HC Deb 05 July 1978 vol 953 cc445-7
15. Mr. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for Transport when he expects the issue of tachographs to be considered by the European Court of Justice.

Mr. William Rodgers

I have no precise information—but soon, I would expect.

Mr. Knox

Since the Secretary of State is a strong supporter of the EEC and a progressive politician, is he not ashamed of the situation in which he has placed himself over this matter?

Mr. Rodgers

No. I am not ashamed. It is a complicated matter, and sometimes it is rather embarrassing. But the case that we have established—which I hope the European Court will consider—is a serious one, relying, among other things, upon the cost of introducing the tachograph. As I have made clear in the House before, I should be happy to see voluntary agreements for its use.

Mr. John Evans

The views of the European Court are important, but does my right hon. Friend agree that in this case the views of the transport workers' unions are even more important? Will my right hon. Friend therefore invite the leaders of those unions to give evidence to the Court. so that their case can be stated?

Mr. Rodgers

I do not think that I can agree with my hon. Friend's rendering of the balance in this respect. The European Court has a proper responsibility. I am the last person to complain about that. But I hope that it will recognise that there are real problems, in some cases based upon justified concern. I hope that the court will take that into account, along with the representations that have been made by the Transport and General Workers' Union and others.

Mr. Temple-Morris

If we can forget all the political difficulties and the moment of glorious abandon by the Secretary of State, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman what he personally thinks about tachographs? Are they a good thing, or are they a bad thing?

Mr. Rodgers

If I were allowed I could make a long contribution on that subject. My view is that their advantages, from the safety point of view, for example, have been greatly exaggerated. Had they not been invented we should have no need to introduce them in this country. We have long-standing practices. Perhaps they could be improved, but they have served us well. It is worth bearing in mind that our safety record is much better than that of most other European countries. That is my personal view, but I accept that the matter is a good deal more complicated than that.

Mr. Flannery

The hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris) asked us to forget political difficulties. He is so lyrical that he should set that to music and call it "Temple-Morris Superstar". The reality is that those difficulties exist, and they are definite.

Mr. Adley

Excuse me while I hold my sides.

Mr. Flannery

We still have a degree of sovereignty in this country. Does my right hon. Friend agree that there are many laws—on fisheries for instance—with which we cannot agree, and that we must assert ourselves? Will my right hon. Friend ask the Opposition whether they would, without conditions—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The House knows that the Secretary of State cannot ask the Opposition any questions. He is here to answer questions.