HC Deb 07 November 1979 vol 973 cc382-4
4. Mr. Bendall

asked the Minister of Transport if he will make a further statement on the Armitage inquiry into heavy lorries.

14. Mr. Iain Mills

asked the Minister of Transport what progress the Armitage inquiry into heavy lorries has made to date.

19. Mr. Cook

asked the Minister of Transport if he will extend the closing date for submissions to the Armitage inquiry on lorries and their impact on the environment.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

Sir Arthur Armitage has been receiving written evidence from organisations and from individual members of the public since August. He has asked that it reach him by 9 November if possible, but I understand that he will be happy to consider any evidence submitted after that date, provided that it is received by the end of the year. He is asking for other evidence on specific matters as he sees fit.

I understand that Sir Arthur Armitage hopes to present his report to my right hon. Friend by around the middle of next year. We will have the report published as soon as possible after it is received.

Mr. Bendall

Will my hon. Friend take account of the considerable concern of a large number of people in the large conurbations and other areas about the disturbance caused by very large lorries and the effect that these vehicles have on property in terms of subsidence?

Mr. Clarke

I am in no doubt whatever about the strength of feeling on the subject in many urban areas and market towns. The problem of dealing with that is one of the matters that are before Sir Arthur Armitage.

Mr. Cook

Is the Minister aware that the House will appreciate the extension beyond this month of the time limit for acceptance of representations? Does he recognise that it would have been unreasonably swift to have imposed a November time limit on representations to an inquiry which was announced only after Parliament rose for the Summer Recess? Will the Minister give a guarantee that the finding of his Transport and Road Research Laboratory that the damage to the towns referred to is caused by the noise of heavy lorries which creates vibration will be available to the inquiry?

Mr. Clarke

Everyone is anxious that no evidence should be excluded on grounds of procedure or time. Sir Arthur Armitage has decided to extend the time for that reason. The evidence and information produced by the TRRL and its reports will be made available to the inquiry.

Mr. Stanbrook

Is my hon. Friend aware that the best contribution that he can make to reducing the nuisance caused by heavy lorries in South-East London is to get on with the construction of the M25 there?

Mr. Clarke

Motorways have made a great contribution to taking a lot of heavy traffic out of towns and villages. Our number one priority in the national road building programme is the M25. That will have a significant effect in relieving large areas of outer London of traffic which is too heavy for existing roads.

Mr. John Wells

Will Sir Arthur Armitage be considering in any way the impact of the Channel tunnel project in so far as it affects the inquiry?

Mr. Clarke

My right hon. Friend has already announced that the Cairncross inquiry will be looking at all aspects of the Channel tunnel project.

Mr. Crowther

In view of the amount of very proper public concern about the safety of heavy lorries, is the Minister aware that great dismay will be caused by a proposal now being considered in his Department that the routine inspection of heavy lorries and public service vehicles should be hived off to the private sector? Is he aware that this will cause much alarm and ought to be dropped?

Mr. Clarke

Nothing is being considered in the Department that will reduce the safety requirements imposed on vehicles. Any proposals that are made will bear in mind the need to ensure that the present high standards are maintained.