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Road Haulage Permits

Volume 981: debated on Wednesday 19 March 1980

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9.

asked the Minister of Transport if he is satisfied with the effects of the distribution scheme for road haulage permits for British transport companies operating in France.

There are not enough French permits to meet demand, and the effects of any rationing scheme are bound to be unsatisfactory. I take every opportunity to press for increases, and for the eventual abolition of all quotas. Meanwhile I expect very shortly to announce new measures to assist firms which have genuine difficulty in acquiring permits.

I welcome my right hon. Friend's reply. Is he aware that the paucity of permits is having a damaging effect on our road transport industry? Can he tell me how it is possible, given that we are members of the Common Market, for one member of the Market to impose a restrictive transport policy and for leading citizens of that country to seek to give us lessons on what being a good member of the Common Market entails?

I have great sympathy with that point of view. It is exactly the view that I seek to put in Europe. Let me make clear that we want no such restrictions. We have been successful in negotiating increases in the permit quota — 24 per cent. in the current year in relation to France. I do not disagree when my hon. Friend says that the final goal must be the abolition of such restrictions.

Would we not be in a better position to negotiate satisfactory conditions for our transport industry if we were not in the EEC at all?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that companies that have been in breach of the regulations in some minuscule way are forever banned from getting these permits? Is he also aware that when a limited company has a legal entity of its own, but a common directorship with another limited company, with a separate legal entity, that second company suffers from any ban on the first? Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that, with all the expertise of the drivers involved, the situation is causing great loss and hardship? Will he look at that aspect of the linking of companies, which is wrong and illegal?

We want to make the system as flexible as we can and I undertake to look at that matter.