HC Deb 20 December 1967 vol 756 cc1246-9
21. Mr. Monro

asked the Minister of Transport if she will make a statement on her proposals to levy an abnormal loads charge.

Mr. Carmichael

I would refer the hon. Member to paragraphs 65–66 of the White Paper on the Transport of Freight (Cmnd. 3470).

Mr. Monro

Does the Minister realise that some loads will cost £4,000 more from Scotland to England and that the cost for pressure vessels will be increased by 50 per cent.? Does he realise that this is certain to cause unemployment in Scotland?

Mr. Carmichael

Abnormal loads cause congestion all over the country and result in loss of revenue to other road users. Later on the Order Paper there is a Question referring specifically to Scotland. I ask the hon. Member to await the answer to that Question.

Mr. Ronald Atkins

Does the Minister agree that the new rates being charged are comparable with those on the Continent?

Mr. Carmichael

According to our information the new rates which we are proposing to charge in the industry are considerably less than the rates in most countries on the Continent.

Mr. Galbraith

How does the Minister square a tax on social cost with the recommendation of the Geddes Committee that the assessment of social cost was still in its infancy?

Mr. Carmichael

While the refinement of the assessment may be in its infancy, there are still sufficient indications to give us an assessment of some of the costs, and we believe that the tables in the Schedule to the Bill laying out the costs of abnormal loads go a long way to meet the social costs which are incurred.

Mr. Monro

On a point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.

28. Mr. G. Campbell

asked the Minister of Transport if she will seek to exempt from the new tax on abnormal loads, proposed in paragraph 66 of her White Paper, Command Paper No. 3470, journeys in Scotland where indivisible industrial loads cannot be moved to their necessary destinations by any other means of transport.

Mr. Carmichael

No, Sir. These charges are mainly intended to offset congestion costs resulting from movements of abnormal loads.

Mr. Campbell

Since such loads will, in any case, have to travel by road, and since other vehicles on the roads will have to suffer the inconvenience caused, why impose a new tax which will be a burden upon industry and development in Scotland?

Mr. Carmichael

The new charge is an attempt to compensate other road users as well as public authorities which provide the routes and staff to shepherd these large loads through our cities and the countryside. It will also give an incentive to makers to look at other forms of transport. Other forms of transport are possible in many cases. A number of such cases have been brought to my attention this week. In some of them, certain routes were selected and these proved satisfactory. It will also encourage some manufacturers to send materials and components to be assembled on site.

Mr. Dewar

Would not my hon. Friend agree, however, that haulage costs are an important factor in industrial costs, particularly in many parts of Scotland? Is he aware of the anxiety that is felt about these new measures, not only by the road haulage industry but by industrialists and others in many parts of the country, who are extremely concerned about the effects that they are likely to have?

Mr. Carmichael

I agree with my hon. Friend that haulage costs can represent a large part of industrial costs, but he must remember the haulage costs which must be borne by other road users as well. We have examples of many other industrialists complaining about the hold-up of goods as a result of large loads being on the roads, as a result of which valuable exports have sometimes missed ships. I assure the House that my right hon. Friend will be prepared to examine this and all other matters in Committee when we have completed the Second Reading of the Bill today.

Mr. Peter Walker

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that some abnormal loads are obliged to go by road, since, if they can go by rail, the Minister already has power to say that they should not go by road but should go by some other form of transport? How, therefore, will the latest proposals assist us?

Mr. Carmichael

It is not possible for the matter to be considered in that way in all cases. This is not merely a question of road and rail, although I agree that, for example, terminal loads must, for short periods, go by road. We want to see that loads which must go by road are on the roads for as short a time as possible. The House must not overlook the possibility of sending many of these loads by sea.

Mr. G. Campbell

On a point of order. The Minister does not seem to have read my Question, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

That is possible, but it is not a point of order.