HC Deb 12 November 1976 vol 919 cc842-58

12.46 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. John Horam)

I beg to move, That this House takes note of the latest proposals of the Council of the European Communities for Road Worthiness Tests following draft Directives R/1795/72 and R/1614/74 and in the light of the United Kingdom's leading position in this field welcomes these proposals as an important step forward towards harmonising vehicle testing arrangements within the Community. The debate has its origin in proposals put forward in 1972 by the Commission of European Communities—draft Directive R/1795/72—for securing common basic requirements for testing roadworthiness of vehicles. These proposals were subsequently amended in 1974—draft Directive R/1614/74—to take account of the views of the Economic and Social Committee and the European Parliament. Hon. Members have had the opportunity to see both documents.

The Select Committee on European Secondary Legislation expressed the view in more than one report that these proposals ought to be further considered by the House in the light of the costs involved in implementing the arrangements proposed. That further consideration has been deferred until the present time because the proposals have been undergoing radical reappraisal, and the outcome is the new draft directive described in the memorandum made available to Members and which is in the Vote Office. I apologise to the House for the short time that the supplementary memorandum has been available in the Vote Office. That is largely because the seal of approval was not put on the radical changes until last Thursday's meeting of the Council of Transport Ministers in Brussels. .

The proposals in the original draft directives were discussed by the Scrutiny Committee, and in the subsequent negotiations its comments have been very much borne in mind. The present proposals differ in scope rather than substance from the original proposals, but it is gratifying that, in the light of the Committee's concern over the costs involved in implementing what was first proposed, we have been able to get a draft scheme put forward which is much more acceptable from this standpoint. However, before going into detail I should like to say a few words about the general context.

The purpose of the proposed directive is to ensure that certain categories of road vehicle are periodically inspected to determine whether they are in a fit condition for use on the public road. By this means, vehicle standards are improved and the danger of a vehicle defect causing a road accident is lessened. Everyone in the House will agree that we should do all we reasonably can to reduce the terrible toll of death and injury on our roads.

Whilst it is notoriously difficult to determine the real cause of accidents, the best information we have indicates that about 2½ per cent. are the direct result of vehicle defects and in a further 6 per cent. they are a contributing factor. Eight and a half per cent. is a significant proportion, but one needs to ask oneself how much worse the situation might be without the arrangements which already exist in this country to maintain checks on the condition of vehicles. It is clearly essential to maintain effective testing arrangements and standards.

Three schemes for the annual inspection of vehicles are currently operating in this country: the MOT test for cars, vans and motor cycles; the heavy goods vehicle test for heavy lorries and trailers; and the public service vehicle inspections for buses and coaches. Each scheme is tailored to the needs of the vehicles covered and becomes progressively more onerous as the weight and passenger-carrying capacity of the groups increase. Although these schemes are not, and cannot be, a guarantee of a vehicle's roadworthiness throughout the year—roadworthiness being the continual responsibility of the owner and driver—there is no doubt that periodic testing of roadworthiness makes an important contribution to vehicle standards and thereby reduces the number of accidents caused by vehicle defects.

The proposed directive as it now stands is largely confined to requiring the periodic testing of commercial vehicles, and the obligations imposed will be very similar to those already applying in the United Kingdom. It will entail only minor changes in existing arrangements in the United Kingdom and primary legislation will not be needed. We shall be free to maintain our more comprehensive testing arrangements for our domestic vehicles, and the directive will not affect our right to take action in the courts against any vehicle which is shown to be unroadworthy.

The directive has been greatly reduced in scope, not only because of the need to find common ground with those member States which have no test schemes or only rudimentary ones but also to convince all concerned that any additional expenditure involved in implementing the directive will be an effective use of resources for road safety purposes.

Although the vehicles covered represent only about 6 per cent. of all road vehicles, they are regarded as the most important for the safety of life on the roads, and they represent a useful starting point towards securing a wider harmonisation of the test requirements of member States. However, it is our intention to ensure that the directive as eventually approved leaves us a necessary element of flexibility in deploying the resources we already devote to controling the roadworthiness of our own buses and lorries.

