HC Deb 09 December 1981 vol 14 cc922-64
Mr. Speaker

I have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

7.21 pm
Mr. Albert Booth (Barrow-in-Furness)

I beg to move, That this House, believing that the measures proposed in the White Paper "Lorries, People and the Environment" are inadequate to solve the problems of existing heavy lorries, is opposed to any increase in heavy lorry weights. Few transport issues have aroused such widespread and continuing concern as the proposal to raise the legal limits for the weights of heavy lorries that run on the roads of this country. In view of the previous decision taken by the House on the issue, it is understandable that the Government should have proceeded with considerable caution in their approach to their own proposals. Having set up the Armitage committee, having published its report a year ago and having read carefully, I hope, the 58 recommendations that the committee made, the Government have taken 12 months before putting their proposals in a White Paper and laying it before the House. That is understandable. What is almost impossible to understand is why the White Paper bears only the faintest resemblance to the Armitage proposals.

In a previous debate, I was among those who criticised the Armitage proposals for not going far enough. However, the White Paper contains only the faintest shadow of the safeguards that Armitage proposed. It does not begin to approach what is required to deal with the problems of today's heavy lorries, let alone the heavier lorries that are proposed. It is therefore not surprising that most, if not all, of the major bodies that have made representations to the Government on the issue have expressed their considerable opposition.

The Association of County Councils has expressed considerable disappointment. That puts things mildly. The Association of District Councils has said that the White Paper opens the floodgates to a storm of protest. That reflects the situation more fairly. The Association of Metropolitan Associations has expressed its total rejection of the Government's heavy lorry proposals in the White Paper. Most environmentalist bodies concerned with Armitage are totally dismayed at the proposals in the White Paper. Even the road haulage industry must be embarrassed at the lack of a package that embraces the heavyweight lorry proposal in a defensible way.

I wish to endear myself to hon. Members by giving two assurances. First, I do not intend to speak on each of the 58 recommendations of the Armitage committee. Secondly, I realise that many hon. Members wish to express views. I shall therefore restrict my remarks to a few of the issues. This is not to say that I consider them the only issues or the most important issues. I hope that will be understood.

I wish to deal first with the Government's proposition that heavier lorries will mean fewer lorries. On that, the Government rest a number of their assertions in favour of what they propose. The Government's proposition flies in the face of experience in this country and of the statistical evidence taken by Armitage. In fact, statistical evidence and experience show that each time there has been an increase in the maximum permitted weight of lorries, there has been a big increase in the number of heavy lorries on our roads. I wish to take only three of the most recent and, I think, apposite increases to demonstrate what I say.

In 1955, when the 24-tonne lorry was permitted for the first time on our roads, the number of lorries over eight tonnes unladen weight was 5,000. In 1960 the figure was 11,000. When the 32-tonne articulated lorry—the lorry that has given rise to considerable concern—was first allowed on our roads, the number, by the same definition, increased from 24,000 in 1965 to 55,000 in 1970.

The most recent increase of any significance followed the introduction of the 30-tonne fixed four-axle lorry in 1972. The number of heavy lorries, by the same definition, was 96,000 in 1975, and that number had increased to 121,000 by 1979. There is no evidence that the increase in the maximum permitted weight will do other than encourage, for understandable reasons, those in the road haulage business to go for more freight business. They can, by virtue of the increased lorry weights, compete more effectively with the railways, helped by the motorway programme carried out during the period to which I have referred. With each increase in lorry weights, the amount of freight carried by rail, expressed on a tonnene mileage basis, has declined both in percentage and absolute terms, whereas the amount carried by lorries on our roads has increased.

In 1953, more freight in tonne mileage terms was carried on the railways than was carried by lorries on the roads. By 1979, lorries were carrying five times as much freight in tonne mileage terms as the railways. On the evidence available and in the light of experience it is almost impossible to believe that an increase in the permitted weight of lorries, as proposed in the White Paper will mean fewer lorries on the roads. The signs are that there will be more. This affects what the Government—

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. David Howell)

The right hon. Gentleman is dealing with a very important point. I think he said—I hope I do not misrepresent him—that the Armitage report did not support the view that there would be fewer lorries if they were allowed to carry a full load. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman is correct. Paragraph 360 of the report reads: Heavier lorries should reduce the total amount of lorry traffic on the roads. If heavier lorries were allowed, the reduction in lorry traffic compared to what the traffic would otherwise be, might be about 450 million—500 million miles by 1990 Paragraph 361 reads: It has been suggested in evidence that allowing heavier lorries might increase lorry traffic, through the attraction of business from competing modes, principally the railways. This is not likely to be very significant. All the scientific evidence refutes what the right hon. Gentleman said.

Mr. Booth

I agree that this is an important issue. What Armitage said in those chapters contradicts the statistical evidence.

Mr. Howell

The right hon. Gentleman said that Armitage contradicted the proposition that there would be fewer lorries if they were allowed to carry the full load. That is not so. He should withdraw what he said.

Mr. Booth

I shall not withdraw what I said, because the statistical evidence taken by Armitage bears out what I said. I do not want to waste the time of the House. I shall discuss that matter with the right hon. Gentleman later. However, I assure him that I have checked the figures carefully. If he wants to check them, he should turn to table 4 on page 6. That table shows the actual tonnage by road, rail, coastal shipping, and so on. Table 5 on page 7 shows that 22.8 thousand million tonne miles were carried by rail in 1953 as opposed to 19.7 thousand million tonne miles by road. That bears out my contention. The right hon. Gentleman will see in the same table that in 1979 road was carrying 64 thousand million tonne miles, and rail was carrying only 12.2 thousand million tonne miles. That is exactly what I said—that five times as much freight was carried by road as by rail.

The statistical evidence taken by Armitage bears out exactly what I said. Armitage's assumption about road damage, particularly in a free market as opposed to the Community where there is strict quantity control licensing on heavy lorries, is little more than an assumption and does not relate to the statistical evidence.

Mr. Gary Waller (Brighouse and Spenborough)

I do not want to get bogged down in an argument about statistics with the right hon. Gentleman, but he is being selective. Between 1949 and 1979, the number of lorries in Great Britain increased by only 74 per cent., whereas road vehicles generally increased by 500 per cent. Can he explain that other than that there was a trend towards heavier lorries, which reduced the number on the roads?

Mr. Booth

The hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. Waller) is being selective. If he is talking about the total number of vehicles, including cars, over the past decade, there has been a greater increase in the number of lorries of three axles or more than in the number of cars. If he is talking about heavy lorries, I must point out that that my definition was 8 tonnes unladen weight. If he is talking of lower weights, he will find that, even at the lowest weights taken by Armitage, an enormous increase in the number of the heaviest lorries is needed before there is any fall-off in the number of smaller lorries.

I am not being selective. Experience in this country has shown that the railways have lost freight in absolute and percentage terms to roads as we have increased lorry weights and built motorways. That is not being selective; that is reality. That is the experience of this country.

Mrs. Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

Would the right hon. Gentleman read table 32, which deals with the estimated number of heavier lorries?

Mr. Booth

I have read the estimated number. I have also read—the hon. Lady does not appear to have done so—the actual number of lorries in Armitage and the actual number of goods vehicles. Table 1 on page 5 shows that the number of lorries of over 8 tonnes unladen weight has risen consistently from 1946 to 1979. The number of lorries "not over 1½ tonnes" has also risen consistently during that period. It is only the small category of lorries of unladen weight between 1½ tonnes and 3 tonnes that has shown any sign of decline, and that only during the past five years. The hon. Lady should listen to what I say if she wishes to take part in the argument. The actual numbers, as opposed to the estimates, support my contention.

That is important, although not conclusive, to the Government's argument about road damage. The Government claim that road damage would be reduced by the introduction of heavier lorries. Again, that statement needs to be questioned against evidence and experience. To be fair, the Government say that, although some of the lorries that they are proposing are more damaging, the fact that the number would come down pro rata to the increase in their permitted payload would more than offset the increased damage caused by those lorries.

Mr. Peter Fry (Wellingborough)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the evidence given to the Select Committee on Transport, Sir Henry Chilver, the vice-chancellor of the Cranfield Institute of Technology, said: if we move into the heavier lorries, we would indeed, if we transferred goods to the heavier lorries, do less damage"? Does the right hon. Gentleman accept the opinion of one of the leading experts on this subject in the country?

Mr. Booth

That is a highly selective quotation, if the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) will allow me to say so. The overwhelming bulk of qualified technical opinion is that the damage that an individual lorry does tends to rise with the sum of the fourth power of its axle weights. Whether the bigger lorry does more or less damage depends on the axle weights and how many axles there are.

Armitage said that 90 per cent. of the damage to our roads was done by the heavy lorry. If the statistical evidence supports the idea that there will be more larger lorries on the roads, there will be even more damage.

Let us suppose that the Government are right and that the number of lorries drops in strict proportion to their increase in payload. If the operators of the 32.5-tonne gross weight lorry, which will be allowed under the Government's proposals to run at 40 tonnes, say "We do not need so many lorries now. We shall scrap a number pro rata, and run the remaining number on our roads at 40 tonnes", they will still do 15 per cent. more damage, according to the calculation in the Armitage report. The reason includes the fact that the Government are proposing that most of the new lorries will be allowed to have two or more axles at heavier weights. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. He cannot have read the Armitage report if he does not accept that the 34-tonne lorry that he proposes has a higher damage and standard axle number than the existing 32.5-tonne lorry.

The Government are proposing that every axle weight on a 32.5-tonne lorry should be allowed to be more heavily loaded. That is bound to do more damage. It is proposed that the 38-tonne should have higher steering and drive axle weights than the 32.5-tonne.

The right hon. Gentleman proposes a 40-tonne vehicle. According to the Armitage test, the lorry proposed by the right hon. Gentleman does the least damage to our roads. Again according to the Armitage test, it would do less damage than some existing lorries. However, it would still do more damage than the 44-tonne lorry. That lorry will be allowed to run with a higher steering axle weight and higher semi-trailer axle weight than the existing 32.5-tonne lorry. The White Paper, in paragraph 25, states people wrongly believe that there are plans afoot to make lorries even bigger. In addition, in paragraph 30, it states: It is essential to ensure that heavier lorries can be no bigger than the biggest lorries we have at present. Why does the Secretary of State contradict himself? In the same paragraph as he says that it is essential that lorries should not be any bigger, he states: The Government also proposes to increase the legal limit on articulated vehicle length to 15.5 metres". Therefore, there is no doubt that an increase in vehicle dimensions is being proposed for articulated vehicles.

There are two other proposals in the White Paper that will also result in bigger vehicles on the roads. First, I refer to the increase in specialised vehicles. At present, they are built to limits appropriate to the loads that they carry. A petrol tanker is a good example. Today, the petrol tank is built to carry a payload that brings the vehicle's total weight to 32.5 tonnes. However, if the Government's proposals are carried, petrol tankers will have tanks that are big enough to carry a payload that will bring the total gross lorry weight to 40 tonnes—if it is a two-drive axle lorry—or to 38 tonnes, if it is a single drive axle lorry. Therefore, there will be bigger lorries.

I am even more concerned that the proposed increase in weight will act as an incentive towards using many more trailer combinations on our roads. Those combinations are undoubtedly longer. We do not see many on British roads, but they are on the roads in Germany and other countries and they are considerably bigger than our biggest articulated wagons. They are longer by an amount that is greater than my height and I am not the shortest Member of Parliament. Therefore, the lorries will be far too big for many of our roads, which are unsuitable even for existing lorries and were never designed to take 40-tonne lorries.

The White Paper claims that we should accept heavier lorries because the Government have a trunk road programme that gives high priority to bypasses. Of course, bypasses relieve some of the most serious effects of heavy lorries. If that claim were borne out, several people might be influenced. The Government's evidence to the Armitage committee was that 400 additional bypasses were required. That was a conservative estimate in both senses of the word. The County Surveyors Society said that 600 or more additional bypasses were justified on economic grounds alone.

The truth is that only 21 bypasses are under construction. The White Paper brings forward a further 11 bypasses for construction. That will leave 31 of the bypasses in the suspended list. I hope that the Secretary of State will bear in mind that that includes the Dalton bypass on the A590 in my constituency. Indeed, that is a classic example of a road that is unsuitable for 40-tonne lorries. The programme will leave 32 of the bypasses in the 1984 onward reserve list and 37 that will not start before 1984. The road haulage industry regards that as part of an inadequate road programme. The British Road Federation contends that road construction is now half what it was 10 years ago. Traffic, particularly heavy lorry traffic, has increased during that period.

I was interested to note the question tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Mr. Hughes), which was answered on 30 November in col. 46 of Hansard. It gave the Government's estimate of the amount of new road to be opened next year. The question reveals that the Government's estimate is that only 39 miles of new motorway and trunk road will be opened next year. In 1978, 87 miles were opened. In fairness to the Government and their predecessors, I should add that 264 miles were opened in 1971.

The Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Kenneth Clarke)

Of course, 1971 was some time ago. The right hon. Gentleman complains about the low mileage figures for next year. Will he look, in the same answer, at the number of miles to be opened in 1983? The right hon. Gentleman will find that a dramatic increase is expected, over and above any of the mileages achieved under the last years of the Labour Government.

Mr. Booth

I could point to dramatic increases in mileage under the Labour Government. I cited 1982, because presumably that is the year that the Government have in mind for the introduction of heavier lorries. They intend to introduce such lorries although they are cutting expenditure on trunk road construction. Within a total transport expenditure cut of £220 million, at 1979 survey prices—I cite the Government's estimates for expenditure—they are cutting trunk road construction.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for having given way yet again. I shall not intervene again in his speech. However, he knows that we are reducing expenditure only because we are getting a better bargain for the taxpayer, because contract prices are lower than forecast. Will the right hon. Gentleman concede that we are delivering the trunk road programme in full? As he has the answer in front of him, will he give the mileage for 1983 and compare it with the mileages under the last years of the Labour Government? In 1983 there will be a dramatic increase in the mileage of new roads to be opened. That undermines the point that the right hon. Gentleman was trying to make by saying that we are failing to deliver the bypasses.

