HC Deb 10 March 1982 vol 19 cc831-3
6. Mr. Waller

Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement about his timetable for implementing the main proposals contained in his White Paper on "Lorries, People and the Environment."

19. Mr. Chapman

Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the progress of his consultations with local authority associations on aspects of his White Paper, "Lorries, People and the Environment."

Mr. David Howell

I have consulted widely on the proposals in the White Paper, "Lorries, People and the Environment". I hope to make a further announcement shortly. Consultations with the local authority associations have included discussions on the more effective use of their powers to control lorries and their routing. I am also consulting local authorities about the establishment of lorry action areas for the places worst affected by lorry traffic.

Mr. Waller

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that yesterday's Budget changes in the rates of duty payable on heavy lorries will ensure that these vehicles pay their track costs? That is one of the main recommendations of the Armitage report. As more and more companies have made it clear that if the weight of lorries were increased there would be savings in both fuel and the number of vehicles used, are not the environmental and economic considerations in favour of my right hon. Friend's White Paper becoming more apparent?

Mr. Howell

It has always been clear that the substantial benefits from the proposed package are both industrial and environmental. My hon. Friend is also right to draw attention to the proposals made yesterday by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He proposed that vehicle exise duty on the heavier lorries and vehicles should be substantially increased—by, I believe, about a quarter.

Mr. Booth

Would it not be improper for the House to consider a Finance Bill that made special provision for the taxation of lorries that could not be used legally on our roads? Will he therefore give an undertaking that before such a Finance Bill proposal is made the House will have an opportunity to decide on the construction and use regulations that the Secretary of State intends to bring forward in the light of the proposition in the White Paper on "Lorries, People and the Environment"?

Mr. Howell

I hope to make an announcement on these matters shortly.

Mr. Crouch

In my right hon. Friend's timetable for the implementation of the White Paper, which will come first—the heavier lorries, their safety requirements, the bypasses, the motorways, the route control or the weighing machines that will be required to keep a check on these vehicles?

Mr. Howell

The package of controls on lorries which I believe is necessary to prevent what is at present a bad situation from getting worse, must go hand in hand with any changes in maximum weights or, indeed, maximum heights—where the proposal is that there should be a limit. All those things should go together as a package. At the same time, the Government have announced a substantial bypass programme, which has been speeded up, and that should also go forward. All in all, it is essential to tackle the environmental impact of what in many cases are extremely offensive vehicles. A competitive advantage can accrue to the freight industry if we combine that with a sensible package of lorry controls as a comprehensive whole. That is the Government's approach.

Mr. Bagier

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that whatever the Chancellor did yesterday about meeting the track cost of heavy lorries, that cost in no way comes near to putting the environmental costs right? Does he also agree that a vast number of people are absolutely against an increase in lorry weights? Will he give some assurance to the House that he has no intention of agreeing to those lorry weights coming into operation?

Mr. Howell

The hon. Gentleman should accept the point I made earlier—that the present situation is bad and getting worse. There is a strong case for a comprehensive package of controls on lorries, including safety, lorry routing and a number of other developments. Many people will be extremely concerned if these things are let slip yet again. That ought to go hand in hand with allowing a heavier maximum weight to allow the industry to compete and to find the cost of these extra controls. That is a sensible and balanced approach, which many people will appreciate.

7. Mr. Dykes

Secretary of State for Transport what representations he has received from the various interested parties, affected organisations, and the public in general on his Department's draft circular of 18 February on lorry controls.

The Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Reginald Eyre)

None as yet. The purpose of this circular is to encourage a more vigorous approach to the introduction of planned lorry controls, which is one of the most worthwhile ways of improving the environment locally. We have asked for comments by 18 March.

Mr. Dykes

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Will he undertake to oblige local authorities to use the 1967 and 1973 Acts properly to ensure full-scale environmental controls for the heaviest lorries if there is an increase in weights that is not yet acceptable, bearing in mind that the full details of the package are yet to be seen?

Mr. Eyre

My hon. Friend makes an important point. About 850 lorry control schemes have been introduced on amenity grounds since my hon. Friend promoted the 1973 Act, known as the Dyke's Act. Many authorities have used their powers effectively, but there is still plenty of scope for more—hence this circular.

Mr. Cryer

Does not the fact that there is scope for further controls indicate that there is already widespread apprehension about the use of lorries? The package proposed by the Secretary of State is widely regarded with suspicion because many people think it is part of a public relations exercise to get heavier lorries on our roads, to which the vast majority of people are deeply opposed.

Mr. Eyre

The circular urges local authorities to make full use of their powers to restrict lorries to roads most suitable for them and to keep them away from the most sensitive areas. I ask the hon. Gentleman to pay regard to the great virtues of the comprehensive package described by my right hon. Friend in reply to the previous question.