The new proposals will require member States to introduce schemes for the compulsory annual testing of buses, coaches, heavy lorries and trailers, taxis and ambulances within a period of one year from the adoption of the directive. These tests must be carried out under State supervision and will cover a comprehensive range of items affecting the roadworthiness of the vehicle. Member States will accept the tests carried out by other States as equal in status to their own, thus implementing a system of generally accepted minimum standards of testing for this important group of vehicles.

Some significant items have been dropped from the original proposals. It has not proved possible to obtain agreement for the testing of cars, vans, and motor cycles. While ideally it would have been preferable to have, covered these items, I realise that some member States are embarking on roadworthiness testing for the first time and are reluctant to adopt a really comprehensive scheme until they have had experience of what is involved.

However, it is envisaged that further proposals will be put forward in due course, and it is a cause for satisfaction that some of the proposals originally contemplated are not included in the present draft. We will not be committed to the testing of public service vehicles at half-yearly intervals, which in our view would have entailed an over-lavish use of the testing procedure, nor will we be required to test vehicles other than periodically—that is, we will not be required to test on change of ownership, after accident repair, when a vehicle is imported into a member State or when a vehicle is found to be unroadworthy on a spot check. These are contentious matters on which no consensus could be achieved and they have been left to the decision of the individual member State. Similarly, the administrative rules necessary for the effective implementation of the test scheme have been left to the good sense of the member States.

Finally the directive allows transitional provisions to enable member States to introduce the testing scheme in a gradual and controlled manner. Hon. Members will recall that our own testing schemes were introduced on a gradual basis, and it is only sensible that the new directive should allow for similar arrangements.

At first sight, the proposed directive may not seem in itself to contain much of practical significance for the United Kingdom. It is, however, an important first step forward towards the wider establishment and harmonising of testing arrangements and standards in Europe We hope in due course to see more comprehensive arrangements developed, but we recognise that a balance has to be struck between the costs imposed and the contribution made to road safety. We think that the proposed directive is broadly satisfactory from this standpoint, and on that basis I commend the motion to the House.

12.55 p.m.

Mr. Norman Fowler (Sutton Coldfield)

As the Minister has said, the original proposals were published in 1972. They were amended, and it was the 1974 proposals which were considered by the House of Lords Select Committee in June 1974.

The Select Committee summarised the proposals in three groups. First, the draft directive would require vehicles to be tested in circumstances not at present calling, under the United Kingdom law, for a test—that is, change of ownership or after an accident. Secondly, the draft directive would require more extensive tests than are called for under our present legislation. The third matter concerns the enforcement of test requirements, in particular the requirement that vehicles shall carry discs certifying that they have been tested for roadworthiness.

Since then, the proposals have been radically altered. The scope of the directive is much more limited, and clearly that is reasonable. As the Minister mentioned, the prime consideration has been cost. It now affects mainly commercial vehicles, and the regulations which will apply already substantially apply in this country.

However, essentially these proposals are rules governing roadworthiness tests of vehicles which travel within the Common Market. In other words, they require standards to be adopted on European journeys rather than on national journeys. Perhaps I could make the point in a different way. It should be made clear that, even though the EEC rules do not require such standards, they do not prevent them from being made a part of domestic law.

A matter which gives cause for serious concern is the position about tests of vehicles after they have been involved in accidents. That was a term of the 1974 directive. In my view, the position in this country about the requirements is full of danger. If a car is involved in a serious accident, even if it is an insurance write-off, there is no requirement in our law for the car to be tested before it goes back on the road.

Let us suppose that a 1976 car is involved in an accident and that it is written off by the insurance company, which means that, from the insurance company's point of view, it is cheaper to pay a cash sum to the insured motorist than to repair the car. However, what often happens is that the car is bought by a firm which perhaps specialises in the business of written-off cars and is repaired and sold. There is no requirement that the car, in spite of the damage to it or of anything else which has happened, should be inspected before going back on the road.

It is worse than that. If a 1976 car is involved, it would not be subject to the normal MOT tests until it was three years old. That is totally unacceptable. The traditional road safety slogan has always been "Keep death off the roads." This system does not seem to ensure that. It is unacceptable for the purchaser of the car and it is unacceptable on road safety grounds.