Mr. Booth

I have not got the answer in front of me, but I read it carefully before attending the debate. I chose 1982, because that programme was entirely within the Government's control. If I had chosen the programmes for 1981, 1980 or 1979, some of the roads opened would have been begun under the Labour Government. Equally, if I had chosen 1975, some of the roads would have been started under a Labour Government. I chose a year that seemed appropriate. I listened with great interest to the Under-Secretary of State when he said that there had been a cut in expenditure because we were getting better value for money. That is a nice change in defensive argument. Not long ago we were told that the Department of Transport's budget was being cut because the Government—reasonably, from their point of view—expected the Department to make some contributions to public expenditure savings. If such cuts have been made to achieve better value for money, it makes a delightful change of tune.

Generally, the White Paper pays little regard to Armitage's serious proposals about how to deal with the problems of heavy lorries. It offers a reduction in lorry noise that will be barely detectable to the human ear and is to be introduced by means of regulations that will come into force in 1983. It offers further reduction which might be brought about in the future by collaborative research and development. It does virtually nothing more to deal with the problems of ground vibration, fumes and safety standards, on which it is particularly non-committal.

The White Paper appears to deny the evidence of water and gas boards and local authorities that heavy goods vehicles are damaging to our cities' underground services. That is particularly noteworthy as Manchester has just produced direct evidence that when heavy vehicles were re-routed underground services suffered enormous damage on the new routes.

The White Paper dismisses as insignificant the effect of heavy lorries on bridges, in spite of the fact that the Institution of Highway Engineers says that we shall probably have to spend another £100 million on improvements to cope with the proposals.

One of the clearest signs that the Government are backing away from the serious issues that heavy lorries raise is their failure to make any proposals for more effective control of operators and more effective enforcement of lorry weights. Illegal running and overloading are serious problems. With the introduction of heavier lorries, even the displacement of a metre either way can make a significant difference to axle loading and damage to the roads. The Government have no proposals for the adequate staffing of enforcement bodies. They do not propose a programme of dynamic weigh bridges which will be needed to check the heavier lorries.

If the Government seriously believe that little can be done to reduce the harmful effects of heavier lorries, the White Paper is at least honest. Any Armitage recommendations that the Government do not ignore are confined to further research and investigation. The recommendations that they accept can be delivered in only a few cases because the resources are not to be made available. The Government are vague about what should be studied and what should be discussed.

In only one area is the White Paper hard and fast and crystal clear in its recommendations—where it proposes the increase in heavy lorry weights. It is so clear about that that the Government have already published for consultation their draft regulations to introduce the increases in weights under the construction and use regulations.

Heavy lorries are seen by most who suffer from them as vehicles which produce intolerable noise, fumes, vibration damage and congestion. Hon. Members know, from the Government's response in the White Paper, that it will be a long time before there is any improvement. We cannot do much to deal with that, but we can do something to ensure that in the meantime conditions do not become much worse. We should vote for the motion.

7.53 pm
The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. David Howell)

I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: `this House, believing that environmental and social problems arising from heavy lorries must be tackled comprehensively and vigorously and that industry should be helped to keep down transport costs, welcomes the Government's commitment to a continuing and substantial programme of by-pass construction to which further additions are steadily being made, and considers that decisions should not be taken on the White Paper until there has been adequate time to consider fully all the measures proposed in the light of consultations on the draft amending Regulations published for that purpose.'. I am glad to have the opportunity of setting out in more detail the proposals in the Government's White Paper for grappling with the heavy lorry problem. I shall deal with some of the arguments expressed by the right hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth). I find less attractive the Opposition's attempt to bounce us into decisions on a White Paper that the right hon. Gentleman has recognised involves matters of great complexity that deserve careful discussion.

We are dealing with the interests of tens of thousands of people in our villages and towns. We are dealing with the jobs of 300,000 people in road haulage. We are dealing with the jobs of thousands of people in the truck-building industry, where demand is way down and there is a great need of certainty and orders. My right hon. and hon. Friends are absolutely right to be anxious about the difficult problems but I am sure that the House and the country will see that the Opposition's attempt to hustle us into an instant decision, on a matter that the right hon. Gentleman agrees needs careful consideration, will not be welcome. It will be dismissed.

The issue has been debated on several occasions. Only last January the right hon. Gentleman said that two months was not nearly enough time in which to examine the Armitage report before a debate. We have had barely a week. The Government have produced a detailed White Paper and after a week we are being hustled into a decision.

The House has been assured—and I gladly repeat the assurance emphatically—that there will be a full debate on the Government's proposals. We are proposing a two-month period of consultation on the draft regulations. After that, regulations will be tabled. I have said, and I repeat, that the Government's mind is open to new evidence, and obviously I shall listen carefully to what is said in debate and in the consultations. That is the proper way to go about dealing with a matter that involves many people's interests, welfare and jobs. The right hon. Gentleman has not approached the matter in the way that he should in proposing that we should be pushed into a decision tonight, only one week after the publication of a White Paper containing many complex aspects.

Mr. Paul Dean (Somerset, North)

Did I understand my right hon. Friend to say that his mind is open on all the decisions with which we are concerned, that the consultation will be genuine and that no decisions will be made until that process is complete? Is that the assurance that he is giving to the House?

Mr. Howell

I am assuring the House that the Government's mind is open to new evidence and that the Government will listen carefully to what is said in debate and in the consultations. That is the right way to go about dealing with a matter of great complexity when, as I shall argue later, there are substantial environmental and industrial gains within our grasp. To seek to telescope the discussions into one week is not the right way to deal with such serious and difficult issues.

The right hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness argued a number of points. At one stage he seemed to be confused about the evidence in Armitage. For that reason alone it would be wrong to rush into a decision. Clearly the right hon. Gentleman's confusion about the figures is considerable. He is unable to interpret clearly the precise figures in the Armitage report about heavier lorries leading to fewer lorries.

Mr. Ted Leadbitter (Hartlepool)

The Secretary of State has been asked whether his mind is made up. Will he give an undertaking that the consultations will be real? It is clear in the White Paper that the Government's mind is made up. The White Paper states: These objectives cannot be achieved overnight: road improvements take time and the lorry fleet can only be changed as vehicles are replaced. Why did not the Government produce a Green Paper for consultation instead of a White Paper?

Mr. Howell

In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Dean), I made it clear that the Government's proposals have been put forward. Draft regulations have been circulated. A decision on regulations to be tabled and debated by the House will have to be made. That is the right way. The right hon. Gentleman's way is the wrong way. The country and people deeply interested in these matters will not appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's way.

Mr. Booth

The Secretary of State said that my evidence was confused. He will be able to read the figures that I gave in Hansard. He can check tables 1 and 5 of the Armitage report at pages 5 to 7 and if every figure that I have given is correct he should come forward with an appropriate apology.

Mr. Howell

The right hon. Gentleman's recognition that I must examine many figures reinforces my point that trying to hustle the House into a decision tonight is wholly inappropriate. I ask him to consider paragraph 360 of the Armitage report and reconcile that with his apparent statement that Armitage does not recognise and validate the point that if there were a move to fully loaded lorries there would be fewer lorries. It does just that. It is there in black and white. I shall need his recognition of the confusion in his mind about the matter. I am sure that he is right to say that the figures are complex. He seems now to be arguing against his own motion and saying that we need more time in which to consider the different figures.

I turn to the purpose of the Government in putting forward our proposals in a White Paper. The purpose is clearly to get lorries away from people and to reduce industrial costs for freight haulage. The position now is becoming worse. Some of my hon. Friends rightly have said that this is a difficult issue. I must tell them that the position is not static. The 32.5-tonne lorry presents a problem that is becoming considerably and unpleasantly worse for many people. We must recognise that fact and face it.

Sir Arthur Armitage reminded us of this in paragraph 139 of his report when he said: Our objective must be to recommend a combination of policies which will be sufficient to reduce substantially the adverse effects of lorries overall, and to reduce the problems caused by lorries in as many as possible of the places which already suffer severely or which would suffer a large deterioration in conditions if nothing further were done. That is the purpose put forward in the Armitage report and it is certainly the Government's purpose in putting forward the White Paper.

I turn now to the question whether lorry trailers are bigger, about which there has been much public comment. The cab is 1½ ft—half a metre—larger, but the containers are no bigger. I must make that clear, because I have read in the newspapers that hon. Members fear bigger juggernauts. I, too, would fear bigger juggernauts. We do not wish to see bigger juggernauts on the roads. On the contrary, the proposals in the White Paper introduce, for the first time, restrictions on height for the new heavy vehicles. Nor was it proposed in the Armitage report that there should be bigger trucks on our roads. I would not advocate that such a proposal should be brought to the House for decision during the next two months. That is the first point that must be made clear—we do not propose to have larger containers on British trucks.

The next issue that I wish to take up is the one to which the right hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness has returned several times, as have other hon. Members. They say that in the White Paper we are selecting from the Armitage report proposals that will be of particular benefit to the road haulage industry and freight transportation in Britain. That is wholly untrue. There are 58 recommendations in the report. We have said straight away that we accept 46 of them. We have said that we shall pursue a further four recommendations, which are vitally important. Of the remaining eight recommendations one deals with weight markings, which we do not believe to be necessary. Although the lorries will be no bigger, they will have an extra axle. Another recommendation is addressed to local authorities and three others deal with section 8 grants.

I wish my hon. Friends to be clear, when considering their views about the White Paper, that the Government are accepting the overwhelming majority of the Armitage proposals, because we see the set of proposals and policies as a package dealing with the deterioriating problem of the heavy lorry, where action is required for environmental and economic reasons.

The right hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness also mentioned bypasses. It is absolutely fair and proper to ask: what are the Government doing about the bypass programme, given that it is the Government's aim, as it was of Armitage, to keep lorries away from people and to get them off roads for which they were never designed? I must say to the House—because I do not believe that hon. Members will have got the right impression from the right hon. Gentleman's words—that the bypass programme is both substantial and growing. During the next few years we expect to start new trunk road schemes of a total value of about £800 million. Of that sum, about £200 million is accounted for by schemes that are specific bypasses of towns or villages. The total value of our longer-term programme is £2.5 billion, of which £600 million is for specific bypass schemes.

We are continually adding to the programme. The new and speeded up bypasses that we announced in July and November and in the Armitage White Paper are not the last word. The programme is kept under regular review and I hope to announce the results of our current consideration in January. If we can sensibly do more, we shall, but the essential point is that we are already doing a great deal. That is the central Government trunk road programme.

As to local bypasses, there are 50 schemes now under construction at a value of £300 million. In the transport supplementary grants settlement for 1982–83, which I hope to announce before Christmas, I have given high priority to county councils with urgent proposals for bypasses and relief roads. The funds that I make available will enable local authorities to go ahead with another 35 bypass projects worth about £130 million, with a further 47 schemes worth about £280 million in the pipeline and proposed to be started during the next two or three years. I repeat that it is a total of 82 bypasses valued at £400 million on top of the local authority schemes already under construction. Those schemes make a striking contrast to the selective figures picked out by—

Mr. Leslie Spriggs (St. Helens)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Howell

I shall not give way. The debate is a short one and I know that many hon. Members wish to speak.

I turn now to lorry control and what more we can do to ensure that lorries travel more on roads that are capable of holding them and less where they are unpleasant and unwelcome. Local authorities have extensive powers on such matters, but we should try to do more about three matters. We shall be reviewing the needs of local authorities when putting their powers into effect. We shall issue further advice, drawing on experience since the 1973 Act introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes), to consider how the powers work. We shall pursue lorry action area proposals urgently with the local authorities.

I know that some hon. Members have said that it is essential that that aspect of the package should be emphasised. There is no doubt that it is a vitally important part of the package.

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)

Will my right Friend give way?

Mr. Spriggs

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Howell

I shall press on a little more, as time is short.

The right hon. Gentleman made great play with the question whether there will be fewer lorries on the road if they are allowed to run fully loaded and with the extra axle rather than with the four-fifths load. The TRRL states, and the Armitage report accepts, that if there are heavier lorries there will be fewer lorries. Paragraph 360 of the report states: There would be an absolute increase in the mileage of the heaviest lorries, but the increase would be some 20–25 per cent. less than if the maximum weight remained at 32.5 tonnes. That statement draws on the TRRL's extensive research, and the right hon. Gentleman cannot brush it aside.

Greater economic activity will mean that more goods will be transported and that lorry and freight traffic will increase, but that will happen if we do nothing. However, if we do not allow the fuller loads proposed in the White Paper, we shall have more large lorries on the roads. That fact must be faced in making our decision, after proper consultation on maximum weights.

Mr. Spriggs

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Dykes

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Howell

No. Many of my hon. Friends wish to speak, and I am now coming to a close.

Finally, it is said that the proposals are just for industry. We should not be ashamed to seek ways to help industry. As it is frequently said, it is vital to keep down transport costs. We are a business nation. We should carefully consider the pros and cons when we have the opportunity to do something practical. Industry would welcome the benefits. The Association of British Chambers of Commerce with 57,000 members, major chemical industries, such as ICI and major agricultural interests, such as the NFU, urge us to proceed along the lines of the White Paper.

I should not dream of putting forward the proposals if there were to be no substantial environmental gains, but there will be fewer lorries, as Armitage and the TRRL confirms, and they will be safer, quieter and cleaner. Those advantages have been confirmed by thorough study. The right hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness sought to refute those facts, but he merely got himself deeper into a quagmire of statistics.

