HC Deb 01 July 1981 vol 7 cc849-50
1. Mr. Dykes

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what new measures are being examined by his Department following the publication of the Armitage report to reduce the effects on road surfaces of heavy lorries.

5. Mr. Spearing

asked the Secretary of State for Transport when, and if, he expects to make an announcement concerning axle weights for heavy load vehicles.

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Norman Fowler)

I intend to make a statement covering all the main recommendations of the Armitage report as soon as the Government have reached decisions. However, as I announced in the debate on 17 June, we have decided that a 44-tonne lorry would not be appropriate for this country.

Mr. Dykes

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer, especially the latter part of it. Serious damage is being caused to road surfaces—not only motorways but other roads, including urban roads such as those in my constituency and in the borough of Harrow—and that is a strong reason for delaying an increase in lorry weights until, given sufficiently long-term programmes of reconstruction and reinforcement, those roads can be strengthened to stop further serious depredation.

Mr. Fowler

I will take into account what my hon. Friend said. He will recognise that industry has a contrary view to his. An option already open under my hon. Friend's Act has meant that about 400 schemes have been designed to enable local authorities to deal with the problem of lorries and they have now been put into effect.

Mr. Spearing

Does the Minister acknowledge that the problem is not only weight and its distribution on axles but speed and the effect of braking on road surfaces and on adjacent buildings? Can he assure the House that when he decides about maximum axle weights he will present fully-documented evidence so that the House can measure his conclusions against scientific evidence?

Mr. Fowler

We try to provide as much information as we can. If a proposal were made to increase lorry weights that would have to be debated in the House.

Sir Anthony Royle

Is my hon. Friend aware that on two occasions in my constituency main roads have collapsed into old drains below them due to the weight of and damage caused by heavy lorries? Will he give a firm assurance that he will at no time in the future permit heavier lorries to travel on our roads, especially on our urban roads?

Mr. Fowler

I cannot give the assurance that my hon. Friend requests as that is clearly one of the matters that we are considering at present. I pay tribute to the work that my hon. Friend has done on the problems in his constituency. If there is anything that we can do to help we shall seek to do so.