I find it extraordinary that this situation has been allowed to continue unchecked for so long and has been ignored despite the changes that have been made in road safety laws and consumer protection measures. I am not alone in my concern about this. During the past few days I have discussed this subject with a number of respectable motor trade organisations. The Motor Agents' Association, the Institute of Automobile Assessors and the Vehicle Builders and Repairers Association find the position unsatisfactory and want it to be changed. The Motor Trader, which has a fine reputation as a campaigning magazine for road safety standards, also supports change.

The position is totally unsatisfactory, and must be reformed as a matter of urgency in the public interest. Badly damaged vehicles should not be allowed back on the roads unchecked after repair. The danger to the driver of that car and to other road users is self-evident. Unfortunately, this practice has been allowed to continue for year after year. Apparently, the only thing which will make the Government move is a dossier of cases of this kind. I do not seek to make a party political point on this question.

I am glad to say that the Institute of Automobile Assessors has agreed in principle to co-operate with such a survey. If members of the public who have had experience of cars badly damaged in accidents finding their way back on to the road in a dangerous or unsatisfactory condition would contact me at the House, their experiences will be added to the report that we intend to present to the Department.

A vehicle which has been seriously damaged in an accident should be subjected to inspection before being allowed back on the road. This would apply to insurance write-off cars as well as to other seriously damaged cars. While at the very least there should be an MOT inspection, there is a strong case for a more rigorous inspection of the chassis as well.

The Government may claim that this point is covered by the law which requires that no car should go back on to the road in an unroadworthy condition. Theoretically that is correct. In practice this is an argument that does not stand up. For that condition to be enforced it must be detected, and that depends on the police. There is no question but that the police are already over worked and overstretched. I believe that there should be a regulation system which does not place responsibility on the police, for inspection after accidents. This would build up a better system.

There are two other topics which I wish to raise and which are covered in the 1974 directive. The first concerns tests on change of ownership. This was a requirement of the original EEC rules, and was one of the points which the House of Lords Select Committee made. There are a number of people who would like to see this rule apply to domestic law. Even though it is not a requirement internationally that change of ownership cars should be subject to inspection, the law in this country should be changed. I have an open mind on this, but I should like to hear the Government's view. The case for such a rule rests on the fact that it would ensure more regular checks than at present. By choosing the point of sale, it also identifies a crucial moment.

A company or a person selling a car which has passed an MOT test six months previously may realise that waiting for a full 12 months to elapse means that the condition of the car would require expensive repairs. They may be tempted to sell the car which is not up to MOT standards but is covered by a current MOT certificate midway in the test period.

A great many cars fail their MOT test. The latest figures show that more than one-third of all cars tested each year fail their MOT test. That is almost 4 million cars a year.

I wonder whether I could have the attention of the Under-Secretary for a moment—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galperu)

Order. I believe that the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) is relaying to the Under-Secretary the answers to the points which the hon. Gentleman is raising.

Mr. Fowler

I did not realise that the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) had become the Under-Secretary's PPS. I am glad to hear of his promotion.

In case the Under-Secretary missed what I said while he was being briefed, I repeat that about one-third of the cars tested each year fail their MOT test. That amounts to almost 4 million cars a year. That is an enormous total. The two most common grounds for failure are faulty steering and faulty brakes. Both conditions have undoubted road safety implications.

I quote from the magazine Motor Trader which states What we find of particular concern is that, if our figures are projected right across the board and about one-third of the vehicles which fail are driven away in what testers consider to be a dangerous condition, then around 1.3 million such vehicles are driven on the roads each year. Taking a figure of 300 test days a year as a base on which to work this gives a total of about 4,300 such cars a day. This makes clear the dangers in this system. We shall not change the whole system but what is suggested is that when a car changes ownership, at the point of the sale an MOT test should be required. It seems that newspapers like the Motor Trader have made a strong case for this. I should like to know what the Government's view is on this.

My next point concerns second-hand imported cars. It was a requirement in the directive considered by the House of Lords Select Committee that such cars should be subject to a test. What information can the Minister give about the number of second-hand imported cars? Secondly, can he say a little more about how requirements in this country compare with those in other countries such as Italy and France? If there is a large trade in that respect and the requirements are not as strong as they are in this country, there is a potential loophole in the regulations.

We welcome what has been decided, but I wish to stress that simply because the EEC directive does not cover dangerous cars is no reason why domestic law should not cover a situation that gives many people grounds for concern.