We have the right to assess the case and we are entirely right to reject the motion, which would deny us the opportunity to consider a vitally important matter, with a potential for great environmental and industrial gains.

Mr. Dykes

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Howell

I ask the House to support the amendment and to reject the motion.

8.13 pm
Mr. T. W. Urwin (Houghton-le-Spring)

Despite the importance of the discussion, I wish only to make a brief contribution to assist others who wish to intervene.

I give my unequivocal support to the motion, which reflects the attitude of many of my constituents who lobbied extensively following the publication of the Armitage report last December. A large number of my people reacted violently to the proposals for heavier lorries. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth) said, many of our roads are inadequate. Some were built for eighteenth century traffic, and they are overcrowded with an ever increasing number of large vehicles. Not all major roads are even built to resist the excessive wear and tear.

I have some sympathy with the lobby to increase lorry weights, which includes the British Road Federation and the General Council of British Shipping, but I am even more mindful of the escalating problems in many towns, cities and seaports if the weight is increase to 40 tonnes, as proposed by Armitage.

If the decision were implemented the problems that my constituency already has to endure would be considerably accentuated. The number of heavy vehicles on the roads in my constituency is increasing. We have six coal mines, two coke works and coal mines to the south and to the north. Two of my coal mines operate under the North Sea and are situated near the beach. The nuisance of dust, noise and vibration continues and affects people's health. Nowhere is the problem more acute than in the small town and port of Seaham.

We are grateful to the National Coal Board for providing jobs in an area with excessively high unemployment, but its extensive operations produce divergent problems. Stockpiling coal gives rise to heavy traffic to move that coal. Coal is also moved to be blended to comply with the requirements of the steel industry.

The small port in my constituency is vigorous, bustling and thriving because of good management. Since the export of coal ceased, it has had to diversify its activities, although it is again now marginally operating in coal exports. The divergence of its activities creates extra heavy traffic in a small, built-up and heavily congested area. As many as 120 heavy vehicles, carrying coal or perhaps slurry from pits, pound up and down a narrow built-up street throughout the day and night. The 5 per cent. reduction in the number of lorries if heavier lorries were introduced would be a great blessing to my constituents. At 3 o'clock in the morning they would be able to consider the fact that only six fewer lorries would pass by in the next 24 hours.

I pay tribute to the National Coal Board, to the Seaham harbour dock company, the Durham county council and the Department of the Environment, who have joined me in trying to solve the problem. We are on the way to finding a partial solution to benefit many of my people, but, whatever improvements are made, a large number of heavy vehicles will still travel through my constituency, so I give my wholehearted support to the motion.

8.20 pm
Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)

I hope that I shall not be misunderstood if I echo the words of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) yesterday and say that I only want to be helpful.

I shall support the Government's amendment for three reasons. First, it states that the Government will take "adequate time" to consider representations. Secondly, it strengthens the commitment that has already been made to bypasses. I shall say more about that later. Thirdly, my right hon. Friend has assured the House that he has an open mind on the subject. I believe that he would have done better if he had made it clearer in the White Paper that he faces a difficult task. He has to reconcile the need for an economic, efficient transport system in this country and an opportunity for our manufacturing industry to make a contribution to it with the resentment felt by many people at the intrusion of huge vehicles into places where there is literally no room for them.

From time to time, the House should be reminded that White Papers exist officially to promote public understanding. It is a long time since any of us has seen a White Paper that goes even a few inches down the road of promoting public understanding. I cannot resist the temptation of calling the attention of the House to one gem in this White Paper, which has one merit—it is brief. Paragraph 19 states: It will be important to keep the methodology of assessment under review to keep pace with improved techniques and changing circumstances, and the Government will ensure that this is done. I wonder what that adds to the sum of human happiness and wisdom. That sort of claptrap could be easily dispensed with.

On page 9 of the same document—there are only 12 pages in it—the Government finally came to the real point, their intention to increase the laden weight of a lorry to 40 tonnes. I cannot for the life of me understand why my right hon. Friend and his Department did not state clearly in the White Paper that they were thinking of introducing a new vehicle that would carry a heavier load, that would be minimally larger in order to accommodate a better and safer cab which would be allowed to go faster but that the axle loading would be unchanged. It would also, in time, become less noisy, less smelly, less dirty, and there would be a limit on its height. It would be safer, more efficient and pay more towards road costs. That would be a reasonably honest and intelligible summary of the position. I hope that my hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary of State will make it clear in his reply whether he accepts my summary; if he does not, I hope that he will adopt it because it is a great deal better than anything that the Government have managed to come up with.

If the Government adopted my advice, the way would be open for discussion of some of the important points. I should like to know what the Government mean by their reference to a research and development programme. Many people in public life frequently mouth those words, but they have long ago forgotten what they mean. The House is entitled to know something about the details of the research and development programme—which is very necessary—that the Government contemplate. The Government should also say how they intend to meet the problem of enforcement, which is a real problem. We cannot have the roads littered with people stopping every road vehicle. That drives one to the conclusion that only ferocious penalties will deal with the problem. Anyone who breaches the law seriously should be in danger of having his vehicle and load impounded for an indefinite period. That would make people think pretty hard.

We should also consider the details of how the contribution of the so-called customer to the costs of the track will be measured. The House is entitled to know the side effects on the numbers of vehicles with draw-bar trailers. Their use is legal now, but they are uneconomic unless and until the overall weight is raised. Have the Government formed any estimate of numbers?

I also welcome my right hon. Friend's comments on bypasses, but we have to think about the meaning of words and measure their meaning and value against the background of our procedures, which too often are those of a tortoise that has lost its sense of direction. Our progress in building roads is incredibly sluggish. It is not only the fault of Ministers, for this country has carefully preserved an ability to prevent almost anything. I am not yet satisfied with the rather brusque way in which the possibility of lorry routes has been pushed on one side simply because it is a difficult problem. The whole problem is difficult, and this aspect of it needs serious thought.

I do not wish to take up much more of the time of the House because I believe that ex-Ministers returning to their old stamping ground are a nuisance. I conclude my remarks with two requests to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary of State. I hope that they will bury deep the strongly held official belief that one can get a quart into a pint pot as long as one turns away and does not look at the process. I invite my right hon. and hon. and learned Friends to come to my constituency. I hope that I shall not be accused of being parochial, but I should like them to look at the quaint old lanes that meander through Montacute, West Coker and Langport. All three quaint old lanes are class A roads. To describe them in that way, of course, violates language. Before the Government brush aside further consideration of lorry routes, they should think of the condition of those quaint old country lanes now masquerading as main roads.

I am overflowing with hospitality this evening. I should like my right hon. Friend to come down to my part of the country and to make his way on a summer weekend through Ilminster. The building of its bypass has unaccountably slipped because of the tortoise-like procedures to which I referred earlier.

I do not want to be unkind. I know the difficulties faced by my right hon. Friend. However, I hope that he will take away the White Paper and pulp it. He can then return to the House with a clearer and more forthright statement of his intentions, and how he will carry them out. It will then be possible for those who now feel threatened to think that their cause has been understood. They may even understand something of the difficulties faced by the Government. They may then lose the strongly held impression that they have been sold a pup in a rather shabby way.

8.30 pm
Mr. John Cartwright (Woolwich, East)

In view of the concluding remarks of the Secretary of State, I want to make it absolutely clear that my colleagues and I appreciate and recognise the contribution made by the road haulage industry to the British economy in general, and to industry in particular. We recognise that, whatever action is taken to promote alternatives, road transport will play a leading role in the carriage of goods, especially those that need to be moved efficiently and rapidly.

However, I am not persuaded that everything possible is being done to switch freight away from road transport where that can effectively be undertaken. I represent a South-East London riverside constituency. My constituents point out that the river Thames is the broadest, simplest highway into the centre of London that can carry goods with no environmental damage. More should be done to use the waterways, as is done successfully by our European neighbours.

The Government rest their case for allowing heavier lorries on the argument that they are presenting a package of environmental safeguards and improvements. I am not persuaded by what they set out in the White Paper. It is certain that we shall have the heavier lorries. The environmental improvements and benefits are much less certain. The White Paper argument is that heavier lorries mean fewer lorries. The Secretary of State rests that argument on paragraph 360 of the Armitage report. We must remember exactly what that paragraph states. It includes the sentence: Heavier lorries should reduce the total amount of lorry traffic on the roads. It does not say that they will, but that they should. That estimate is based on forecasts made by transport economists.

Mr. Fry

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if there is no increase in lorry weights and there is economic recovery there will be even more lorries on the roads, many of which could do even more damage than the proposed 40-tonnes?

Mr. Cartwright

I understand that argument. However, the Government say that heavier lorries mean fewer lorries. That is based on estimates by transport economists. There is healthy scepticism about all economic forecasting. I do not know why transport economists should be different. All the evidence shows that when we have increased lorry weights we have not decreased the number of lorries. In fact, they have increased.

The White Paper does not take account of the movement of foreign lorries. Movements through the port of Dover between 1967 and 1979 increased more than 24 times, from 21,000 to 506,000. That shows the problem.

I turn to the Government's proposals for bypasses. They may be an ideal solution for the problems of heavy lorries that threaten small towns, but they do not offer a solution to the problems of the conurbations and the metropolitan areas.

In my part of South London it is absolutely impossible to have a system under which lorries shift goods from factories and warehouses to the trunk road system without passing through residential streets and shopping centres. It may be suggested that urban motorways are the solution to the problem, but we all recognise their cost in environmental damage and financial investment. It is clear that in the great conurbations and metropolitan areas the bypass programme does not offer a solution to the problem of the heavy lorries.

Paragraph 2 of the White Paper suggests that lorries are already far too noisy. It refers to the 1983 proposition to reduce noise levels to 88 decibels. That will mean a high level of noise—about 1 decibel less than the 1970 permitted level. The White Paper pays a great deal of attention to the QHV90—the so-called quieter lorry—that will have a noise emission of 80 decibels, about the level of the noisiest car. That development has been promised throughout the 1980s, but we have only one prototype. I understand that the 80-decibel limit will depend on agreement with our European partners. There can be no guarantee of success, and no assurance to the long-suffering public of quieter lorries in the short term.

There is also the problem of vibration. Paragraph 20 of the White Paper states that people dislike vibration. I suggest that they more than dislike it. They believe that vibration damages their property, and there is good evidence to support that view. The White Paper seems. to be silent on vibration and on the impact that the proposed heavier lorries will have on the vibration problem.

There is one humorous but slightly chilling comment in paragraph 33 of the White Paper: the greater impact of the heavier lorry in a collision would only increase marginally the severity of accidents". That is of small comfort to anyone who is run into by a juggernaut.

If we couple the increased weight with the higher speed of lorries as proposed in the White Paper, we have an even more chilling prospect. If the Secretary of State were offered a choice between being hit by a 32.5 tonne lorry at 40 mph and a 40-tonne lorry at 50 mph, I think I know which one he would choose.

Parking is another major difficulty. Those who have large lorries parked outside their homes find the visual intrusion of such lorries distressing. In urban areas there are the problems of drivers sleeping in their vehicles, refrigerated lorries with their motors running, and early morning starts which wake up everyone when the lorries finally trundle away. We should give local authorities more encouragement to enforce overnight parking bans in residential areas.

I know that the White Paper mentions strengthening the licensing legislation, but the problems are with us now, and they demand more than legislation in future.

Finally, I accept that there is a case for heavier lorries, but the public will accept it only if they recognise that it is balanced by environmental improvements and safeguards. The White Paper fails absolutely to set out a convincing programme of that sort, and that is why my right hon. and hon. Friends and I will vote against it.

8.37 pm.

Sir Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)

The White Paper cheerfully records that 215 of 275 towns in England with populations over 10,000 now have bypasses. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred with pride to the size of the current programme. Like the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Cartwright) I am conscious that there is no bypass for the largest city of all—London.

I regret that London's ring roads were not completed, because the centre of our capital city is now being strangled by juggernauts which are unsuited to our streets. Some months ago I was travelling in a Ministry car down Knightsbridge when a juggernaut turned slightly erratically and went straight into the side of the car. A week later, in my constituency, I watched a juggernaut demolish a small car, pressing it against a robust pedestrian crossing beacon. Only last week I saw a juggernaut stuck in a mews 100 yards from my home. It appeared that the lorry would demolish a cottage and a garage. Only the driver's exceptional skill enabled him to extricate it.

Those are an everyday event in the centre of our capital city.

The White Paper refers to the planned improvements at Wisbech and West Walton, Narborough, Kelsall, Brockworth, Bridport, Brecon and Holywell. There is no reference to London or any of the major conurbations unless one reads that in the riveting sentence at the beginning of paragraph 13 which states: Controls over the routes lorries may use are a useful means of protecting residential and other areas from traffic. The central argument of the White Paper which has been bandied between the Front Benches this evening is that if we allow heavier loads, there will be 12 per cent. fewer heavy lorries on our roads.

Hon. Members have referred selectively to the Armitage report. I was particularly struck by table 38, which shows that, even with low growth in the economy and even if we have heavier lorries, we shall have more than 1,000 million miles per year of extra heavy lorry use on our roads by the end of the decade. That suggests to me that there will be several thousand more heavy lorries. However, we shall never know whether the Government's prediction is accurate.

I was glad that the hon. Member for Woolwich, East referred to safety because, given equal braking power and steering capacity, a heavier lorry will obviously be slightly less manoeuvreable than a lighter lorry. There are hundreds of thousands of heavy lorries on our roads. Therefore, it would be rash to assume that all brakes and all power steering systems will work effectively at all times. The damage caused by a heavy lorry when safety systems fail is clearly much greater than that done by a lighter lorry. The Transport and General Workers Union was quick to point that out when putting in its wage demands.

