HC Deb 18 March 1970 vol 798 cc380-2
26. Mr. Monro

asked the secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received from the agricultural industry regarding the implementation of the Transport Act; and what replies he has sent.

Mr. Buchan

My right hon. Friend has received representations about drivers' hours which he has forwarded to my right hon. Friend, the Minister of Transport. The Drivers Hours (Goods Vehicles) (Exemption) Regulations 1970 made by my right hon. Friend include exemptions for the haulage of livestock and milk and for other agricultural produce at harvest time.

Mr. Monro

Despite that, does not the hon. Gentleman foresee chaos at many auction markets this summer and autumn when it becomes impossible to remove sheep and cattle from pens because of the drivers' hours? Has the hon. Gentleman considered the damage it will cause to the sale and even the possible cruelty to the livestock?

Mr. Buchan

Hon. Members opposite have a great habit of predicting doom before something has started. The regulations came into force on 1st March. Hon. Gentlemen opposite might wait and see how they operate first. Road safety and the interests of the drivers, which are what the regulations are about, are things to which hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to pay little attention. Let hon. Gentlemen opposite see how the regulations work, and let us have their support for a worth-while social and humane experiment.

Mr. Dalyell

Is my hon. Friend aware that in a three-hour meeting I had last week with West Lothian farmers genuine concern was expressed about what is happening at the Lanark market? This is a matter that the Department will have to examine, because men and animals are being kept waiting.

Mr. Buchan

Of course, we are looking at this very closely. [An HON. MEMBER: "Complacency."] It is nothing to do with complacency. I am saying that we should examine the situation and keep our eye on it. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport has said that for the first three months assistance would be given by the enforcement staff to help make sure that the regulations worked smoothly.

Mr. Stodart

Is not one of the things that are perplexing the Government very much the soaring costs that we shall hear about later? Will not the regulations aggravate them considerably? Is the Minister to sit twiddling his thumbs and waiting to see how things work out without trying to discover what the difficulties are?

Mr. Buchan

Members of the party opposite are the last people to talk about others twiddling their thumbs. We are looking at the problem. On the question of costs, first, the hon. Gentleman exaggerates; second, these are the kinds of thing we take into consideration in the Price Review announcements, for which the hon. Gentleman will not have very long to wait.