HC Deb 09 March 1977 vol 927 cc1383-5
4. Mr. Bagier

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what representations he has received from the Civic Trust on EEC proposals to increase maximum lorry weights.

Mr. William Rodgers

I met representatives of the Civic Trust on 26th January. We discussed the environmental problems of lorries generally and the current EEC proposals on weights and dimensions in particular.

Mr. Bagier

I am sure that my right hon. Friend appreciates that the environmental and social consequences of granting an increased lorry load to 40 tons would be very serious, but does he agree that if 40-ton lorries are permitted in this country the road hauliers will get an even greater advantage over rail freight, which will not only damage the latter system but will create tremendous problems throughout the country?

Mr. Rodgers

My hon. Friend makes important and relevant comments on the matters involved in increasing the weights of lorries. I have made it clear that I would not agree to such an increase unless it could be reconciled with the needs of safety and the environment. However, my hon. Friend's supplementary question also brings us back to the problem of how far heavy vehicles meet their true cost, which is a matter of concern to my hon. Friend and to the House generally.

Mr. Stephen Ross

Will the Secretary of State confirm that the Lorries and the Environment Committee is still in existence? Is this not a matter that could be referred to that committee, so that it could report generally to him?

Mr. Rodgers

The answer to both questions is "Yes".

Mr. Moate

Does the Secretary of State expect an early decision to be reached on this matter? Would he wish the House to have an opportunity to express its views on the matter before any such decision is reached?

Mr. Rodgers

The answers are "No" and "Yes". This is something that the House should discuss.

Mr. Ron Thomas

Does my right hon. Friend agree that this considerable increase to 40 tons cannot really be reconciled with the needs of the environment, in view of the hazards that it presents? Is he aware that at Avonmouth, in my constituency, serious hazards have been caused recently by these large tankers? Can he assure us that, on behalf of hon. Members on the Government side anyway, he will oppose the increase to 40 tons which the EEC would like to impose on us?

Mr. Rodgers

As my hon. Friend knows, it is not simply or even mainly the overall weight of a vehicle which matters but its axle weight. On this, we have been able to make some satisfactory progress in the Community. However, I have certainly made my position clear and I recognise that there is real concern on both sides of the House, for a number of different reasons.