I turn to damage to roads and bridges. When I was partly responsible for this subject in Northern Ireland, some experts were concerned about the effect of total weight—not just axle weight—on roads built over peaty soil. Perhaps their fears have been allayed, but there is clearly a great deal that we do not know about the potential damage to roads, and particularly strain on bridges. I found the Armitage report particularly equivocal on the subject of bridges. It is highly critical of the EEC proposals, but in paragraph 414 the report asks a simple question: 'Where will it all end? What is to stop there being subsequent increases in weights until eventually we have 100 ton lorries on our roads?' The answer is simple: it will end right here. The reason is: bridges. 44 tonnes is the maximum weight of lorry of present dimensions that can be tolerated on the bridges of this country. If anything over 44 tonnes will bring our bridges tumbling down, can we be sure that an increase to 40 tonnes will not result in a far bigger bill for repairing and strengthening our bridges than the Armitage report suggests?

On the question of lorry dimensions, which has such an important psychological impact, my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) drew attention to the drawbar problem. Paragraph 365 of the Armitage report states: There are some commodities of which a full weight load at present can just be carried within the dimensions of an articulated lorry. To carry a greater weight of such a commodity it would be necessary to switch to drawbar combinations, which can carry a greater volume of goods. On British roads there are few drawbar combinations relative to the number of articulated lorries. If maximum lorry weights were increased, our judgment is that the use of drawbar combinations would increase slightly". If that judgment is wrong and the number of drawbar combinations increases substantially, it will mean an increase from 15.5 metres to 18 metres. Armitage suggested that the Department of Transport should monitor this aspect, but the White Paper does not go as far as that. One is therefore faced with the question of what to do this evening. The Secretary of State said that he wants more talks on the White Paper, but I do not believe that it provides a proper basis for a national plan for heavy lorries. Therefore, unless the Minister can speak with the tongue of angels, I regret that I shall not be able to support the Government in the Lobby tonight.

8.47 pm
Mr. Gordon A. T. Bagier (Sunderland, South)

In the short debate today and in the two debates on the Armitage report in the past 12 months it has been unfailingly shown that the case for the heavier lorry has not been substantiated in the minds of the general public or of anyone else.

I remind the House of the events of three years ago. One wonders about the activities of the Department when the new Minister comes to the House to support the idea of heavier lorries. A report appeared in The Guardian just over three years ago of an internal Department of Transport memorandum which had been leaked—the notorious Peeler memorandum, named after its author, Joseph Peeler, then head of the Department's freight directorate. He argued that the purpose of an inquiry on heavier lorries would be "presentational", and its fact-finding value … heavily subsidiary to making the case for the heavier lorry. It would, he said, offer a way of dealing with political opposition". That means us—Members of Parliament elected to provide that opposition. The memorandum suggested a way to soften that political opposition to a more rational position on lorry weights, and an opportunity to the road haulage industry to improve its public image and its organisational cohesiveness". That is the real answer. The road haulage people who have been behind this all along require an economic return. The argument is economic. It has nothing to do with the environment or the opinions of the people. It is the economic return. Mr. Peeler went on to say that the main objective of the inquiry would be the establishment in the public mind of a clear and overwhelming case for heavier lorry weights".

Mr. Leadbitter

That is a perfect example of "Yes, Minister".

Mr. Bagier


Mr. Peeler, of course, received his just desserts. He no longer heads the freight directorate. He was moved on to quieter pastures—no doubt for proper reasons.

On the basis of what we have heard tonight, can Mr. Peeler's approach be vindicated? Has a clear and overwhelming case for heavier lorries been made that satisfies both Members of Parliament and the public? Certainly, based on the correspondence that I have received, it has not. The public do not want to see heavier lorries.

It looks as if we have a Minister who is conceding the case. He has told us that there will be more consultation and a chance to go into this matter more deeply, but I understand that the only debate we shall have will last one and a half hours on an order. I do not regard that as full consultation, yet that is all that will be allowed for the House to put forward its views. This, therefore, is a false prospectus. I hope that the Under-Secretary will confirm that that is not so and that we shall have more time for debate so that hon. Members on both sides can discuss this matter.

The suggestion that heavier lorries will mean fewer lorries and that this will be an environmental gain is a plain untruth. It is almost a con on the public to suggest that there will be fewer lorries. If, as we hope, the economy grows, there are bound to be more lorries. It will be to the economic benefit of lorry owners to go for the heavier type that carry larger loads.

According to Armitage, lorry traffic is estimated to grow by a minimum of 28 per cent. by 1990. The high growth figure quoted by Armitage was an increase of 40 per cent. It is a peculiar logic that suggests that a minimum increase of 28 per cent. in lorry loads can be of benefit to the environment. If the Government are so sure that heavier means fewer, perhaps the Minister will spell out how many lorries he believes will be on our roads by 1990. What is the Department's estimate of the number of lorries on our roads? As my right hon. Friend said so forcefully, there has always been an increase in lorry loads, and it is completely bogus to suggest that there will be fewer lorry loads.

The Secretary of State admitted in a written reply last week that it would be perfectly possible for operators to load an extra 1½ tonnes on to their existing 32.5-tonne lorries and that the immediate consequence would be an extra 12 per cent. damage to road surfaces. The Minister admits that fact, yet we hear that he is not convinced that roads will be damaged by heavier loads.

Not a friend in court would back the right hon. Gentleman on that assumption. The only correspondence that I have received that denies that assumption is from the road haulage industry. I do not blame it, because it is to the industry's economic benefit to have larger lorries.

I shall not dwell on what will happen to bridges, because the hon. Member for Beckenham (Sir P. Goodhart) gave the figures and said that a considerable sum of money would be needed to strengthen them

. It is suggested that underground services will not be affected, but that case has not been proved. The King report on serious gas explosions made it quite clear that such explosions were caused by heavier lorries running on roads above gas mains. It recommended that that should not happen. Whatever the underground services are, be they gas mains or sewers, we should ensure that they are effective.

This proposal also ignores the 1974 City university study that placed the responsibility for pipe failures on heavy vehicular traffic. The White Paper ignores those reports. It also seems that loading provisions have been ignored in many areas. The right hon. Gentleman has already said that he does not propose to take action on a metering system so that loads can easily be identified. That is an absolute requirement. According to my research, in random checks in Kent over the 12 months from April 1980 to March 1981, nearly 50 per cent. of the lorries were overloaded. Yet, because of Government spending cuts, the enforcement staff were run down by 15 per cent. in 1980. That was in Kent, the garden of England. I hope that Conservative Members, who are keen to put the point to the Minister, will be forceful.

The additional costs of the heavy load will be made up by road and bridge maintenance, bypasses and so on, and will affect the so-called benefit to the consumer. It is difficult to see how there will be an economic advantage to the consumer. In paragraph 4, the White Paper implies that the consumer will see the benefit in more competitive prices in the shops. The right hon. Gentleman owes an explanation to the House, because the economic arguments are absolute rubbish.

It is thought that the saving to the road haulage industry may be about £150 million if it has heavier lorries to carry goods. However, that ignores the fact that user expenditure on road freight last year was £16,700 million, and £150 million is 0.1 per cent. of that. It means a saving of one-tenth of a penny in the pound for the consumer. Therefore, I hope that we shall hear no claptrap from the Minister about the saving for the consumers or the great rake-off they will have from the increase in lorry size.

Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Scunthorpe)

If we accept the hon. Gentleman's arguments for doubting the savings to the consumer, will he tell the House why he and many other hon. Members were so agitated earlier this year on behalf of the road transport industry? When the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed an extra 20p on derv, arguments were advanced from both sides of the House—and most vociferously from the Opposition—in favour of reducing the duty on dery for the benefit of the haulage industry and, therefore, indirectly, for the benefit of the consumer.

Mr. Bagier

Obviously I should not have given way, because that intervention has nothing to do with the Armitage report on heavier lorries. My case is that the £150 million was the sum estimated to be saved by the road haulage industry and passed on to the consumer. However, that is a bogus case and there would be no real effect on consumer prices.

As a railwayman, I am particularly interested in another section of the report which the Minister has seen fit to ignore—the part on the section 8 grant. If we are trying to improve the environment and, even more important, effect energy conservation, ignoring the section 8 grant is wrong. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will look at this again before saying that he can do nothing about it.

There are thousands of citizens who suffer from the effects of heavy lorries, particularly in small villages, and whose days are made hell by them. No doubt hon. Members representing constituents in small villages will make their case. There is nothing in the White Paper for the towns and villages, although the right hon. Gentleman, after being activated, gave an impressive list of bypass proposals. There are only four extra bypasses included in the Minister's list in the White Paper, over and above the Department of Transport list.

It is slightly unfair and dishonest of the right hon. Gentleman to suggest that without the heavier lorries the bypass programme would come to a halt. The bypass programme is desirable not only for heavy lorries but for cars and for the peace and tranquillity of the people in hundreds of towns and villages. As has been said, the larger cities and the ring road programme will get nothing out of the proposal.

Ordinary people will have to pay a high price if heavier lorries are introduced, and there will be no benefits for them, but the road haulage industry has got everything it could have wanted. The Government and the Minister have bent their knees to benefit the road hauliers. They are flying in the face of public opinion. They are flying in the face of the hundreds of thousands of people in Britain who do not want heavier lorries and who will not accept the statistical evidence that has been produced in favour of them. The number of deputations and of people who will be tackling the Minister and his hon. Friends, and also Opposition Members, will show that public opinion is totally against the proposals.

Will the Minister confirm that the only consultation available at the moment is through a debate for an hour and a half on a statutory instrument? If that is not so, will he tell us how the House is to be consulted, and in what way we can stop the introduction of heavier lorries?

9.2 pm

Mr. Terence Higgins (Worthing)

I declare an interest as a director of a group of companies whose interests include road transport.

We are debating a matter that raises important issues of timing and politics as well as economics and technology. I welcome the timing of the debate. It is appropriate, after the Secretary of State's announcement, that we should have an opportunity to debate it without delay.

I agree with what the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Bagier) said about a debate on the orders. It would be entirely wrong if the House were to be allowed only one and a half hours to debate the orders. Having said that, I feel bound to say that the Opposition's motion is premature, since it effectively rules out any opportunity for consultation with my right hon. Friend. Although many of us have already sat through long debates on the Armitage report and had many other discussions, it is important that my right hon. Friend should now listen wth an open mind to what is said on the specific proposals that he has put forward in the White Paper and the supporting documents.

The second important point is the timing of the implementation of the regulations concerning lorry weights in relation to improvements in the environment. That relationship is crucial in this context.

The problem is not one of new, large lorries or new, heavier lorries; it is the problem now created by existing lorries. Apart from a slightly greater length at the front end, which will enable lorries to be quieter as well as better in other respects, the Secretary of State is not proposing an increase in the size of lorries. Indeed, he is proposing, for the first time, to have a limitation on lorry height. These points have not been fully appreciated, either by cartoonists in London newspapers or by the Federation of Sussex Amenity Societies. Bigger lorries are not proposed. Heavier lorries are proposed, and the crucial question is that of axle weight. In that respect I have important reservations concerning my right hon. Friend's proposals.

I am not convinced that my right hon. Friend has any need to go to 40 tonnes. My impression is that many people in the industry would have been satisfied with 34 or 38 tonnes, and more justification is needed for the limit that is now proposed.

Secondly, I am doubtful about the proposals on 34-tonne lorries on four axles. That is not necessarily a point that ought to be conceded by the Government. Thirdly, I share the views already expressed about the problem of tow-bar trailers and the extra length that they involve. In my view, they are already too large and my hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary should also consider that point carefully.

I am somewhat sceptical about the economic advantages advanced. The CBI has advanced some very high figures and the Armitage report talks in terms of £150 million a year. We must weigh that potential advantage against the problems that heavier weights are likely to cause.

The Under-Secretary would be right to give his estimate of the effect on the cost of living of the proposed changes, because that is relevant in considering the arguments on one side of the equation and the other.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the right hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth) placed great stress on the fact that the number of lorries is likely to diminish. They tended to talk in overall terms for the country as a whole, but it is also relevant to consider, for example, the sort of situation that occurs in my constituency and in many others—a factory at the end of a residential street. It is probable that either lorries will not be carrying any heavier loads—depending on their cargoes—or, if they are filled to the maximum allowed weight, the number using that residential street will tend to diminish.

Despite the discussions between my right hon. Friend and the right hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness, my right hon. Friend's overall point is crucial to the argument. The number of lorries, compared with what the number would otherwise be—there has been some confusion on that—would diminish as a result of increasing the weights.

Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)


Mr. Higgins

With great respect to the right hon. Gentleman, many other hon. Members wish to contribute and I want to be as quick as I can in making three more specific points.

First, there is the question of enforcement. In that context, we are discussing the economic benefits to the country if we proceed with what the Government propose. That is clearly something in which the Treasury has an interest. If the Treasury supports the proposals, it is right and proper that it should also supply adequate funds to enable enforcement to be carried out properly. Enforcement is an important issue in the debate and in decisions on future orders.

We would find a great deal less overloading of lorries—whatever limits are determined—if lorries that were found to be overloaded were taken straight off the road at the nearest safe point and not allowed to proceed until the excess load was removed. It would be preferable if the driver of a lorry had to walk back and tell his employers about that. Such a sanction would probably prove effective.

Another point that I want to make in this context concerns greater safety measures and, particularly, side-guards. I do not understand why we need to delay on safety measures such as side-guards, under-run protection and so on. They should be made a condition of existing lorries being allowed to carry heavier weights. The same should, of course, be true of new lorries. We should not concede the extra weight if we are unable to get the safety measures that are required with them.

Finally, I want to say something on the vexed question of bypasses.

Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)


Mr. Higgins

I hope that my hon. Friend will allow me to continue, because I know that he and many other hon. Members want to contribute.

