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Lorry Drivers (Working Hours)

Volume 931: debated on Wednesday 11 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions he has had with the EEC Transport Ministers on the question of drivers' hours and distances.

Since the last meeting of the EEC Council of Transport Ministers on 16th December I have had informal meetings with several colleagues. There have been regular discussions at official level in preparation for the next Council meeting, which is planned for next month.

At the next meeting of EEC Transport Ministers, will the right hon. Gentleman impress upon his fellow Ministers the fact that implementation by this country of Community Regulations 534 and 642 is liable to cause substantial disruption to freight transportation and a substantial increase in rail fares? Will he urge that there should be considerable changes made to these orders and urge upon the Leader of the House that we should debate the matter soon?

My right hon. Friend will have heard the hon. Gentleman's question. We had a discussion on 4th April on various matters relating to drivers' hours in the EEC and there may not be a great deal of parliamentary time in the immediate future in which to discuss the matter again. I agree with what the hon. Gentleman said. This is a matter of great concern to our road haulage industry and it is something on which we shall have to negotiate to get the best possible deal. I shall be acting in the spirit suggested by the hon. Gentleman.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the introduction of tachographs, and if I were persuaded that accidents? Will he consider their introduction, despite the opposition from certain quarters?

My hon. Friend is not referring to the regulations affecting drivers' hours and distances travelled. There are many arguments concerning tachographs, and if I were persuaded that they would have a significant effect on road safety I might have dealt with the matter in different terms. I am not convinced that they are more central to road safety than are many other matters to which we could give much higher priority.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what is the Government's estimate of the total cost that would be likely to fall on our bus and road haulage industries if the Community requirements on drivers' hours were implemented in full?

It is difficult to say. I have tried to get estimates that convince me, and the industry has its own views. It could be more thanĀ£100 million.