HC Deb 07 April 1976 vol 909 cc420-1
22. Mr. Les Huckfield

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will make a further statement on his progress in negotiations with his European counterparts on the tachograph, drivers' hours, Community operators' permits and gross vehicle weights.

Mr. Marks

On drivers' hours, we are examining new proposals from the EEC Commission, with which we are continuing to discuss the position on tachographs. There have been no recent negotiations on Community permits and gross vehicle weights.

Mr. Huckfield

Will the Minister bear in mind that many of us would not mind if the gross vehicle weights were increased slightly, because it would not make any difference? Will he also recognise that many of us feel that the British quota in regard to international operating permits should be increased and that progress on the tachograph and drivers' hours should be as slow as possible?

Mr. Marks

I agree wholeheartedly with the last part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question. Indeed, that is what we are doing. As for Community operators' permits, at present the United Kingdom receives 272 out of a total of 2,363 permits in the Community as a whole. The figure of 272 represents less than 5 per cent. of our international road haulage activity.

Mr. David Steel

Is the Minister aware that there is one area in which we lag behind our Community partners, namely, in our failure to allow heavy goods vehicle licences to be given to drivers who wear contact lenses? There is surely no defence for that retrograde attitude by the Government.

Mr. Marks

I take note of the hon. Gentleman's comments and shall write to him on the subject.

Mr. Norman Fowler

On the wider question, will the Minister recognise that in Britain the regulations on drivers' hours will add massively to the costs of the road haulage industry and will knock out many road and bus services in Britain? Will he confirm that the aim is to achieve not a deferment of the Regulations but a change?

Mr. Marks

The Regulations were accepted when the Conservative Government brought in the European Communities Bill. They comprise part of the Regulations brought forward in 1969, accepted by the original Six in 1972 and due to be brought into force. We have fought for deferment and we have achieved it.

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