There has been much discussion in the past few days on the state of the economy and whether there is overcrowding as a result of various increases in Government expenditure. The Treasury and Civil Service Committee rejected the argument about overcrowding in physical terms. We do not have a lack of adequate resources with regard to construction industry, road building and so on. I also have considerable doubts about financial crowding out.

Therefore, I return to the point that I made earlier. If the Treasury thinks that the economic arguments are sound, it ought also to provide adequate funds to ensure that the bypasses are built. It is important that we should be clear about the Government's overall plan for bypasses. If we are to go along with what is now proposed, we want a comprehensive plan, covering the country as a whole, of the bypasses that the Government think will eventually be built. The time taken to build bypasses depends to a great extent on the time that is needed to plan and to go through the process of public inquiry, which can be lengthy.

With an overall plan of proposed bypasses I see no reason why many of the procedures that at the moment delay the building of bypasses should not be carries out in advance of the sums being available for their construction. This would persuade many hon. Members that what the Government propose, on merit and in terms of the environment, is intrinsically worth while. There is also a need to take positive steps of the kind that I have sought to summarise.

We should seek to persuade my right hon. Friend in the course of the next two or three months that this kind of action needs to be taken as part of the overall plan that he has in mind that includes the more debatable and difficult question of the actual increase in lorry weights

9.10 pm
Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)

I shall be brief. In the representations made tonight and those made in the country at large, which the Secretary of State will receive in the period of consultation he has provided, I do not think that he will find that anyone seriously believes that there will be a reduction in the number of heavy lorries. There is every reason to suppose that if weights are increased the size of the average heavy lorry will also increase. There is great scepticism among professional engineers about the calculation of the road and bridge damage effects of the proposed new lorries. There is anger over the proposal that heavier lorries should come into operation in advance of environmental and safety approval.

The Secretary of State will also be told that law enforcement in road haulage is a travesty and that the present taxation regime discriminates in favour of the heavy lorry and against the railways and the private motorist. If the lorry is to be made more civilised, there is no doubt in my mind that positive steps need to be taken to reduce lorry noise and spray, to improve safety by fitting side-guards, anti-locking systems and better brakes. These matters need attention before weights are increased. I recognise that hauliers need an incentive to make the necessary improvements.

The Secretary of State should consider a package of improvements that will encourage the development of a more acceptable lorry, gain some of the economic benefits of heavier loads and spare the vast majority of the population from additional nuisance. The right hon. Gentleman should be willing to issue special licences to operators who wish to use heavier lorries.

The lorries would have to meet stringent environmental conditions and operate over designated routes. They should be equipped with tractor units with a double-drive axle to ensure that road damage is minimised. They should operate at maximum noise levels of not more than 80 decibels. Such lorries should operate over trunk routes or motorways and normally outside residential areas. The routes should be "permitted routes" cleared beforehand. Such lorries should be specially marked. If they stray from permitted routes, the operator should lose his licence and the driver suffer a heavy personal fine. One advantage would be that own-account and other major operators could take the opportunity of improving productivity. I am not against industry. I want it to be efficient and to take advantage of what is available to improve productivity.

Furthermore, distribution from railheads of fully-loaded containers could be permitted, as in Germany. There would be a much-needed stimulus to the vehicle building industry to meet the new requirements. There would be really stringent safeguards for the population at large.

Mr. Matthew Parris (Derbyshire, West)


Mr. Ross

I am sorry. I intend to sit down in two minutes, if possible. I wish to highlight a constituency problem. The roads on the Isle of Wight are totally unsuited even for the 32½-tonne lorry. Road surfaces are breaking up. The roads on the island were never properly built. Vehicles and buses are shaken to pieces. The same terrible damage is seen throughout the City of London. Pavements, drains and bridges have been broken up.

The people of the Isle of Wight do not share the optimism of the Armitage report about the effects of heavy lorries on carriageway structures. There is concern to maintain the visual amenity of the island. We were not reassured by the statement of the Secretary of State for Transport last week. We regard the advent of the 38 or even 40-tonne lorry with great alarm.

In 1978 we advertised an order under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967, which would have imposed a ban on all vehicles entering the county with a laden weight exceeding 32.5 tonnes, but we accepted that any such measure would require the consent of the Secretary of State before it could be implemented. Our latest advice is that such a move is premature, in advance of any Government decision on the matter.

I ask the Secretary of State, in drawing up the regulations, to consider seriously the position of a place such as the Isle of Wight, which cannot take any larger lorries—in fact, it would like to get rid of some of the larger ones that go there now—and to see whether it is possible for a limit to be put on the weight of vehicles which are allowed on our island roads.

9.15 pm
Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)

The case for heavier lorries is being made strongly by industry through all the powerful federations and trade associations that represent industry. I have seen such representations. We have heard from those associations that it would save £150 million a year. I agree that there is an economic case for the heavier lorry. However, there is also a case for the people and the environment.

From what we have heard this evening, the Government believe that there is a case for the heavier lorry. They want to give industry this £150 million, and have made a strong case for it. What a wonderful gesture to give industry this handout now. The Government have refused to give industry other major handouts, or to remove burdens from it, but this they want to do. They have refused to take off the national insurance surcharge, or to have another look at high energy costs, but this £150 million is suddenly of vital importance to industry. We have heard this evening that industry spends £16 billion a year on road transport, yet this gesture of £150 million is suddenly of the utmost importance.

What about a gesture to the people? They, too, have a case, but they do not have powerful associations to speak for them, or federations to put their case. They have the Civic Trust, which does a great job in protecting our environment. It is a responsible guardian of our environment and heritage. They also have the Council for the Protection of Rural England, which speaks up for the environment and people.

The people also have a spokesman in every town and village—their Member of Parliament. I speak today just as an ordinary Member of Parliament. My constituents do not want heavier lorries. They want me to speak on their behalf. I have received an enormous mail from all over the country because of some notoriety that I achieved in this connection.

I have seen heavy lorries going through my constituency for the past 16 years. It took 16 years to get the bypass for Canterbury. I am glad that it was opened by my hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary two months ago, and I am grateful for it. It takes a long time to get a bypass, a lot of persuasion, a lot of argument and sometimes a lot of protests. That is true in many other places, notwithstanding the Minister's agreement to introduce a programme of increased building of bypasses.

In my constituency I have also seen the damage that heavy lorries do to new roads. The Canterbury bypass has just been opened, but there is a five-mile stretch of the A2 leading to it on the London side that is now under extensive repair. That part of the road is a dual carriageway trunk road that was built barely six years ago, and it has been completely broken up during those six years by 32.5-tonne juggernaut lorries on their way to and from Dover and the Continent. Six years' wear and tear have destroyed a new trunk road. The experts are amazed. The road construction unit is amazed. The county surveyor is amazed. The Department of Transport is amazed. However, my constituents are not amazed. Nor am I. We could see what was happening, as we watched the freight traffic going to and from the Continent. We also knew the figures for the growth of that freight traffic through the port of Dover. In 1967, there were 21,000 lorries. In 1979, 506,000 lorries passed through. We could see what was happening. The new road simply could not stand the strain.

I must not get emotional. I must stick to facts. I am not an anti-lorry man. I am a roads man. I have always been in favour of roads. I have campaigned for roads to take freight traffic, for new bypasses, for motorways and for better trunk roads. I may have succeeded in getting a bypass for Canterbury and for the famous village of Bridge in my constituency, but that is all. That is where my achievements end. There is still no motorway from London to Europe. The M2 stops 20 miles short of Dover, at Brenley corner, and then continues as an A trunk road only. The M20 is not completed and neither is the M25. Hon. Members should look at the chaos where the A2 meets the London sprawl at Falconwood and Welling. When we come a little closer to the heart of London, what do we see? We see juggernauts in Parliament Square. That is ludicrous. The Metropolis is crammed with vast, noisy and evil-smelling vehicles. I am not against them. Of course, we need them. However, we need to prevent them from being so noisy and from emitting foul fumes. We need to inspect them more often. In short, we need to put them under much stricter control for the sake of the people and the environment. They are already a menace. If we give the go-ahead to a further extension of their weight we shall encourage the development of one of the most intrusive dangers to our environment.

Why should industry always be allowed to get its way like this? The time has come to say "No" to its rapacious demands on our way of life. I have had enough of the beguiling arguments that industry must have this and that. Industry must live with society, respect the people and be respected by them in turn. In the nineteenth century, industry sprawled across the Midlands, the North, Wales and Scotland. Today we regulate and control industrial development. We do not allow factories to be built anywhere. Why should we allow heavy lorries to go where they like today? They do not stick to the motorways or trunk roads, and in my constituency lorries that come from Dover deliberately use the minor roads and lanes, often to avoid police checks and weight checks in Canterbury.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has a programme for more bypasses, for which I am grateful. That is a move in the right direction, but much more needs to be done before our roads are ready for heavier lorries. It is said that the heavier lorry will not be any bigger. I accept that. It is said that it will be quieter. I do not accept that. It has not happened yet. Government and police controls are simply not effective enough and as the White Paper says, and as I well know, "roadside checks are limited". I understand that vehicles are sometimes inspected only once every four years.

It is said that the new, heavier vehicles will not damage our roads any more than the existing 32-tonne lorries do. I am not prepared to accept that. I want more proof. It is said that there will be fewer vehicles, but I do not accept that. Every time that lorry weights have been increased the number of lorries has increased. Even the White Paper says that the proposal might stimulate additional traffic. It might. I am not sure. It is said that an accident with the heavier lorry will be only "marginally" more serious. I am appalled at that statement. The case for the 40-tonne lorry—worth £150 million per year to industry—has simply not been made. The story is not convincing. Our roads are not yet ready for them, nor are the people and nor am I. These lorries will have to wait until the case has been proven in fact. Armitage, theory and prototypes are simply not enough. The heavier lorry will have to wait until we have roads fit for the juggernaut of that weight. Now, we must say "No". We have gone far enough already. We must say "No" tonight.

9.25 pm
Mr. Les Huckfield (Nuneaton)

If ever the House had a role to play in the nation's affairs it has been demonstrated tonight in the speech by the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch). I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be joined in the Lobby by many of his hon. Friends and that they will be prepared to make similar declarations.

I declare an interest as I am sponsored by the Transport and General Workers Union. The members of that union will be asked to drive the heavier vehicles if the proposal is approved. The union is totally and implacably opposed to the increase in gross vehicle weights.

My main objection is that the Secretary of State has always tried to argue that the Armitage report contains not a single proposal, but a package of proposals. I echo other hon. Members in stressing that only one part of the total Armitage package is to be implemented in the proposals before us. On all other items or ingredients in the report the Secretary of State says that action has been taken already or that he has the power to take action. He does not make any other new proposals.

The Secretary of State is proposing a total change in overall transport policy. It is nothing less than that, and he should not try to conceal it. He must not pretend to the House that only road haulage is affected.

I am worried because the Secretary of State cannot even enforce the present limits on gross vehicle weights. I shall give my reasons for that briefly. A high percentage of goods traffic is carried in containers. It is impossible to know how heavy a container is without weighing mechanisms. Freightliner has an interest in keeping traffic off the road. Even Freightliner is prosecuted because it does not have weighbridges to weigh its containers travelling to and from its depots. That illustrates the seriousness of the problem.

The Freight Transport Association has been persuasive. It has always been a reasonable voice in the road haulage lobby. The diagram in its pamphlet "Industry needs heavier lorries" illustrates the point. It shows that one can put a slightly heavier load in a container if a third axle is fixed, but unless there are weighbridges it is impossible to tell how much there is inside a container.

The Secretary of State must tell the House how he intends not only to increase enforcement powers and restrictions for the present GVW limits, but to step them up if the limit goes up tonight.

I have some worrying figures to give to the House. They come from the right hon. Gentleman's vehicle testing stations. On 2 December the Secretary of State, in a reply, gave me the figures for successes and failures of heavy goods vehicles processed in his Department's testing stations. It is alarming that since 1975 20 per cent. of vehicles tested in each year failed the test. That means that in 1980–81 147,000 heavy goods vehicles failed the test at his Department's testing stations.

Is the Secretary of State saying that he will put even heavier vehicles on the roads when existing vehicles do not meet the standards set and imposed—at least they should be imposed—by his Department?

It is difficult to enforce the law on foreign vehicles because of the tremendous difficulties of securing arrests and convictions. The Secretary of State, in his answer on 2 December, said that in 1980 about 2,000 of 11,000 foreign vehicles stopped were found to be committing some offence. I have rounded up the figures, but I think that the Secretary of State will agree that I have done that fairly. The majority of those offences were for overloading. In the figures for this year up to September, 1,500 of 8,500 foreign vehicles stopped were found to be committing an offence. Again, the majority of those offences were for overloading.

Those are serious problems. The Secretary of State does not have the weighing mechanisms for weighing containers. His Department's vehicle testing station records show that one fifth of the vehicles that pass through them fail the test and that there is a serious overloading problem with foreign vehicles.

The Secretary of State has omitted so far this evening to present any evidence of the effects of his proposals on preventing a transfer to rail. Many Opposition Members believe that the effect of the implementation of the proposals will be to prevent, not enhance, the prospect of much of that heavier traffic being transferred to rail, which we believe is necessary.

There are many Conservative Members in the House this evening. I can see that there is much concern about what the Secretary of State said tonight. He is trying to tell the world outside and Opposition Members that he has made up his mind and he is trying to tell Conservative Members that he has not made up his mind. I hope that the Minister, when he replies to the debate, will come clean. Has the Secretary of State made up his mind? If the concern that we have heard is echoed in other contributions, I do not believe that he will get this proposal through this evening.

At the end of the day, I and many of my hon. Friends will support the Opposition motion, because we believe that the beneficiaries of the proposals will be not people or the environment, but road hauliers and road haulage profits.

