§ 3.41 p.m.
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they now have anything to add to their reply to the Question put on July 13 last concerning the transport of dangerous substances.]
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (LORD STONHAM)
My Lords, the European Agreement on the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods, which lists more than 800 substances or groups of substances as dangerous, is expected to come into operation this year. The final form of the Agreement is not yet known, but we shall meanwhile take the opportunity to consult the interests concerned on the way in which the Agreement is to be implemented in this country, and the ways in which the scope of the existing regulations concerned with the carriage of dangerous substances by road and the marking of vehicles should be extended.
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that when I put my Question last July I was assured by his predecessor that a decision on this point was expected in the immediate future? In fact, it was said that I could expect an answer, or could expect to find a code laid down within six months or sooner. Is he aware that this delay is causing deep anxiety to those best able to judge of the extremely dangerous conditions which prevail, not only for members of the Fire Service, who would have to deal with any disaster that might occur, but also for the general 1019 population who could so easily be involved in a serious accident? Further, may I ask whether the noble Lord is aware that at the conference last June of The British Fire Services Association a resolution was passed in the following terms:That this Conference recommends and urges Her Majesty's Government to introduce immediate regulations to control the conveyance of dangerous liquids and chemicals by road in the United Kingdom, and to prevent such loads being transported by road through centres of population"?This resolution was forwarded—
§ Several Noble Lords: Order! Order!
My Lords, may I ask if the noble Lord is aware that this resolution was forwarded to Her Majesty's Government on September 10 and that as yet no answer has been received?
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I have, of course, studied the Answer given to the Question which my noble friend put on July 13 last. The words used by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, in replying did not give the hope of immediate action, though the period of six months was mentioned. But the position is that until five countries have ratified this Agreement we cannot proceed. Four countries have, in fact, ratified, and a further ratification is expected quite soon; and six months thereafter annexes to this Bill can be put into operation.
Her Majesty's Government are, of course, fully aware of the dangers to which my noble friend referred and are anxious to deal with them as expeditiously as possible. I was not aware of the terms of the resolution to which the noble Lord referred, but I will undertake to investigate the matter, and an answer will be given.
§ LORD PEDDIE
My Lords, would the noble Lord agree that volume is as important as substance, particularly in regard to road transport? While there may be regulations with regard to substances carried, would he not agree that it is equally important, if not more so, to 1020 effect strict regulations about loads carried, particularly on British roads?
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I entirely agree with what my noble friend has said. This emphasises the importance of waiting for the European Agreement to which I have referred. The regulations and controls which it will then be possible to impose go far beyond any present powers. They will cover not merely the extent of the loads, but also their quality, the permissibility of mixed loads which are undesirable, and include regulations with regard to the safety of vehicle loads and all things which can be reasonably regarded as providing safety in this very wide range of more than 800 dangerous substances.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his reply. He will not be surprised if I do not find it wholly satisfactory.