1.10 p.m.

Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)

Nobody in his right senses would oppose this first step, although he might wonder whether it is as important a step as the Government would have us believe.

The point made by the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Fowler) about re-examining vehicles after accidents is valid and should be examined. It is right and proper that any member of the EEC should know when a vehicle is approaching him that at least some minimum standards of safety have been observed abroad.

Can the Minister estimate the extra cost of these examinations? That is of enormous importance.

Mr. Horam

To which examination is the hon. Gentleman referring?

Mr. Freud

If the Minister had waited for me to finish what I was saying, he would have known the answer. I admire his keenness. Unless examinations can be held quickly, and unless there is an adequate number of inspectors, a great deal of harm will be done and hardship will be felt by operators who will have to join the inevitable queues waiting for vehicle inspection. They will not be able to operate because their certificates will not have been forthcoming. We have already before us the disastrous example of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Centre in Swansea which must cause the Minister to enter into a great deal of time-consuming correspondence. We can only hope that a shortage of examiners and inspectors will not prevent operators from transacting their business or licensing their cars.

1.13 p.m.

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)

I wish to make a few brief comments in this debate.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Gentleman has the Adjournment debate

Mr. Dykes

Thank you for reminding me, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I welcome that news in the informal way in which you announce these matters in the Chamber.

I wish to mention one or two points in connection with two of the draft documents. I endorse enthusiastically the important points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Fowler) and I hope that the Minister will give him a powerful reply. In view of the dual manner in which we as members of the European Parliament examine legislation passing, as it were, through both Houses, perhaps I could make one or two points in a European context from a legislative rather than from a procedural point of view, and also try to set the background to the progress of these draft directives.

I should like to congratulate the Scrutiny Committee, under the chairmanship of my right hon. Friend the Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies), since it undertakes valuable work in highlighting the importance of proper debates on these subjects.

The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) said that this was a relatively unimportant matter. I do not disagree with him. Because of the nature of our tests in the United Kingdom, the effect of the draft directives is reduced, despite the growth of intra-Community traffic. Therefore, this can be regarded as only one small step forward for mankind. In that sense it is relatively unimportant. Nevertheless, the documents are useful and a step in the right direction.

I think I am right in saying that the European Parliament deliberated on these matters as long ago as 1973. Therefore, at that time we, as new members of that institution and of the Community, were also new to the problems set out in the directives. However, the directives were given more than a fair wind and were speeded on their way with a degree of enthusiasm in respect of what was regarded as fairly technical matters. They will become part of the overall corpus of documentation in vehicle law. I shall attach great importance to any decisions that flow from the Commission in regard to vehicle safety, in which area the United States has led the world. No doubt we shall be hearing more on that score in due course.

I wish to draw attention to the dilemma in which the Executive finds itself, and indeed in which it puts the House, following the haphazard way in which technical documents of this kind, some of which have a political content, are dealt with. These draft directives are obviously suitable matters to be sent to a Standing Committee. I do not see why the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, who obviously has other pressures on him these days, should decide that this matter should be taken on the Floor. I remember that in the summer some documents were taken upstairs in Committee which were of much greater importance, weight, and circum stance, containing more political content and having greater economic repercussions than the matters now before the House. Perhaps the Minister will broaden his ministerial horizons in his reply and tell us why he thinks that these matters should be taken on the Floor.

Although the Scrutiny Committee makes its recommendations, in the final analysis it is the Government who take the decisions. There have been instances where the Government have not followed the Scrutiny Committee's advice. However, it would be wrong of me to try to represent the Scrutiny Committee's view on these matters. Indeed, I cannot remember its specific recommendations, but if the Government have the good fortune to have another Session of Parliament—which is another matter—the Executive should sort itself out and try to observe some kind of consistency. It should lay down which of these documents should go upstairs to the relevant Committee. Weightier subjects should come to the Floor of the House.

There will be consequential amendments to domestic legislation from the adoption of the directive, and one year after the adoption is the implementation date as a result of a European Parliament suggestion in 1973. The amendments will affect such legislation as the Road Traffic Acts. Can the Undersecretary of State say when they might be brought before the House? Will they stand on their own, or be part of the regular wider consolidation of road traffic legislation?