9.32 pm
Mr. Paul Hawkins (Norfolk, South-West)

I must declare a constituency interest because I have a large trailer-making firm in my constituency, Crane Fruehauf. That firm is working a three-day week, but its representatives believe that if the Armitage recommendations go through they can increase from three days to five and they can take on more men. It employs the largest number of men of any factory in my constituency. It is important that it should be able to export and compete with other trailer-making firms and give employment to my constituents. Due to the recession the number of people employed in that major factory has been cut.

I believe that the major advantage of the Armitage report is environmental. The report can be held as a pistol at the head of any Government who do not produce the bypasses to back up their programme of enabling heavier vehicles to be carried on the roads. I am convinced that it will give anyone who wishes a bypass for his home town an opportunity to press for it. I also believe that the bypasses must run in conjunction with the introduction of heavier weights.

I have been fortunate in my constituency. We have had three bypasses to the three major towns. However, we still need a bypass in my home town of Downham Market. The main road runs through the centre of town for a mile. For four or five months in the winter we have the sugar beet traffic to the largest factory in Europe, which creates perhaps our greatests problems. An enormous amount of beet is dropped in the street, which is a great danger.

We should support the Government. We should try to investigate the enormous problems caused to individuals by road traffic. Much can be done by the House and in the investigations and consultations that the Government have promised over the next two or three months. I hope that the House will support the amendment.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I understand that the Front Bench does not seek to start the wind-up until 9.40 pm.

9.36 pm
Mr. Ted Leadbitter (Hartlepool)

The Secretary of State must have noticed that the force of the argument from both sides of the House has not been with him. The right hon. Gentleman says that he wants consultations. This is the greatest consultative assembly in the United Kingdom. He is in a dilemma. He says that he has an open mind, but the White Paper does not say that. Paragraph 29 states: The Government has re-examined very carefully the proposals and the safguards suggested by Armitage, and the questions that have been raised about them during the last year. The right hon. Gentleman has had plenty of time to think about the matter. The paragraph goes on: The Government has decided"— That is a precise enough word; it is clear and there is no prevarication about it. It is understood by everyone that the Government have decided— that it would not be right to go as far as the Report and has rejected"— that is a firm word— the 44 tonne maximum it proposed. However the Government is satisfied that the maximum gross weight limit can safely be raised to 34 tonnes for four-axle vehicles and to 40 tonnes on five axles. Will the right hon. Gentleman be frank? Where does he stand on the consultative process? As I made clear earlier, real consultation should be underwritten in the notion of a Green Paper and not a White Paper, in which the Government's mind is made up.

The matter is of great importance. Our road systems are not built to carry 40-tonne lorries. We already have great problems with our underground services, such as drainage and sewerage. That factor has not been evaluated in talking of a £150 million benefit to industry—and even that is a fictitious figure.

The right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) said that the Secretary of State had been sold a pup. Not only that, he has become the parrot for his Department. The real truth of Armitage is this. The preconceived notion of a 40-tonne lorry has been wrapped up in a package to make it suitable to the House, but we are not buying it.

9.40 pm
The Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Kenneth Clarke)

I am slightly confined by time, but I am glad to be so because I know that many other right hon. and hon. Members have been more confined than I am and many have been excluded from the debate. In the short time that we have had for the debate many questions have been asked, not only about the White Paper but about the evidence that lies behind it and its conclusions.

The big question that hon. Members must ask themselves, having legitimately asked questions on behalf of their constituency interests, is whether they will wait for an answer. I admit that I cannot give an answer to all the questions that have been raised in the short time that is available to me. I shall give better answers when the debate has developed further and we are clearer about the factual basis upon which we are arguing the case for or against heavy lorries.

The White Paper is white because it contains clear propositions, the bulk of which are not controversial. My right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) criticised the syntax very effectively and I concede to him on that as I concede to him on many transport matters. Many of the proposals about noise, safety, bypasses, and so on are not unpopular. They are merely criticised because of the pace of delivery. The one proposal on which the debate has concentrated is that of heavy lorry weights. Nothing in the White Paper decides that. Nothing that we say tonight will decide it. The Government have merely announced that they are consulting on a form of regulations. They are suggesting and putting out for consultation possible changes in lorry weights.

There may come a time when firm regulations are laid before the House, either in the form upon which consultations are being held or in a different form. At some stage thereafter the House will be called upon to make a decision. An hon. Member asked how much time we would have for debate. He asked whether it would be one and a half hours. It is not for me to decide the timetable of the House, but it would be extraordinary if we were asked to consider the matter in one and a half hours. I do not think that any hon. Member would let the Government get away with a debate of that length.

The Government say that the decision can be taken after a month or two of serious consideration and Parliament, in the end, will make a more sensible decision because we shall be arguing on the basis of principle, opinion and judgment about our constituents. At present we are arguing the toss about the factual evidence on the Armitage report, which itself is highly complex, and on a White Paper that we have had before us for less than a week. The answer is highly complex. However the House may feel, it does not owe the Government the time to consider the matter further, but there are interest groups to which time is owed.

The House must consider the matter carefully before it plunges to a final decision on vehicle weights, which will obviously be decisive for many years ahead because the planning of roads, vehicle construction, and so on, must go ahead on the basis of the conclusions that we reach. The environmental groups must be considered because there is a clear division of opinion on the evidence and on the facts about what benefits the environment in villages and towns. We must also consider the many people who believe that their businesses and jobs depend on the House getting the decision right.

I do not wish to criticise my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch), who made a very reasonable speech. He reminded the House of the concern that he has expressed in recent debates in the House about the state of British Industry. I do not think that the Government should shrink from criticisms that are directed constructively towards doing something to help the state of British industry. However, many in British industry say that many factors depend upon the decision on the Armitage report. The Government's estimate is a saving of only £150 million each year. The CBI considers that to be an underestimate.

There are vehicle manufacturers in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hawkins) and elsewhere who have serious doubts about how much longer we shall have a heavy vehicle manufacturing industry in this country if we continue to build vehicles designed for the home market that are not the same as those in our major markets overseas. The trailer manufacturers are at present in a major recession. They may be right or they may be wrong, but they will not be grateful to a House that throws the case out six days after the publication of the White Paper proposing it.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr. Clarke

I am sorry; I have no time.

Mr. Hughes

It is a bit naughty of the Minister to wish to refuse to give way. He knows very well that I gave up my right to reply to the debate in order to enable Back Benchers to speak. He should not complain about a shortage of time. I could have taken time from his speech. The Under-Secretary of State and the Secretary of State says that we are trying to bounce the House into a decision. That is not so. The circular that the Government sent out plainly states that comments on lorry weights must be with the Department not later than 31 January 1982. That is next month. There is no such date for consultations on the White Paper. We fear that a decision will be taken on lorry weights without the knowledge of what the Government intend to do about other aspects of the White Paper.

Mr. Clarke

There is a statutory requirement to consult, and we have given two months for responses. The Government will then have to decide their view in the light of outside representations. They will have to take serious notice of parliamentary opinion—[Interruption.] I deliberately understated that. After those two months the Government will have to decide whether they will, in the light of the consultation and debate, bring forward regulations. The regulations must be laid before the House, which will have an opportunity to debate them and reach decisions.

Whatever conclusion the House reaches, it will at least have listened to the serious representations from outside. I refer hon. Members to letters in this morning's press from representatives of the Council of British Shipping. They may be right or wrong. It is obvious that in its present mood the House will not allow me to persuade it on the factual evidence about the state of British shipping. The representatives are arguing that our international trade is at a serious disadvantage because our exports are going to sea in underloaded containers. We are burdening our trade with costs that are not shared by our international competitors.

The House does not have to take that from me—indeed, it will not. It does not have to take it from the representatives of the Council of British Shipping. We have not yet reached that clear understanding of the issues and the evidence—because of opportunism by the Opposition in tabling the motion—to allow the House to throw out all the proposals the day that those letters first appeared, and less than a week after the White Paper was published.

I shall not belabour the problems of the manufacturers such as Sainsburys, the milk manufacturers, the brewers, ICI and all the other lobbyists. They may be wrong. It may be right that the House should not, on this occasion, prefer the needs of industry. It may prefer arguments against that. But with respect, we have not yet reached the stage in debate where the House should say that firmly.

Sir Russell Fairgrieve (Aberdeenshire, West)

Does my hon. and learned Friend accept that, if the White Paper and the Armitage recommendations are not implemented, Scotland, and especially the far North, will be at a competitive disadvantage because of the cost of transport?

Mr. Clarke

The economic case is stronger the further we go from the main centres. The case is stronger for industry in Scotland, Wales and the West Country. In those areas people are pressing for road building to reduce their industrial costs.

Mr. Peyton

If my hon. and learned Friend is convinced about the strength of his case, will he rewrite the White Paper in a less sloppy and more convincing form? As I suggested earlier, will he take it away and pulp it?

Mr. Clarke

My right hon. Friend did not resume his seat earlier until I conceded to him his fair criticism of the syntax. I am glad to take lessons from my right hon. Friend on the construction of White Papers, and indeed on transport policy. Half the trouble may be that the syntax is not quite as it might be. I ask my right hon. Friend, as he was inclined to concede in his speech, to allow the Government time to make their case more clearly and to retain an open mind that, in the end, the case may go the other way. Tonight we are talking about the quality of decision making. We owe it to those outside, as well as ourselves, to give time for serious consultation within which we can agree the factual evidence and reach a conclusion.

Mr. Roger Moate (Faversham)

Is my hon. and learned Friend saying that all the outside organisations to which he has referred and all the representations were taken into account by the Armitage committee, or is he saying that it did not consider them? The Armitage conclusions have been considered by the House in a number of debates. If he is saying that there is a genuine process of consultation and that the Government have not really taken a decision, will he say, clearly and without qualification, that this is no longer a White Paper but a Green Paper?

Mr. Clarke

All the representations were considered by the Armitage committee. The committee considered a great deal of evidence and it came to a conclusion with which my hon. Friend disagrees. In the White Paper the Government have come to a tentative conclusion with which he disagrees. The difference between the proposed weight changes and almost all the other proposals contained in the White Paper is that the weight changes require a specific legislative change that in due course will have to be submitted to the House. I have described the statutory process to which the Government are subject and I think that I have committed the Government to using the statutory time to consider their position before returning to the House with their proposals. My hon. Friend cannot object to the time that the Government are providing for debate. There will be yet another full opportunity to debate the alternatives.

I do not think that I have overstated the industrial case. The Government are asking the House at least to listen to it. There are those outside who are trying to earn a living in business, and jobs are at stake. If I were involved in trying to make a living in vehicle manufacturing, retail distribution, brewing or farming, I should be pretty cheesed off with a House of Commons that rejected arguments out of hand because of plain misunderstandings in all directions on the evidence.

Environmental issues are obviously at the root of the concern. There is not an hon. Member who is openly against British industry. There are a few who represent the Transport and General Workers Union and they are the only ones who are so far convinced that "heavier" means fewer lorries and therefore fewer lorry drivers.

The environmental case concerns the Government as much as anyone else. I have heard critics who are plainly concerned about the environmental effects of these proposals, especially on those living in towns and villages. I and all my right hon. and hon. Friends are in favour of protecting the environment. We may be mistaken, but our intention is the same. We believe that these proposals could improve the environment in towns and villages.

There are organisations that exist to protect rural England. I am in favour of protecting rural England and I represent rather a good chunk of it. Most of the opponents of this measure dislike heavy lorries. I can join them immediately. I detest heavy lorries. I have not met a civilised inhabitant of the British Isles who believes that they are objects that one can learn to love.

We are discussing whether the Government are right. We are not querying their intentions. Are the Government right in their belief that the package that is proposed in the White Paper will improve the environment?

Mr. Spriggs


Mr. Clarke

I hope that the House will accept that we are all for improving the environment, that we are all in favour of protecting rural England and that there are not many constituents who like heavy lorries and want more of them. If that is accepted, the question is a factual one. It is not good enough merely to say "I want to protect the environment". In a modern industrial society the protection of the environment involves a degree of mechanical and engineering knowledge as well as enthusiasm. It involves also a degree of application to transport economics, to engineering, to statistical evidence of the past and some knowledge of likely changes in freight movements in future. That is the evidence that must be weighed by the House and by the country before deciding, if the Government propose changes of the sort that have been put forward so far, whether it is right to believe that the proposals will improve the environment.

The case that carried the Armitage committee and the belief with which it was left after hearing all the evidence—it was the case that carried the Government into producing the White Paper and consulting on the draft regulations—was the one that accepted that the effect would be fewer, quieter and safer lorries. Scepticism about that is understandable. It may even be justified when the House has had a full opportunity to examine the evidence, but that is the purpose behind the proposals and there is an environmental benefit.

If the House rushes to a decision and rejects this, those who have expressed real passion about how much they wish to protect their towns, which have no bypasses, or their particular piece of rural England, will have got it wrong. They will actually have done damage if, when they consider the evidence, they are persuaded that we should stay as we are—and who in the House would defend the present arrangement—with no change? I put it to hon. Members that it is at least possible that when they examine the evidence they will find that they have saddled their towns with more and noisier lorries in the present fleet until the bypass can be built.

With regard to the bypass programme, I have not yet dealt with the selective use of statistics by the right hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth). The programme is being fully pursued and maintained. If one looks properly at the parliamentary question which he quoted, one sees that the miles to be opened go in the right direction in 1983. The programme is well within the Government's control. Not only is it being maintained; it has remained unscathed by the Chancellor's cuts, because the cuts that he has been able to make merely match the savings made on the tender prices in line with the original estimates.

