HC Deb 29 April 1981 vol 3 cc771-2
4. Mr. Butcher

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what progress has been made since he took office in increasing the issue of permits and the size of quotas for British hauliers in the European Economic Community.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

We have made strong representations to the three countries, France, Italy and West Germany, which impose inadequate quotas. Since 1979, our quotas in those countries have been increased by 21 per cent., 50 per cent. and 112 per cent. respectively. In addition, European Community and ECMT multilateral quotas have been raised by 18 per cent., and 25 per cent. Despite this progress, we must continue to press for further increases.

Mr. Butcher

I congratulate my hon. and learned Friend on his reply. Will he not agree that the British transport haulage industry is probably the most efficient in Western Europe, and that any further steps he can take to open up competition in the Western European market can only benefit the domestic haulage industry?

Mr. Clarke

I agree with my hon. Friend. It is unfortunate that the road haulage industry is still restricted within the Community by the national quotas imposed by some of our partners. Quotas are hardly conducive to the development of a free trading area and proper trade among Member countries.

Mr. James Hamilton

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that I have been in touch with him frequently about a road haulier in my constituency who is finding it difficult to get the necessary permits to travel to Italy, while many other road hauliers have permits in excess of their requirements? In view of the high level of unemployment in my constituency, I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will consider the matter seriously and see that something is done in this regard.

Mr. Clarke

I recall the case that the hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. Hamilton) brought to my attention. There are many such cases. The unfortunate policies of Italy and Germany, in particular, leave the British Government with the difficult task of dividing the permits among British hauliers. I often hear rumours that some of the holders of permits have spare permits, but I have been unable to substantiate those rumours—or to lay my hands on the permits, if I may put it that way. We agree the rules with the trade association, and we try to be as fair as possible in distributing the permits.

Mr. Stanbrook

Is the Minister aware that many hauliers who have business on the Continent and would like to obtain permits cannot do so because all the existing permits for this year have been used up? Does he know of the case of Mr. Orgies in my constituency, who has 20 trips arranged for transport to France but cannot get the permits? There must be many spare permits that are not being used.

Mr. Clarke

The road haulage industry is going through a difficult time at present, and many hauliers are exasperated when they get business abroad which would help to overcome their problems but then cannot get the permits to make the necessary journeys. That is why my right hon. Friend and I take every opportunity to stress to our opposite numbers in Western Europe that a most unfair and discriminatory system has been imposed upon our hauliers. However, it is difficult to make any progress, and the German and Italian Governments, in particular, remain difficult.