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Tachograph Regulations (Scottish Islands)

Volume 981: debated on Wednesday 19 March 1980

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14.

asked the Minister of Transport if he has made any progress towards exempting the Scottish Islands from the European Economic Community tachograph regulations.

The United Kingdom cannot unilaterally make exemptions from the EEC tachograph regulation. We have, however, included in our domestic regulations special provisions designed to meet the difficulties of the Scottish Islands as far as possible.

Will my hon. Friend try to persuade the EEC to make exemptions to the regulation, such as the United Kingdom has done over the years in respect of our plating and testing regulations without causing any damage? I would have thought that it would not break the Common Market to make similar exemptions for the Islands.

There are a number of changes that we would like to see in the EEC regulation. We shall probably best be able to negotiate on those changes once the regulation is in force in this country. It has been a weakness in our negotiating position in the past that we have delayed so long before complying with the law. Before we can make any amendment to the regulation, we are proceeding with preparation of the remote area standards scheme for calibration which, we hope, will ease problems in remote areas like the Western Isles.

Is the Minister aware that, in the Scottish Islands, because of the distances and the ferry timetables, journeys that would take a few hours on the mainland can take up to two days? The use of the tachograph in such circumstances would be extremely disadvantageous. If the EEC will not agree to exemption, will he deal with the matter in the same way as the French would deal with it?

We are concerned that the remote area scheme should be of some use to hauliers in the area. I am glad to be able to tell the right hon. Gentleman that one of the tachograph manufacturers has informed us that it intends to seek approval to provide calibration services on Orkney and Shetland and at such places as Oban, Wick, Tain, Fort William, Campbeltown, Galashiels, Kelso and Aberlour. The journeys that hauliers have to make may not be so long and difficult as the right hon. Gentleman contemplates.

Following the admirable example of Rhodesia, would it not be a good idea if these Islands established their independence?

Sitting alongside the right hon. Gentleman is the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart), who is the only Member of the House who agrees with the right hon. Gentleman. I do not think that the tachograph is the best argument even for Scottish nationalism.