HC Deb 12 December 1996 vol 287 cc390-1
3. Mr. Beggs

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the effect of the French lorry drivers' strike on owner drivers and road haulage contractors in Northern Ireland and on the Northern Ireland economy. [7317]

Mr. Ancram

The effect of the strike on owner drivers and road haulage contractors, and on the Northern Ireland economy, will become apparent only when the relevant details become available.

Mr. Beggs

A number of road haulage contractors, small businesses and owner drivers have been affected by the French and Danish blockades. Does the Minister share my concern about reports that the French police assisted the strikers and about the reports that British claims for compensation that arose from disruption in 1992 have still not been settled? Can he assure me that those Northern Ireland businesses that submit legitimate claims for compensation will have his support and representation for early settlement by the French Government?

Mr. Ancram

I share the hon. Gentleman's concern, as I am sure he shares with me the view that blocking roads anywhere damages commerce and trade.

On compensation, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport has obtained firm assurances from the French Transport Minister that claims for damage to vehicles or loads and for loss of earnings will be considered as quickly as possible. My right hon. Friend is also aware of the delays on previous occasions and he is resolving detailed arrangements for making claims for compensation with the French authorities. He will continue to monitor the situation carefully.

Mr. John Marshall

As the free movement of people and goods was the foundation of the European Community and the Single European Act, may I suggest to my right hon. Friend that our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister should raise the subject at the forthcoming summit in Dublin and suggest to the French and the Greeks that their blockades are not very communautaire?

Mr. Ancram

I agree with my hon. Friend, and I hope that those who claim to believe in the free movement of goods within the single market and the European Union will look carefully at the results of those industrial disputes.

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