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Vehicle Testing Stations

Volume 35: debated on Wednesday 19 January 1983

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11.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he has now concluded an agreement with Lloyd's Register on the future of heavy goods vehicles and public service vehicles test stations.

Discussions with Lloyd's Register of Shipping are at an advanced stage but we are not yet in a position to announce final agreement. I hope to be able to come to the House with further news soon.

Is the Minister aware that she is in grave danger of tedious repetition by coming to the House month after month saying that she hopes to announce agreement soon? Why are the discussions taking so long, especially since the most recent Transport Act was passed only because it was said that agreement would be reached soon? Will she give a categoric assurance that the terms and conditions for staff, including the entitlement to any redundancy payments, will be fully protected with regard to the state of those conditions as and when the Bill passed through the House?

If the hon. Gentleman continues to ask me the same question when he knows that proceedings will take a little longer, he will receive the same answer. However, I wish to reassure him that the terms and conditions available to vehicle testing staff are still under discussion. I firmly believe that it is important to get this right, which is perhaps why it has taken longer—since November when the Bill received Royal Assent—than the hon. Gentleman hoped for. We have made it clear that we shall consider the possibility of special compensation if, in the event, terms for transferring are significantly less favourable than those at present available. The question of redundancy procedures and payments should not thus arise for those who transfer.

Is the Minister aware that when she has to come to the House to give the same answer each time she does a great deal of damage to the morale of all those who work in the vehicle testing centres, who do not like and are unhappy about all the uncertainty? Is it not high time that she improved their morale by letting them know now where they stand rather than promising reports in the future?

This is the second month in which the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) has asked his question. I have said that we are proceeding thoroughly with these discussions because they are fundamentally important. I am afraid that I must disagree with the hon. Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett). Morale is good in the heavy goods vehicle testing stations. We look forward to a continuation of their good work under the new system when the transfer takes place.