HC Deb 14 July 1986 vol 101 cc664-6
2. Mr. Bidwell

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what recent representations he has received concerning commercial vehicle drivers' hours.

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. John Moore)

The road transport unions have made representations to me, both directly and through right hon. and hon. Members, and I met union representatives, together with the hon. Members for Glasgow, Shettleston (Mr. Marshall) and for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell) on 3 July.

Mr. Bidwell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in a recent reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mr. Parry), the Minister responsible for road safety, the hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley) said: There is no clearly established connection between driving hours and fatigue. Did he mean that? Is the Secretary of State aware of the widespread concern that the new EEC regulations will lead exactly to that? We shall find out tomorrow.

Mr. Moore

The hon. Gentleman was involved in a delegation that he brought to me the other day. I listened carefully to what he said, but I do not accept his contention. The House will have the opportunity to debate the matter late tomorrow night when we discuss drivers' hours.

Mr. Gregory

Attention has rightly been drawn to drivers' hours. When a driver is not driving, is he not meant to be resting? Will my right hon. Friend consider introducing a personal log book such as that used by pilots so that a driver cannot continue driving for gain or profit? If we introduce such a system not the number of accidents be greatly reduced?

Mr. Moore

My hon. Friend will the opportunity to make that point in greater detail tomorrow night, but I shall certainly consider what he has said. We are introducing the new regulations to give greater flexibility, including less driving per fortnight, and more weekly rest, which is a critical factor.

Mr. Foot

Will the Secretary of State undertake to hold up the provisions that he plans to put before us tomorrow night until we have had longer to examine them? Has he met the drivers on the job? If he has, what did they say to him, and what did he say in reply? Will he exercise some authority and give the House of Commons a full chance of discussing this important matter—not late at night—because of the widespread concern about it?

Mr. Moore

I always listen with care to the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), but the Minister responsible for roads, my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley), has had extensive consultation on the issue and it has been under discussion for a considerable time. I cannot give the right hon. Gentleman the undertaking which he seeks. So far my Department has received 130 letters from the public, compared with 45 letters from hon. Members. There will be an opportunity to discuss the matter again tomorrow.

Mr. Stott

Is the Minister aware of the written answer by his hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell) alluded? He said: There is no clearly established connection between driving hours and fatigue." — [Official Report, 25 June 1986; Vol. 100, c. 242.] Is the Secretary of State aware that the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety — an all-party group in the House and outside—estimates that 11 per cent. of PSV and HGV accidents involve driver fatigue? Will the Secretary of State ensure that his hon. Friend is further briefed before he comes to the House for the debate tomorrow night?

Mr. Moore

There is no difficulty in asking my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, who is responsible for roads, to read briefs, because he reads them extensively already. We are proposing a new pattern of regulations which will provide for less driving and more weekly rest. It is the end product of a long period of consultation. I am sure that the House will find the regulations acceptable tomorrow night.