who lost their 3-year-old son Freddie when he was hit by a trailer that had come loose from a vehicle in Bedminster in 2014.  

Thanks to Karin’s work with the Hussey family, the DVSA went on to release new guidelines for towing safety and launched the #TowSafe4Freddie campaign to help raise awareness among drivers. Karin has since teamed up with the National Trailer and Towing Association (NTTA) to promote free roadside safety checks for trailers, but believes more is needed to protect road users and pedestrians – which is why she has launched the new APPG. 

The APPG brings together MPs from the main political parties, industry representatives and consumer groups to explore the issue of trailer and towing safety. The group, for which the National Caravan Council (NCC) is the secretariat, will discuss a programme of work for the future and will, this summer, discuss the Department for Transport’s Trailer Safety Report, which will be published in July as a result of Karin’s intervention last year (2018). 

Karin said: “Working with the Hussey family, I’ve been able to bring this important issue to Westminster. We’ve come a long way since I first spoke about the issue in Parliament and, with the launch of the APPG, I’m pleased to see the concerns we have getting the attention they need. It paves the way for the changes needed in the area of towing safety over the coming months and years.  

“These incidents are far too common and what has become clear during this ongoing campaign is that drivers are often unaware just how dangerous towing without the correct safety measures can be. That needs to change and thanks to our ongoing campaign and work with the likes of the NCC and NTTA, it will. I don’t want to see other families suffer in the way that young Freddie’s family has.”  

Freddie’s mum Donna said: “While it has always been difficult for us to comprehend what happened to Freddie, we made a promise to each other and to Freddie that we would do all we could to make sure this issue is given the serious consideration it deserves.  

“I did not realise it was an issue before it happened, but afterwards I started to look into it and saw that there were 2-3 incidents a week. We realised then that it was a real problem. In our case, if that trailer had been serviced they would’ve known that the hitch was not secured correctly. Had the driver realised there was a problem, he might not have gone out that day. People need to know that going out without the correct safety checks, you’re taking a big risk. 

“We are really pleased that Karin has supported us and, thanks to her efforts, all parties are now working together to make the necessary changes happen and hopefully prevent similar tragedies. We couldn’t have done it without her. If our hard work saves one life, then it is worth it. No family should go through what we have been through. We are determined to see this through in memory of Freddie.”  

“We are really pleased that Karin has supported us and, thanks to her efforts, all parties are now working together to make the necessary changes happen and hopefully prevent similar tragedies. We couldn’t have done it without her. If our hard work saves one life, then it is worth it. No family should go through what we have been through. We are determined to see this through in memory of Freddie.” 

Alicia Dunne of the NCC said they were pleased to be taking a key role in this new APPG, adding: “The NCC has consistently been an advocate of trailer safety education and awareness, and we look forward to helping Karin and the group develop practical, proportionate and effective measures aimed at improving trailer and towing safety for all UK road users.” 

Bristol South MP Karin Smyth opposes plans for new Whitchurch link road

Bristol South MP Karin Smyth was last week asked to support the regional Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) Bid, which is seeking £250 million of Government funding for infrastructure improvements to sustain the building of more homes in the region. “There are some great transport initiatives in there to boost the number of passengers using Bristol Temple Meads railway station and improved pedestrian and cycle routes, which I fully support,” said Karin. “But the proposals also include a new road from the A37 to Whitchurch Lane, which I and local residents oppose. “

Karin requested clarification around possible alternatives to this road, plans to reduce car use in the city – not plan for more, but received no further details of these ahead of submission of the final bid this week.  She says: “The draft application suggests this new road could see 20,000 vehicles a day on Whitchurch Lane – driving past homes and a primary school. Thousands of local people have told me they are worried about pollution, road safety and the impact on wildlife and I share these concerns.”

Almost 1,000 letters of opposition to the new road proposal were delivered to The West of England Combined Authority (WECA) just last week, as the consultation for the Joint Local Transport Plan closed. Karin said: “It is premature to include such a widely-opposed new road in this bid without taking stock of these views and the wider picture.

“There are growing concerns over air quality in Bristol, with 300 deaths a year linked to emissions. Air pollution has been shown to contribute to a range of health problems, including impaired lung development in babies and young children, asthma and lung cancer with newer research indicating a link to diabetes, heart disease and dementia. We know that the main cause of air pollution in Bristol is traffic. Bristol South already suffers from some of the highest levels of ill-health in the city and this new road, and the thousands of polluting vehicles coming into the area, would exacerbate that. Health and housing are both very important and one should not come at the expense of the other.”

Both Bristol City Council and Bath & North East Somerset Council recently declared a Climate Emergency, with the Labour Party urging the government to recognise a national Climate Emergency in Parliament this week. Both councils are looking at introducing Clean Air Zones in the city centres to address poor air quality. Bristol City Council is this week writing to the government about its overdue Air Quality Plan, the full detail of which is yet to be made public. “Pressing ahead with this ill-conceived road plan and inviting 20,000 cars into Bristol South goes against the city’s obligation to improve air quality,” said Karin. “For these reasons, I will not support plans for this road and cannot support this bid in its current guise.”

Karin has spoken to the Minister responsible for Housing and Planning and plans to meet with him next week to discuss this further. She added: “I will continue to press for the homes and infrastructure we need here in Bristol South. This new road is not the answer.”

Karin Smyth MP’s submission to the Transport Committee on local bus services

I submitted evidence to the House of Commons Transport Committee when they visited Bristol in November to evaluate the health of the bus market.

My view is that local representatives should have the same powers as the Mayor of London, and be able to set bus routes, timetables and fares. This would mean buses run for passengers and not profit.

Many residents of south Bristol contact me with concerns about the reliability, fares and routes of buses, and I continue to represent your views to the bus companies and the local authority.

Bristol South needs a decent public transport service to keep us moving and improve air quality.