We are continually adding bypasses to the programme. Some people seized on the small number of additions that were announced and suggested that that meant only four bypasses. But they are in addition to the full programme that we are delivering. Four quite big bypasses were announced in July this year, to be built next year. They include a bypass for Chapel-en-le-Frith, where there is a heavy lorry problem. Four more have been announced in the White Paper and seven have been promoted to the main programme from the reserve programme.

This is not our last word on the roads programme. We are committed to producing a White Paper on roads very shortly that will update and roll forward the programme from the last White Paper on roads. By rolling forward the programme, we shall be able to put new and specific dates on dozens of roads at present described in the programme as post-1984, giving fresh hope to those waiting for them.

Given that I am today asking the House for time for a sensible debate, I should make it clear that the White Paper on roads will be published and available to the House well before there can be any question of our laying regulations or asking the House for a decision on any change in weights that the Government may be still minded to make after the end of the consultation period.

If I singled out one argument in conclusion, the one which dominated many speeches and is perhaps one of the most popular worries is how to enforce the weight limits. There was understandable concern about the damage at present being done by lorries. All this public outcry was really set up by a reaction to what is happening now. People ask what we are doing about enforcement, and there has been criticism.

It has been pointed out that the number of vehicle examiners in post has not increased substantially. But that is because we are carrying out more roadside checks by providing the present manpower with better equipment. Dynamic axle weighers are being introduced, for example. In two months I might be able to explain the mechanics of that to my hon. Friends, but I know from its performance that this equipment enables us to check more lorries. We already have 31 dynamic axle weighers in operation and a further four will be operational by next spring. We spent £350,000 on this in 1979–80. A further £350,000 is being spent this year. The estimate for next year has been increased to £400,000. We shall continue the purges on foreign lorries coming in at the channel ports and Holyhead to try to reduce the present overloading. It is, of course, essential that we introduce a better fleet which does less damage and that we eliminate the overloading from which we at present suffer.

That is the position so far as one can take the matter today. It has been a rushed debate and this has been a rushed speech—I have only three minutes left. This is a considered White Paper. There is no question of final conclusions being made about it at this stage. I ask my hon. Friends to reject what is in fact an exercise in political opportunism. They had only to listen to the contribution from the Social Democrats—slipping in the brief phrase that the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Cartwright) was in favour of heavier lorries but then saying that he would vote against them today—to realise that there is a deal of political opportunism about. Let us have a sensible decision that considers all views on all sides.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 267, Noes 296.

Division No. 21] [10 pm
Abse, Leo Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n&P)
Adams, Allen Campbell-Savours, Dale
Alexander, Richard Canavan, Dennis
Allaun, Frank Carmichael, Neil
Alton, David Carter-Jones, Lewis
Anderson, Donald Cartwright, John
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Ashton, joe Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S)
Atkinson, N. (H'gey) Coleman, Donald
Bagier, GordonA.T. Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.
Barnett, Guy(Greenwich) Cook, Robin F.
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd) Cowans, Harry
Beith, A.J. Cox, T. (W'dsw'th, Toot'g)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Craigen, J. M. (G'gow, M'hill)
Bennett, Andrew(St'kp'tN) Crawshaw, Richard
Bidwell, Sydney Crouch, David
Body, Richard Crowther, Stan
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Cryer, Bob
Boothroyd, MissBetty Cunliffe, Lawrence
Bottomley, Rt Hon A. (M'b'ro) Cunningham, G.(IslingtonS)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Cunningham, DrJ. (W'h'n,)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Dalyell, Tam
Brown, Ronald W. (H'ckn'yS) Davidson, Arthur
Brown, Hon(E'burgh, Leith) Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)
Buchan, Norman Davies, Ifor (Gower)
Callaghan, RtHonJ. Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)
Davis, T. (B'ham, Stechf'd) Kilfedder, JamesA.
Deakins, Eric Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Kinnock, Neil
Dempsey, James Lambie, David
Dewar, Donald Lamborn, Harry
Dickens, Geoffrey Leadbitter, Ted
Dixon, Donald Lestor, Miss Joan
Dobson, Frank Lewis, Arthur (N'ham NW)
Dormand, Jack Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Douglas, Dick Litherland, Robert
Dubs, Alfred Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Dunlop, John Lyon, Alexander(York)
Dunn, James A. Lyons, Edward (Bradf'dW)
Dunnett, Jack Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. McCartney, Hugh
Eadie, Alex McDonald, DrOonagh
Eastham, Ken McElhone, Frank
Edwards, R. (W'hampt'n S E) McGuire, Michael(Ince)
Ellis, R. (NED'bysh're) McKelvey, William
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
English, Michael Maclennan, Robert
Ennals, Rt Hon David McMahon, Andrew
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) McNally, Thomas
Evans, John (Newton) McNamara, Kevin
Ewing, Harry McTaggart, Robert
Faulds, Andrew McWilliam, John
Flannery, Martin Magee, Bryan
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Marks, Kenneth
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Marshall, D(G'gowS'ton)
Ford, Ben Marshall, DrEdmund (Goole)
Forrester, John Marshall, Jim (LeicesterS)
Foster, Derek Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Foulkes, George Maxton, John
Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Maynard, Miss Joan
Freud, Clement Meacher, Michael
Garrett, John (NorwichS) Mikardo, Ian
Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
George, Bruce Miller, Dr M.S. (EKilbride)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Mitchell, Austin(Grimsby)
Ginsburg, David Mitchell, R.C. (Soton Itchen)
Golding, John Moate, Roger
Goodhart, Sir Philip Molyneaux, James
Graham, Ted Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Grant, George(Morpeth) Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)
Grant, John (Islington C) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Hamilton, James (Bothwell,) Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick
Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife) Murphy, Christopher
Hardy, Peter Newens, Stanley
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith O'Halloran, Michael
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy O'Neill, Martin
Haynes, Frank Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Palmer, Arthur
Heffer, Eric S. Park, George
Hogg, N. (EDunb't'nshire) Parker, John
Holland, S.(L'b'th, Vauxh'll) Parris, Matthew
HomeRobertson, John Parry, Robert
Homewood, William Patten, Christopher(Bath)
Hooley, Frank Pavitt, Laurie
Horam, John Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)
Howell, Rt Hon D. Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Howells, Geraint Prescott, John
Hoyle, Douglas Price, C. (Lewisham W)
Huckfield, Les Race, Reg
Hudson Davies, Gwilym E. Radice, Giles
Hughes, Mark(Durham) Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Richardson,Jo
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Roberts, Albert(Normanton,)
Janner, HonGreville Roberts, Allan(Bootle)
Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Jessel, Toby Roberts, Gwilym(Cannock)
John, Brynmor Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Johnson, James (Hull West) Rooker, J. W.
Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Roper, John
Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda) Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
Jones, Barry (East Flint) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Rowlands, Ted
Kerr, Russell Ryman, John
Sever, John Urwin, Rt Hon Tom
Sheerman, Barry Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Sheldon, Rt Hon R. Wainwright, E. (DearneV)
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Wainwright, R(Colne V)
Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford) Walker, Rt Hon H.(D'caster)
Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich) Watkins, David
Silverman, Julius Weetch, Ken
Skinner, Dennis Wellbeloved, James
Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark) Welsh, Michael
Snape, Peter White, Frank R.
Soley, Clive White, J. (G'gow Pollok)
Spearing, Nigel Whitehead, Phillip
Spriggs, Leslie Whitlock, William
Stallard, A.W. Wigley, Dafydd
Steel, Rt Hon David Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles) Williams, Rt Hon A. (S'sea W)
Stoddart, David Williams, Rt Hon Mrs(Crosby)
Stott, Roger Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Strang, Gavin Wilson, Rt Hon Sir H. (H'ton,)
Straw, Jack Wilson, William (C'try SE)
Summerskill, HonDrShirley Winnick, David
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W) Woodall, Alec
Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth) Woolmer, Kenneth
Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery) Wright, Sheila
Thomas, Mike(Newcastle E,) Young, David (Bolton E)
Thomas, DrR. (Carmarthen)
Tilley,John Tellers for the Ayes:
Tinn, James Mr. George Morton and Mr. Allen McKay.
Torney, Tom
Adley, Robert Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Aitken, Jonathan Clarke, Kenneth(Rushcliffe)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Clegg, Sir Walter
Ancram, Michael Cockeram, Eric
Arnold, Tom Colvin, Michael
Aspinwall, Jack Cope, John
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (S'thorne) Cormack, Patrick
Atkins, Robert(PrestonN) Corrie, John
Atkinson, David(B'm'th, E) Costain, SirAlbert
Baker, Kenneth(St.M'bone,) Cranborne, Viscount
Baker, Nicholas(N Dorset) Dean, Paul (North Somerset)
Banks, Robert Dorrell, Stephen
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Douglas-Hamilton, LordJ.
Bell, Sir Ronald Dover, Denshore
Bendall, Vivian du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Benyon, Thomas(A'don) Dunn, Robert (Dartford)
Benyon,W. (Buckingham) Durant, Tony
Besi, Keith Eden, Rt Hon Sir John
Bevan, David Gilroy Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Elliott, Sir William
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Emery, Peter
Blackburn, John Eyre, Reginald
Blaker, Peter Fairbairn, Nicholas
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Fairgrieve, Sir Russell
Boscawen, Hon Robert Faith, Mrs Sheila
Bottomley, Peter(W'which W) Farr, John
Bowden, Andrew Fell, Anthony
Braine, Sir Bernard Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Bright, Graham Finsberg, Geoffrey
Brinton Tim Fisher, Sir Nigel
Brittan, Rt.Hon.Leon Fletche r, A. (Ed'nb'gh N)
Brooke, Hon Peter Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles
Brown, Michael(Brigg& Sc'n,) Fookes, Miss Janet
Browne,John(Winchester) Forman, Nigel
Bruce-Gardyne, John Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Bryan, Sir Paul Fox, Marcus
Buchanan-Smith, Rt.Hon.A. Fraser, Peter(SouthAngus)
Buck, Antony Fry, Peter
Budgen, Nick Gardiner, George(Reigate)
Bulmer, Esmond Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)
Burden, Sir Frederick Garel-Jones, Tristan
Butcher, John Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Cadbury, Jocelyn Glyn, Dr Alan
Carlisle, John (LutonWest) Goodhew, Victor
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Goodlad, Alastair
Chalker, Mrs.Lynda Gorst, John
Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul Gow, Ian
Churchill, W.S. Gower, Sir Raymond
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n) Grant, Anthony (HarrowC)
Gray, Hamish Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Greenway, Harry Mills, Peter (West Devon)
Grieve, Percy Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Griffiths, E.(B'ySt. Edm'ds) Monro, SirHector
Griffiths, PeterPortsm'thN) Montgomery, Fergus
Grist, Ian Moore, John
Grylls, Michael Morgan, Geraint
Gummer, John Selwyn Morris, M. (N'hampton S)
Hamilton, Hon A. Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Hamilton, Michael(Salisbury) Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Hampson, Dr Keith Mudd, David
Hannam, John Myles, David
Haselhurst, Alan Neale, Gerrard
Hastings, Stephen Needham, Richard
Hawkins, Paul Nelson, Anthony
Hawksley, Warren Neubert, Michael
Hayhoe, Barney Newton, Tony
Heath, Rt Hon Edward Normanton, Tom
Heddle, John Nott, Rt Hon John
Henderson, Barry Onslow, Cranley
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Osborn, John
Hogg, HonDouglas(Gr'th'm) Page, John (Harrow, West)
Holland, Philip(Carlton,) Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Hooson, Tom Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Hordern, Peter Pattie, Geoffrey
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Pawsey, James
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd) Percival, Sir Ian
Howell, Ralph(N Norfolk) Peyton, Rt Hon John
Hunt, David (Wirral) Pink, R.Bonner
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Pollock, Alexander
Hurd, Hon Douglas Porter, Barry
Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Price, Sir David (Eastleigh)
Johnson, Smith, Geoffrey Proctor, K. Harvey
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Raison, Timothy
Kaberry, Sir Donald Rathbone, Tim
Kellett-Bowman, MrsElaine Rees-Davies, W. R.
Kershaw, Sir Anthony Renton, Tim
Kimball, Sir Marcus Rhodes James, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom RhysWilliams, Sir Brandon
Knight, Mrs Jill Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Knox, David Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Lamont, Norman Rifkind, Malcolm
Lang, Ian Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)
Langford-Holt, Sir John Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Latham, Michael Rossi, Hugh
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Rost, Peter
Lee, John Royle, Sir Anthony
LeMarchant, Spencer Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Scott, Nicholas
Lems, Kenneth(Rutland) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Lloyd, Ian (Havant &W'loo) Shaw, Michael(Scarborough)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Shelton, William(Streatham)
Loveridge. John Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Luce, Richard Shepherd, Richard
Lyell, Nicholas Shersby, Michael
McCrindle, Robert Silvester, Fred
MacGregor, John Sims, Roger
MacKay, John (Argyll) Skeet, T. H. H.
Macmillan, Rt Hon M. Smith, Dudley
McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury) Speed, Keith
McNair-Wilson, P. (NewF'st) Spence, John
McQuarrie, Albert Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Madel, David Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Major, John Sproat, Iain
Marland, Paul Squire, Robin
Marlow, Antony Stainton, Keith
Marshall, Michael(Arundel) Stanley, John
Marten, Rt Hon Neil Steen, Anthony
Mates, Michael Stevens, Martin
Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus Stewart, A. (ERenfrewshire)
Mawby, Ray Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Mawhinney, DrBrian Stokes, John
Mayhew, Patrick Stradling Thomas, J.
Mellor, David Tapsell, Peter
Meyer, Sir Anthony Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Miller, Hal(B'grove,) Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Temple-Morris, Peter Walters, Dennis
Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M. Ward, John
Thomas, Rt Hon Peter Warren, Kenneth
Thompson, Donald Watson, John
Thorne, Neil (IlfordSouth) Wells, Bowen
Thornton, Malcolm Wells, John(Maidstone)
Townend, John(Bridlington) Wheeler, John
Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath) Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Trippier, David Whitney, Raymond
Trotter, Neville Wickenden, Keith
van Straubenzee, SirW. Wiggin, Jerry
Vaughan, DrGerard Wilkinson, John
Viggers, Peter Williams, D. (Montgomery)
Waddington, David Winterton, Nicholas
Wakeham, John Wolfson, Mark
Waldegrave, Hon William Young, SirGeorge(Acton)
Walker, Rt Hon P.(W'cester) Younger, Rt Hon George
Walker, B. (Perth)
Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D. Tellers for the Noes:
Wall, Sir Patrick Mr. Anthony Berry and Mr. Carol Mather.
Waller, Gary

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be added, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 32 (Questions on amendments):—

The House divided: Ayes 298, Noes 255.