1.21 p.m.

Mr. John Davies (Knutsford)

I wish to contribute a few remarks about the interesting point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes). It should be remembered in this connection that the recommendation of the Scrutiny Committee originally embodied two quite separate directives and included the perhaps rather more crucial directive relating to driving and vehicle licensing. Those were the points that were predominant in the view of the Committee at the time, although clearly it also had in mind questions which are not unimportant concerning the roadworthiness test.

This highlights a point which I consider to be of great importance. Bearing in mind that the sole effect that the House can have on the legislative process of the Community is by influencing Ministers' minds, it would be infinitely more valuable if such influence took place within the framework of major debates on major subjects, so that if we were talking about this and allied subjects in a major debate on transport policy we would be doing a useful task. As it is, there are about six of us here discussing very narrow issues in a totally selective context, and that is valueless.

I have consistently recommended that there should be debates of a substantial kind which would deal with a variety of different matters, all of which are being pursued within the framework of the Community. For example, we have a great series of different directives relating to the textile industry, which is of the greatest importance as a total matter for the House. If only the Government would put down these major issues for consideration, we could have proper debate of real value.

I fully understand what the Minister has said about the difficulties of producing a supplementary explanatory memorandum, but that again highlights precisely my concern. It is useless for the House to be dragged in to say a few words on a subject between one moment when great amendments have culminated and the next moment when they are adopted. That frustrates the total purpose of the operation in which we are engaged. I make no direct charge against the hon. Gentleman. I am attacking the purposes being pursued by the Government in this matter, because they are wrong and they are not what was intended within the framework of Community legislation and its being debated in this House.

1.25 p.m.

Mr. Horam

I assure the right hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies) that I sympathise with the position in which all those interested in these matters from the European point of view have been put by the way we have handled this matter. Nevertheless, he will recall that there was planned to be a transport policy debate last Thursday, which was frustrated by a Standing Order No. 9 debate. I make no particular point about that—a matter of party politics was involved—but, there was the possibility of that opportunity for a transport debate, for which we have fought for some time, when these things could have been considered in a coherent form.

Mr. John Davies

If that were the Government's intention, they should have put down this and other directives as being allied to that debate, but they did not. If we are seriously to consider these matters within the framework of transport policy, well and good, but they must be carefully cited in the matter of debate.

Mr. Horam

I understand the point. It is something which may be possible in future. I know that consideration has been given to this aspect in relation to other debates, major and minor, through the linking together of these things in a coherent fashion. For example, following a major debate on transport, we could perhaps have debates on directives relating to transport afterwards on the same day, which would be a sensible way to proceed

In reply to the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes), I would point out that we are trying to carry out the wishes of the Scrutiny Committee in having a debate in the House on this subject, but I agree that, from a Back Bencher's point of view, it would seem more sensible to take such matters upstairs in Committee. The hon. Gentleman made the point that upstairs in Committee one could have a more sensible exchange of views rather than have merely half a dozen people gathered here on a Friday.

The hon. Gentleman asked when the Statutory Instruments to amend our regulations will be introduced. They will relate almost exclusively to the position of taxis and ambulances and they will be very minor. I imagine that they will come in as soon as the directive is passed—next year perhaps. I cannot be more specific than that.

The hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Fowler) referred to a test after an accident has taken place. I understand and sympathise with his view, but there are two principal objections to it. First, there is the technical matter of defining a serious accident. The hon. Member will agree that accidents to cars and lorries are of all kinds. If we are to have sensible law, we must have a distinction between those which do not matter from the road safety point of view and those which do matter. The drawing of that line is not easy.

In our view, the major point is that to add that test to the ones which already take place would not be a cost-effective way of increasing road safety. The contribution to road safety arising from an extra test would not be great enough to justify the resources we would have to spend on it. That is the sort of reason that the Scrutiny Committee had in mind when it recommended that the comprehensive arrangements suggested by the EEC should be toned down to take account of cost factors. There would be a substantial addition to that cost if we did what the hon. Gentleman suggested.

In addition, as I have said no less than twice already in my short period as a Minister, in the absence of a very good case I am reluctant to add to the regulations surrounding the motorist, and so far I am not convinced that such a case has been made in this matter.

