HC Deb 07 June 1978 vol 951 cc181-2
11. Mr. Channon

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to meet his colleagues in other EEC countries.

Mr. William Rodgers

I met my EEC colleagues at the Council meeting of the European Conference of Ministers of Transport on 31st May and 1st June at Brussels and I look forward to seeing them again at the Council of Transport Ministers of the EEC on 12th June at Luxembourg.

Mr. Channon

When the right hon. Gentleman next meets his European colleagues, will he discuss, especially with his Benelux colleagues, the system of tax concessions that exist for those who travel to work by rail in those countries? Is that not a possible way out of the dilemma of London and South-East commuters, who now have serious problems? Is it not something that he should discuss with the Chancellor of the Exchequer as a high priority to be considered when tax cuts are being considered for the future?

Mr. Rodgers

I shall inform myself of the practice that is followed in the Benelux countries, as the hon. Gentleman suggests. We must recognise that any concession of the sort that he has mentioned would, in effect, be the same as tax cuts, as he plainly says, or an increase in public expenditure. In the circumstances, we could not possibly make such a conces- sion apply only to those living in London and the South-East, however strong their feelings may be.

Mr. John Evans

When my right hon. Friend meets his European colleagues, will he obtain from them an assurance that they will not insist that Great Britain has to introduce the tachograph for domestic journeys? Will he point out to his colleagues that British lorry drivers accept that tachographs should be fitted for international journeys but that there is no need for them to be fitted for domestic journeys?

Mr. Rodgers

The view of Her Majesty's Government on tachographs is well understood by our partners in the Nine, but not entirely sympathetically.

Mr. Wells

Will the right hon. Gentleman have consultations with his European colleagues about the possibility of reopening the Channel Tunnel project, especially using European money?

Mr. Rodgers

No. I am not proposing to have such discussions at present.

Mr. Skinner

Does my right hon. Friend accept that if the direct elections come about—they were supposedly due to take place in June although I now believe that November is being discussed as a possible date, and they may be even later than that—any resistance that he has displayed already on tachographs will mean nothing as compared with the power that will be handed over from nation States and Ministers to the directly-elected European Parliament? Therefore, why does my right hon. Friend support the idea of a directly-elected Assembly?

Mr. Rodgers

I do not accept the conclusion that my hon. Friend reaches. I should put it the other way. If there is a strong case for the United Kingdom on the tachograph, or on regulation No. 543, and that view is shared by hon. Members, I see no reason for our representatives in the European Parliament, speaking with a loud voice, not persuading some other Members of that Parliament that we are right.