My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress has been made with consultations with operators concerning draft regulations for the testing of public service vehicles; and whether there have been consultations with operators on proposed changes for testing heavy goods vehicles.
My Lords, my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport published a policy paper in August which proposed new arrangements for the testing of both passenger vehicles and heavy goods vehicles. The paper was circulated widely throughout the road haulage and passenger transport industries, and a programme of consultative meetings is now under way. My right honourable friend hopes to circulate draft regulations on the new bus testing arrangements early next year.
My Lords, while I thank the noble Lord for that reply, is it not a fact that the Government's proposals for privatisation of the testing of both public service vehicles and heavy goods vehicles have met with overwhelming opposition from the operators? Is it not a fact that the opposition has come from the Confederation of Road Passenger Transport, the Road Haulage Association, the National Freight Association and the Institution of Traffic Management, and that the CBI has also expressed its concern about the matter? In view of the general appreciation of the present scheme run by the Department of Transport, would it not be advisable for the Government to concentrate their consultations on improving the present system, which is generally regarded as efficient, and drop their own proposals, which are generally condemned?
My Lords, during the consultations we are, of course, aware that there are some people who do not like all that is being put forward.However, the consultations are still taking place and I should not like to prejudge that issue. Her Majesty's Government see no justification for retaining in the public sector functions which can be carried out equally well or better by private enterprise. Here I must beg to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, if there should be any thought that the standards would fall or that the integrity of testers, or anything else, would be any different. In fact, the proposal to transfer the testing of heavy goods vehicles and public service vehicles to the private sector will, we believe, result in a more efficient and more flexible service.