HC Deb 03 April 1968 vol 762 cc339-41
3 and 4. Mr. Loveys

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what estimates he has made of the total increase in costs to the horticultural industry of the present proposals in the Transport Bill;

(2) what estimates he has made of the total increase in costs to the agricultural industry of the present proposals in the Transport Bill.

24. Mr. Marten

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the estimated cost to agriculture of the Transport Bill.

32. Mr. Wolrige-Gordon

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food why he is unable to make an estimate of the increase in costs to British agriculture consequent upon the passing into law of the Transport Bill this summer.

Mr. Peart

The detailed proposals under the Transport Bill will be brought into effect by subordinate legislation. It is not possible to estimate the costs which may fall upon agriculture and horticulture when the proposals come into operation.

Mr. Loveys

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that both these impor tant industries, agriculture and horticulture, and every other important industry in the country, are justifiably concerned about the enormous extra cost to be caused by this Measure and the Budget Statement together? The Budget will cost agriculture and horticulture an extra £4 million or £5 million. In all honesty, will not the right hon. Gentleman agree that their only consolation is that the Conservative Party is pledged to repeal much of the Bill when it returns to power?

Mr. Peart

It would not be proper for me to comment on the speech made by the hon. Gentleman. In reply to the first of his observations, I recognise that there are proposals which could affect the industry. Certain of these costs are matters which we always discuss at the Review.

Mr. Marten

Why is it not possible to give the House an estimate of the rise in transport costs? What is the estimated percentage rise, for instance, in professional road hauliers' charges as a result of the Bill, and will not these extra costs mean a difference in the distribution pattern for food?

Mr. Peart

It is impossible for anyone to estimate at present how these proposals will affect the industry. A good deal of the Bill will be effected by Regulations. I cannot say precisely, and I do not think that any individual could.

Mr. Manuel

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is much misleading information being put about by hon. Members opposite, from briefs supplied to them? Is he further aware that, if goods, horticultural goods or other goods, go over 100 miles from road to rail, the transport will be cheaper and, because it will be cheaper, the traffic will go?

Mr. Peart

I am well aware of that. Obviously, there will be problems and difficulties, but my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and I will discuss any difficulties. Before detailed regulations are made, there will be consultations.

Mr. David Steel

Does not the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that particular difficulties will arise in the carriage of livestock, and many of the rules outlined in the Transport Bill make nonsense in relation to the carriage of live animals?

Mr. Peart

As I have said, my right hon. Friend and I will discuss any detailed regulations. We must bear this in mind. There will be consultations.

Mr. Godber

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that his answers will give rise to a good deal of disquiet in the industry as they appear not to show the degree of concern for farmers' needs in this respect that one would expect? Will he discuss this whole matter again with his right hon. Friend? Further, will he say how many representations he has had from farming organisations against proposals in the Bill?

Mr. Peart

I could not give that precisely. I recognise that the National Farmers' Union has views about it. I do not deny that. But, as I said, I shall discuss these matters with my right hon. Friend, and, as regulations are an important aspect of the Measure, I shall certainly keep in touch with her.

Mr. Maclennan

Does my right hon. Friend agree that since the Government announced modifications to the Transport Bill in the Budget some of the more exaggerated fears expressed are now no longer justified, but would he bear in mind that there is still considerable concern about the operation of the regulations regarding drivers' hours, which are of particular importance in agriculture during the harvest season?

Mr. Peart

I am aware of this. The question of drivers' hours and the practices which are accepted in the industry have been specifically raised with me, and, as I have said, I am in close consultation with my right hon. Friend.

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