Division No. 22] [10.14 pm
Adley, Robert Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)
Aitken, Jonathan Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Alexander, Richard Clarke, Kenneth(Rushcliffe)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Clegg, SirWalter
Ancram, Michael Cockeram, Eric
Arnold, Tom Colvin, Michael
Aspinwall, Jack Cope, John
Atkins, Rt HonH. (S'thorne) Cormack, Patrick
Atkins, Robert(Preston N) Corrie, John
Atkinson, David(B'm'th, E) Costain, SirAlbert
Baker, Kenneth(St.M'bone) Cranborne, Viscount
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Dean, Paul (North Somerset)
Banks, Robert Dorrell, Stephen
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Douglas-Hamilton, LordJ.
Bell, SirRonald Dover, Denshore
Bendall, Vivian du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Benyon, Thomas (A'don) Dunn, Robe rt(Dartford)
Best, Keith Durant, Tony
Bevan, David Gilroy Eden, Rt Hon Sir John
Biffen, Rt Hon John Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)
Biggs-Davison, SirJohn Elliott, Sir William
Blackburn, John Emery, Peter
Blaker, Peter Eyre, Reginald
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Fairbairn, Nicholas
Boscawen, Hon Robert Fairgrieve, Sir Russell
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W) Faith, Mrs Sheila
Bowden, Andrew Farr, John
Braine, SirBernard Fell, Anthony
Bright, Graham Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Brinton, Tim Finsberg, Geoffrey
Brittan, Rt.Hon.Leon Fisher, SirNigel
Brooke, HonPeter Fletcher, A(Ed'nb'gh N)
Brotherton, Michael Fletcher-Cooke, SirCharles
Brown,Michael(Brigg&Sc'n,) Fookes, MissJanet
Browne, John(Winchester) Forman, Nigel
Bruce-Gardyne, John Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Bryan, Sir Paul Fox, Marcus
Buchanan-Smith, Rt. Hon. A. Fraser, Peter (South Angus)
Buck, Antony Fry, Peter
Budgen, Nick Gardiner, George(Reigate)
Bulmer, Esmond Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)
Burden, SirFrederick Garel-Jones, Tristan
Butcher, John Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Cadbury, Jocelyn Glyn, DrAlan
Carlisle, John (LutonWest) Goodhew, Victor
Carliste, Kenneth(Lincoln) Goodlad, Alastair
Chalker, Mrs.Lynda Gorst, John
Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul Gow, Ian
Churchill, W.S. Gower, SirRaymond
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Millen, Hal(B'grove)
Gray, Hamish Mills, Iain(Meriden)
Greenway, Harry Mills, Peter (West Devon)
Grieve, Percy Mitchell, David(Basingstoke)
Griffiths, E. (B 'ySt. Edm 'ds) Monro, SirHector
Griffiths, PeterPortsm'thN) Montgomery, Fergus
Grist, Ian Moore, John
Grylls, Michael Morgan, Geraint
Gummer, John Selwyn Morris, M. (N'hampton S)
Hamilton, Hon A. Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Hampson, DrKeith Mudd, David
Hannam, John Murphy, Christopher
Haselhurst, Alan Myles, David
Hastings, Stephen Neale, Gerrard
Hawkins, Paul Needham, Richard
Hawksley, Warren Nelson, Anthony
Hayhoe, Barney Neubert, Michael
Heath, Rt Hon Edward Newton, Tony
Heddle, John Normanton, Tom
Henderson, Barry Nott, Rt Hon, John
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Onslow, Cranley
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Oppenheim, Rt Hon MrsS.
Hogg, HonDouglas(Gr'th'm) Osborn, John
Holland, Philip(Carlton) Page, John (Harrow, West)
Hooson, Tom Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Hordern, Peter Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Pattie, Geoffrey
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd) Pawsey, James
Howell, Ralph(N Norfolk) Percival, SirIan
Hunt, David (Wirral) Peyton, Rt Hon John
Hunt, John(Ravensbourne) Pink, R.Bonner
Hurd, HonDouglas Pollock, Alexander
Irving, Charles(Cheltenham) Porter, Barry
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Johnson, Smith, Geoffrey Price, SirDavid (Eastleigh)
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Proctor, K. Harvey
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Kaberry, Sir Donald Raison, Timothy
Kellett-Bowman, MrsElaine Rathbone, Tim
Kershaw, Sir Anthony Rees-Davies, W. R.
Kimball, SirMarcus Renton, Tim
King, Rt Hon Tom RhodesJames, Robert
Knight, MrsJill RhysWilliams, SirBrandon
Knox, David Ridley, HonNicholas
Lamont, Norman Ridsdale, SirJulian
Lang, Ian Rifkind, Malcolm
Langford-Holt, SirJohn Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)
Latham, Michael Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Rossi, Hugh
Lee, John Rost, Peter
LeMarchant, Spencer Royle, SirAnthony
Lennox-Boyd, HonMark Sainsbury, HonTimothy
Lester, Jim (Beeston) St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
Lewis, Kenneth(Rutland,) Scott, Nicholas
Lloyd, Ian (Havant& W'loo) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Shaw, Michael(Scarborough)
Loveridge, John Shelton, William(Streatham)
Luce, Richard Shepherd, Colin(Hereford)
Lyell, Nicholas Shepherd, Richard
McCrindle, Robert Shersby, Michael
MacGregor, John Silvester, Fred
MacKay, John (Argyll) Sims, Roger
Macmillan, Rt Hon M. Skeet, T. H. H.
McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury) Smith, Dudley
McNair-Wilson, P. (NewF'st) Speed, Keith
McQuarrie, Albert Spence, John
Madel, David Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Major, John Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Marland, Paul Sproat, Iain
Marlow, Antony Squire, Robin
Marshall, Michael(Arundel) Stainton, Keith
Marten, Rt Hon Neil Stanley, John
Mates, Michael Steen, Anthony
Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus Stevens, Martin
Mawby, Ray Stewart, A. (ERenfrewshire)
Mawhinney, DrBrian Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Mayhew, Patrick Stokes, John
Mellor, David StradlingThomas,J.
Meyer, SirAnthony Tapsell, Peter
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Waller, Gary
Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman Walters, Dennis
Temple-Morris, Peter Ward, John
Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M. Warren, Kenneth
Thomas, Rt Hon Peter Watson, John
Thompson, Donald Wells, Bowen
Thorne, Neil (IlfordSouth) Wells, John(Maidstone)
Thornton, Malcolm Wheeler, John
Townend, John(Bridlingoton) Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath) Whitney, Raymond
Trippier, David Wickenden, Keith
Trotter, Neville Wiggin, Jerry
van Straubenzee, Sir W. Wilkinson, John
Vaughan, DrGerard Williams, D. (Montgomery)
Viggers, Peter Winterton, Nicholas
Waddington, David Wolfson, Mark
Wakeham, John Young, SirGeorge(Acton)
Waldegrave, HonWilliam Younger, Rt Hon George
Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Walker, B. (Perth) Tellers for the Ayes:
Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D. Mr. Anthony Berry and Mr. Carol Mather.
Wall, SirPatrick
Abse, Leo Douglas, Dick
Adams, Allen Dubs, Alfred
Allaun, Frank Dunlop, John
Alton, David Dunn, James A.
Anderson, Donald Dunnett, Jack
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Ashton, Joe Eadie, Alex
Atkinson, N. (H'gey,) Eastham, Ken
Bagier, GordonA.T. Ellis, R. (NED'bysh're)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd) English, Michael
Beith, A.J. Ennals, Rt Hon David
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Evans, loan (Aberdare)
Bennett, Andrew(St'kp'tN) Evans, John (Newton)
Bidwell, Sydney Ewing, Harry
Body, Richard Faulds, Andrew
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Flannery, Martin
Boothroyd, MissBetty Fletcher, Ted(Darlington)
Bottomley, RtHonA. (M'b'ro) Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Bray, Dr Jeremy Ford, Ben
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Forrester, John
Brown, Ronald W. (H'ckn'yS) Foster, Derek
Brown, Ron(E'burgh, Leith) Foulkes, George
Buchan, Norman Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd)
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n&P) Freud, Clement
Campbell-Savours, Dale Garrett, John (Norwich S)
Canavan, Dennis Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)
Carmichael, Neil George, Bruce
Carter-Jones, Lewis Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Cartwright, John Ginsburg, David
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Golding, John
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S) Graham, Ted
Coleman, Donald Grant, George(Morpeth)
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. G rant, John (Islington C)
Cook, Robin F. Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)
Cowans, Harry Hardy, Peter
Cox, T. (W'dsw'th, Toot'g) Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Craigen, J. M. (G'gow, M'hill) Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Crawshaw, Richard Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Crowther, Stan Haynes, Frank
Cryer, Bob Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Cunliffe, Lawrence Heffer, Eric S.
Cunningham, DrJ. (W'h'n) Hogg, N. (EDunb't'nshire)
Dalyell, Tam Holland, S.(L'b'th, Vauxh'll)
Davidson, Arthur HomeRobertson, John
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) Homewood, William
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Hooley, Frank
Davis, Clinton (HackneyC) Horam, John
Davis, T. (B'ham, Stechf'd) Howell, Rt Hon D.
Deakins, Eric Howells, Geraint
Dempsey, James Hoyle, Douglas
Dewar, Donald Huckfield, Les
Dixon, Donald Hudson Davies, Gwilym E.
Dobson, Frank Hughes, Mark(Durham)
Dormand, Jack Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Maxton, John
Janner, HonGreville Maynard, MissJoan
Jay, RtHonDouglas Meacher, Michael
John, Brynmor Mikardo, Ian
Johnson, James (Hull West) Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Johnson, Walter (DerbyS) Miller, Dr M.S. (E Kilbride)
Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda) Mitchell, Austin(Grimsby)
Jones, Barry (East Flint) Mitchell, R. C. (Soton Itchen)
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Molyneaux, James
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Kerr, Russell Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)
Kilfedder, JamesA. Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Morton, George
Kinnock, Neil Mulley, RtHon Frederick
Lambie, David Newens, Stanley
Lamborn, Harry Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Leadbitter, Ted O'Halloran, Michael
Leighton, Ronald O'Neill, Martin
Lestor, Miss Joan Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Lewis, Arthu r (N'ham NW) Palmer, Arthur
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Park, George
Litherland, Robert Parker, John
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Parry, Robert
Lyon, Alexander (York) Pavitt, Laurie
Lyons, Edward (Bradf'dW) Penhaligon, David
Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson Pitt, WilliamHenry
McCartney, Hugh Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)
McDonald, DrOonagh Powell, Raymond(Ogmore)
McElhone, Frank Prescott, John
McGuire, Michael (Ince) Price, C. (Lewisham W)
McKay, Allen (Penistone) Race, Reg
McKelvey, William Radice, Giles
MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)
Maclennan, Robert Richardson, Jo
McMahon, Andrew Roberts, Albert(Normanton)
McNally, Thomas Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
McNamara, Kevin Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
McTaggart, Robert Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
McWilliam, John Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Magee, Bryan Rooker, J. W.
Marks, Kenneth Roper, John
Marshall, D (G'gowS'ton) Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
Marshall, DrEdmund (Goole) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Marshall, Jim (LeicesterS) Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)
Mason, Rt Hon Roy Rowlands, Ted
Ryman, John Urwin, Rt Hon Tom
Sever, John Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Sheerman, Barry Wainwright, E. (Dearne V)
Sheldon, Rt Hon R. Wainwright, R. (Colne V)
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Walker, Rt Hon H.(D'caster)
Silkin, RtHon J. (Deptford) Watkins, David
Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich) Weetch, Ken
Silverman, Julius Wellbeloved, James
Skinner, Dennis Welsh, Michael
Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark) White, Frank R.
Snape, Peter White, J. (G'gow Pollok)
Soley, Clive Whitehead, Phillip
Spearing, Nigel Whitlock, William
Spriggs, Leslie Wigley, Dafydd
Stallard, A.W. Williams, Rt Hon A.(S'sea W)
Steel, Rt Hon David Williams, Rt Hon Mrs(Crosby)
Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles) Wilson, Gordon(Dundee E)
Stoddart, David Wilson, Rt Hon Sir H. (H'ton)
Stott, Roger Wilson, William (C'trySE)
Strang, Gavin Winnick, David
Straw, jack Woodall, Alec
Summerskill, HonDrShirley Woolmer, Kenneth
Taylor, MrsAnn (Bolton W) Wright, Sheila
Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth) Young, David (Bolton E)
Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Thomas, DrR. (Carmarthen) Tellers for the Noes:
Tilley, John Mr. James Hamilton and Mr. Joseph Dean.
Tinn, James
Torney, Tom

MR. SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved, That this House, believing that environmental and social problems arising from heavy lorries must be tackled comprehensively and vigorously and that industry should be helped to keep down transport costs, welcomes the Government's commitment to a continuing and substantial programme of by-pass construction to which further additions are steadily being made, and considers that decisions should not be taken on the White Paper until there has been adequate time to consider fully all the measures proposed in the light of consultations on the draft amending Regulations published for that purpose.