HC Deb 28 January 1981 vol 997 cc909-11
10. Mr. Shersby

asked the Secretary of State for Transport whether he has yet reached any conclusion on the recommendations contained in the Armitage report; and if he will make a statement.

18. Mr. Anderson

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what representations he has now received following the publication of the "Report of the Inquiry into Lorries, People and the Environment."

3. Mr. Ron Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what further representations he has received following the publication of the "Report of the Inquiry into Lorries, People and the Environment."

Mr. Fowler

I have received a considerable number of representations. As I told the House, last night's debate was not the final word on this matter, and I shall welcome future representations, which the Government will take into account in reaching decisions.

Mr. Lewis

Will the right hon. Gentleman now undertake to act as quickly on railway electrification as he appears to be acting on the Armitage report?

Mr. Fowler

I am not sure that anyone who listened to last night's debate will say that I was acting all that quickly on the Armitage report. I think that both reports are in exactly the same position: the Government are currently looking at both, and no decision has been made on either.

Mr. Fry

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that there is a need for a clear indication from the Government on where they stand on Armitage? Is he aware that the haulage industry, the commercial vehicle manufacturing industry and the vehicle body-building industry want desperately to know what are the Government's intentions? Will my right hon. Friend therefore assure the House that there will be some Government statement of policy before too long?

Mr. Fowler

I understand the point that my hon. Friend is making. Uncertainty would be harmful for the vehicle and trailer manufacturers. Clearly, we should try to reach decisions as soon as we can. However, I want to fulfil the other obligation, which is to have as full consultation on this as I can, because I know of the great public concern and the concern in the House about this matter.

Mr. Prescott

In view of the BBC's parliamentary report of last night's debate on Armitage, which reported the Under-Secretary of State as suggesting that this House would have a further opportunity to express its view on the proposals for heavy lorries, does this mean that there will be a free vote, as there was in 1972, enabling this House to express its opinion on whether to accept heavy lorries, or will the Government just bring forward their own proposals?

Mr. Fowler

I did not hear the BBC report to which the hon. Gentleman referred, but what my hon. and learned Friend said last night was that, when regulations come forward, clearly the House will have the right to debate that question and will debate it. However, we are jumping several stages forward. I should like to finish the consultation period before moving to the next stage.

Mr. Squire

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the Armitage report is very clear about the environmental damage done by heavy lorries in a number of parts of the country? In respect of my own constituency, this damage is self-evident. When will my right hon. Friend be in a position to announced at long last the re-routeing of the A13 which will bring relief to Rainham village?

Mr. Fowler

I hope to announce the re-routeing of the A13 as soon as possible. I agree that there are severe environmental problems which have been caused by the heavy lorry. That is why we want to take as much time as we can—while clearly not making the debate go on for ever—in coming to reasonable conclusions upon which both sides of the House can agree.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

During the discussions, will the Minister be prepared to accept approaches made by those interested in transport services who allege that some lorries coming here from the Continent could not pass the MOT test but come in here with many faults and are not properly tested? Will he look into the problem, because this is also a danger to life and to the environment?

Mr. Fowler

If the hon. Gentleman is talking about lorries coming into the country, I can tell him that in October we had a blitz on lorries coming in to South and East Coast ports. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that a further blitz campaign will be taking place very shortly.

Mr. Shersby


Mr. Speaker

The question tabled by the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) has been grouped with question No. 3. Our theory is that a supplementary question arises out of the Minister's answer, which the hon. Gentleman did not hear. However, I shall call him.

Mr. Shersby

I apologise for being late. It was due to unavoidable snags with traffic. I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for calling me.

Can my right hon. Friend assure me that, when he is considering this difficult and sensitive matter, he will have regard to the views of the residents' and tenants' federation in my constituency to the effect that heavy lorries should be prohibited from residential areas and, secondly, that the M25 motorway should be completed as soon as humanly possible?

Mr. Fowler

I am certain that the M25 is the number one road transport priority of this Government. It is a matter of agreement throughout the House that it should be completed as soon as possible. As for the first part of my hon. Friend's question, certainly we shall, through him, take account of any representations his constituents care to make.