HC Deb 21 February 1979 vol 963 cc398-400
4. Mr. Adley

asked the Secretary of State for Transport when he intends next to meet representatives of the Road Haulage Association.

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. William Rodgers)

Whenever the need arises.

Mr. Adley

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the members of the RHA in and around my constituency and their drivers were extremely concerned about the activities of certain pickets during the recent industrial dispute? Does he agree that some of those activities were unacceptable in a civilised democracy? If so, can he tell the RHA and the House whether, and how, the new concordat which the Government have reached with the TUC will change the situation?

Mr. Rodgers

There was a widespread view that some, though by no means all, of the activities of pickets caused concern. Both the TUC and others have learned from that experience, and if another such occasion should arise—I hope that it will not—we shall see whether the agreement with the TUC reduces, as I believe it will, some of the anxieties.

Mr. Gould

Does my right hon. Friend recognise that the Road Haulage Association and the transport unions are apparently united, for once, on the tachograph issue, and that they all agree that the proposal is unnecessary, inappropriate and damaging? Will he therefore ensure that the issue is brought back to Parliament so that we can decide what is or is not law in this country?

Mr. Rodgers

Any final decision on tachographs will be one in which Parliament is involved. There is no doubt about that. I understand what my hon. Friend said in the earlier part of his question. There has been anxiety about tachographs. I have made my view clear, but we must consider the judgment of the European Court.

Mr. Norman Fowler

May I press the Secretary of State further about industrial action? Is he aware that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley) said, the public were appalled at the unacceptable picketing that took place during the recent dispute, particularly at the ports? Does the new concordat mean that the Government intend, and the unions accept, that in any future road haulage dispute the picketing of ports should not take place?

Mr. Rodgers

I hope that the hon. Gentleman and the House are familiar with the agreement and its precise terms. There is an annexe dealing with the issues mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, and it is very much in the terms of the TUC's view. My opinion is that if we have such circumstances again—and I hope that we shall not—the control of pickets will be such as to make unnecessary the anxieties that existed previously.

Mr. Madden

Would the Secretary of State care to compare the additional cost to the industry of the recent settlement with the additional cost that would fall on the industry from the general introduction of the tachograph and limits on drivers' hours, both of which are being pressed on us by the Common Market?

Mr. Rodgers

Comparisons of costs in the industry are highly complicated, and there is a later question on the Order Paper by the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) dealing with that aspect of the industrial dispute. We have all recognised that the introduction of limitations on drivers' hours has some penalty, but my view is that it is much smaller than was once supposed.

Mr. Temple-Morris

Does the Secretary of State agree that we must do our utmost to avoid a repetition of the recent damaging dispute? In view of what the right hon. Gentleman said to the nation about a month ago, does he still believe that the best way of avoiding another damaging dispute is to introduce a statutory incomes policy?

Mr. Rodgers

I expressed a personal view about the possibility, in certain circumstances, that statutory policies might be required, but I think that developments since then, particularly the agreement with the TUC and the very much more hopeful mood in the country, sustain the view that there is a genuine prospect of getting the present pay round completed very close to the Government's original guidelines.