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Volume 941: debated on Wednesday 14 December 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he is taking to implement EEC regulations on the subject of tachographs; and if he will make a statement.

I have nothing to add to my previous statements or to my comments earlier this afternoon.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that, as promised to the EEC, he will be introducing tachographs as part of the implementation of the agreement on drivers' hours and distances from 1st January 1978?

There are two separate issues. One issue relates to the general obligation that lies upon the United Kingdom to introduce the tachograph. I have explained to the House before all the obstacles that I see in moving in that direction. The second issue concerns a somewhat different provision, namely, the use of the tachograph for articulated vehicles when driven over 450 km. The obligation is not to fit a tachograph but to carry a tachograph or a double crew for journeys of over 450 km. That is not quite as simple and is not in the same category as the earlier matter. That provision will be in force from 1st January.

Irrespective of the merits of these devices, will my right hon. Friend consider the lack of restriction on hours of work in non-driving occupations before the driving hours start? Is it correct, for example, that a person may work hard at loading a vehicle for a number of hours and that that work will not count against the allocation later shown by the tachograph?

That relates less to the use of the tachograph and more to the general question of drivers' hours and the rolling week. These are complicated matters. At the moment I think that the House is primarily concerned with the problem of the 450 km provision. I accept that this is a problem, but there are remedies to it. It concerns a very small part of the total road haulage industry.

Surely the Secretary of State will accept that the employment of two drivers as an alternative to the tachograph will push up costs and that it is unrealistic to put it forward as a suggestion to the road haulage industry. What help, if any, will the Government give to assist in the resolving of the clear difficulties that have to be faced with the trade unions over the introduction of the tachograph on a voluntary basis? The industry will have regarded the right hon. Gentleman's answers up to now as totally unsatisfactory.

That remains to be seen. I am in close touch with members of the industry. I shall know what they have to say to me when I meet them. I think that have a meeting with them tomorrow afternoon. I am not so sure that they will take the harsh line that the hon. Gentleman suggests. It is not for me to make suggestions to the industry about what it should do about the tachograph and the 450 km limit. This is a question, first, of the law and, secondly, of negotiation for those parts of the industry that are affected. There is the larger question that I mentioned earlier, of the long-term future of the tachograph. No proposals on that have been made to me by the industry to the effect that it wants to see a change.