HC Deb 06 February 1984 vol 53 cc589-90
8. Mr. John Hunt

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what recent discussions he has had with the Greater London council in respect of its proposed ban on heavy lorries in the Greater London area at nights and weekends; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Ridley

I have made it clear to the GLC that I would want to consider very carefully all the evidence upon which a night time and weekend lorry ban was proposed. I would not support measures which inflicted damage on London's economy, and I will not hesitate to use my reserve powers if necessary.

Mr. Hunt

I welcome that reply, but is my right hon. Friend aware that this proposed ban would have a particularly devastating effect upon the major supermarket companies, increasing their costs and their prices, and threatening at least 8,000 jobs in depots in the Greater London area? Will he continue to do all that he can to curb the GLC's madness in this respect?

Mr. Ridley

My hon. Friend is quite right. I gather, for instance, that Marks and Spencer, which has a turnover of £600 million in London, providing 14,000 jobs, has already decided to locate its next food depot outside London if there is such a ban, and Sainsbury's has said that 1,296 jobs would be at risk if the ban were implemented. Those are the sorts of considerations which I expect the GLC to take into account before doing anything rash.

Mr. Spearing

Does the Secretary of State agree that there has so far been no substantive proposal from the GLC? Does he not agree that there is still room for improvement in the delicate balance between environment, transport and employment?

Mr. Ridley

I agree with the vague statement with which the hon. Gentleman concluded his question, but I also point out that we have had no view from the Opposition Front Bench on this matter. Do we take silence to mean that the Opposition agree that the GLC would be making a grievous mistake if it pursued this stupid plan?

Mr. Bottomley

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it affects not just supermarkets, important though they are? All of us who rely on the Nine Elms fruit and vegetable market will start wondering how supplies will be brought into London at night time so that they can be bought during the day.

Mr. Ridley

In view of that point, with which I entirely agree, I have asked the GLC whether it intends at least to hold a public inquiry into this proposal.

Mr. Snape

Is the Secretary of State aware that we on this side of the House at least are prepared to consider the views of the Wood report on the question and to let these decisions rest with the elected representatives of Londoners on the other side of the river? Unlike the right hon. Gentleman, we are not interested in making political points in favour of heavy lorries in order to guarantee an even further boost to the Conservative party's treasury from heavy goods vehicle operators?

Mr. Ridley

I am sorry to hear that the hon. Gentleman is finding such difficulty in combining a posture of sitting on the fence with being in the pocket of the GLC.