Mr. Norman Fowler

I realise that the hon. Gentleman has not had much notice of the points I made, but I do not regard what he has said so far as satisfactory. Successive Governments have had many years in which to work out some kind of definition, even if it applied only to the road tax, which is definable. How does he mean that it would not be cost effective? On what figures does he reach that judgment? Does he have figures on this question, or is it simply a ministerial excuse?

On the last question, the hon. Gentleman will understand that the Department—not under his regime, but certainly under the previous régime—has introduced regulations helter-skelter into motoring. To ignore a self-evident danger of this kind seems to me to be a most extraordinary omission on the part of the Department.

Mr. Horam

I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. What I meant by cost effectiveness was exactly what I said—that the addition to road safety in this area, which we estimate would be quite small, would not be justified in terms of the extra resources that would have to be spent on this kind of testing. I have not any exact figures, but the general nature of the argument is perfectly apparent and I cannot understand why the hon. Gentleman is confused by it.

Mr. Norman Fowler

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. If, for the sake of argument, a simple MOT test were required for cars involved in write-off accidents—these being easily definable—before they went back on the road, what extra resources would be required?

Mr. Horam

I should need notice of that question concerning an MOT test after a write-off accident. I do not have figures at hand on that precise point, as the hon. Gentleman will understand, but I think that the general position is clear.

If the hon. Gentleman ever gets into my position, he will see that the work being done on road safety is of a very high standard. We are among the world leaders in this respect, as is evidenced by the fact that we are talking about an EEC directive in which other people are adopting measures that we already have. Indeed, they are rather less than we already have. The hon. Gentleman must understand that one does not have particular figures on hand on that sort of precise point.

The hon. Gentleman, moreover, has shifted his ground from his original proposal. At first he was talking about the cost of accidents as a whole and he was suggesting that we must have MOT tests relating to accidents as a whole. He now says that we must have them when there has been a write-off accident.

Mr. Norman Fowler

Clearly my original point holds. I would not accept that it is impossible to define when a car is involved in a write-off accident or a serious accident. This is a departmental excuse of the bleakest kind. I am not shifting my ground in saying that there is a minimum definable situation which so far the hon. Gentleman has totally failed to answer.

Mr. Horam

The hon. Gentleman insists that we are making an excuse. On the contrary, we are telling him our view, which is that these additional measures would not be cost effective—

Mr. Norman Fowler

Based on no figures.

Mr. Horam

—based on the figures which we have discussed over many years. As to change of ownership, there is no evidence that vehicles offered for sale are any less roadworthy than other vehicles of similar type. On the basis of 4 million changes of ownership, the estimated cost of implementing this suggestion is £16 million in fees alone, apart from any other consideration. There is no evidence that there would be any substantial increase in road safety as a consequence of introducing an additional measure on a change of ownership, quite apart from the one that we have already discussed after an accident has taken place.

It is a matter of fine judgment of cost benefit, and we are bound to say that we do not think it is justified at the moment. But the Department is always prepared to consider a case. I undertake that we shall consider the hon. Gentleman's statement and the evidence he has adduced during the course of the debate. If there is a need to change our mind, we shall look at it. Every aspect of this matter is constantly under consideration, however, and every effort is made to see that we adhere to the maximum standards of road safety consistent with reasonable common sense in regard to the costs involved.

That aspect was brought out by the contribution of the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud), who has had to depart. He made the very point that we should not introduce extra tests and then find that we have not the manpower resources to deal with them adequately, so that people have to wait before they can use their vehicles. We must bear in mind that a large cost element is involved. We agree with the Scrutiny Committee that it must be taken into account. That is why we are satisfied with the directive as it is.

Mr. Norman Fowler

The hon. Gentleman has given a number of undertakings that he will consider various things. Will he also undertake that the information he has in the Department, but which he has been unable to produce today, concerning accidents, write-offs and seriously damaged cars will be provided to me?

Mr. Horam

I undertake that any figures which are available in the Department on these specific points will be made available to the hon. Gentleman.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved. That this House takes note of the latest proposals of the Council of the European Communities for Road Worthiness Tests following draft Directives R/1795 /72 and R/1614/74 and in the light of the United Kingdom's leading position in this field welcomes these proposals as an important step forward towards harmonising vehicle testing arrangements within the Community.