HL Deb 09 December 1971 vol 326 cc919-42

4.35 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Sandford.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Power in certain cases to prohibit driving of foreign vehicles]:

LORD CHAMPION moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 14, at end insert— ("or (c) an authorised person exercises, in relation to the driver of the vehicle, any functions of that person under Part III of the Road Traffic Act 1971 (Licensing of Drivers of Vehicles)").

The noble Lord said: The first Amendment which appears in my name on the Marshalled List is a paving Amendment for Amendment No. 4, and does not make sense without reference to No. 4. Therefore, if I have the Committee's permission, I propose to discuss both together. What I am seeking to ensure by these Amendments is that the standard of driving of foreign vehicles operated on the roads of this country is at least as good as the driving we expect from our own lorry drivers. In the main, I am glad to say, we certainly do get excellent driving from most of our own lorry drivers; indeed, one feels reasonably safe when approaching them or passing them in most circumstances, where they can in fact help you.

When we were discussing the Second Reading of this Bill on Wednesday of last week both the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, and I raised the point about the knowledge, or otherwise, of our Highway Code for foreign drivers of goods and public service vehicles coming into our country. I must admit that I myself had a doubt about this, but I had no personal experience or knowledge. My doubt was removed by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, whom I am now glad to see in his place. I am rather hoping that he may be able to support this Amendment. I hope he will not mind if I remind the Committee of what he said. He told us of his conversation with a Belgian driver of a large lorry—or "juggernaut", as such vehicles are sometimes called—who appeared to be an admirable driver with an unblemished record, but who admitted that when he came here for the first time he had never heard of the Highway Code. We did not learn from the noble Lord—and perhaps he did not inquire—on which of his subsequent visits here the Belgian driver did learn of the Highway Code and get to know something about it, or indeed the extent of the knowledge which I suppose he now has.

To the questions on this matter put by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, and myself, no reply was made by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford. I make no complaint about this, as clearly the Minister was in some difficulty in trying to fit his reply into a very tight and difficult schedule, occasioned by the nature of the debate that was to follow. It seems to me to be axiomatic that if a professional driver is to drive on the roads of a foreign country he ought to be aware of the rules governing his conduct on the roads of that country. That surely must apply whether it is a British driver on the roads of the Continent, or a foreign driver driving on our roads here.

The difficulties of this I readily admit. The difficulty of language is an immediate and obvious one. The difficulty of language comes in reading a document written in another language, no matter how simply it is expressed. I cannot imagine that many of our drivers would be able to read a code of conduct for the roads in Germany, which was written in German. I cannot imagine that many of our drivers would be able to read a similar code of conduct written in French. Perhaps I may add to that by saying that some of the drivers who travel in both directions have a few rather stumbling phrases which they have picked up, and which enable them to ask directions on the road, but that is about all. What I say here is that translations ought to be available to drivers, so that they may understand what is happening. For example, if I were a transport operator with vehicles operating in Germany, I should expect to provide my drivers with a translation of the main rules governing their conduct when driving in Germany; and the same would apply to anyone driving in France and so on.

The last thing I wish to do is to place anything in the nature of an insuperable bar in the way of the continuing expansion of our trade with countries with whom we stand in an excellent trade relationship to-day, and may very well stand in an even better trade relationship in the future. As far back as 1965, the value of our exports to Europe stood at a figure of 40 per cent. of all British exports. It may be much higher to-day, but I do not have the latest figure. But, certainly, if the hope of the pro-Marketeers is realised, our trade will be greatly in excess of the present figure after our entry into Europe. But having said that, I am bound to say that we cannot agree to the expansion of this sort of traffic at any price; and, certainly, not at the price of road safety. This is the important point in this connection. Perhaps I ought to say, for the sake of accuracy, that not all of the trade is dependent on roll-on, roll-off goods vehicles; much is being carried by rail ferry ships and by the new container traffic, the use of which is increasing daily.

To use the words of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, this Bill has been introduced to deal with … the heavy foreign vehicles that arrive here overweight, unsafe, without documents, and being driven by one driver for far longer than our laws permit. These offences, shortcomings and abuses are serious and widespread."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1/12/71; col. 272.]

This is a serious position and this Committee must clearly direct its attention to it. In connection with the road safety aspect, the only mention of the driver in the Bill is in the first column of Schedule 2, and the effect of the appropriate sections of the Transport Act 1968 is to limit the time and periods of duty of drivers of goods and public service vehicles, to require the installation of recording equipment in such vehicles and the keeping of records. There is nothing at all in the Bill about the standards to be obtained by the driver of the vehicle. But, certainly, we ought to demand from foreign drivers as high a standard of driving competence as we expect from our own drivers. That is why the first of the effective parts of this Amendment seeks to ensure that such drivers are conversant with the Highway Code. I must say that I should prefer to meet a substandard vehicle driven by a first-class driver, than a very good vehicle driven by a substandard driver. But, of course, we must aim at such a standard that neither is met on our roads.

The second part of Amendment No. 4 deals with a certificate of competence to drive lorries, especially heavy goods lorries, to be held by the driver. The Amendment specifies that such a certificate should be in accordance with … regulations made under an international agreement in pursuance of section 100 of the Transport Act 1968.

That Act was passed just over three years ago, and Section 100 authorises the Minister to make by order … such provision as appears to him to be requisite for enabling the United Kingdom to become a party to any international agreement relating to the drivers or crews of vehicles used on international journeys".

When it fell to me to consider this Bill in readiness for the Committee stage, I sought information about any order or orders made under Section 100, and I was profoundly disturbed to learn that no order had been made and laid before Parliament.

As I understood what the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, said during the Second Reading debate, there are some bilateral road haulage agreements with certain other Continental countries. But I have not discovered whether such agreements cover the points that I have raised about competence to drive heavy goods vehicles, or about drivers needing a reasonable knowledge of the road codes obtaining in such countries. The question that I have to ask is: do such bilateral agreements cover the drivers and crews of these vehicles on international journeys? Clearly, there can be no substitute for the sort of agreement postulated in Section 100 of the Transport Act 1968. In my opinion, even the bilateral agreements would not satisfy the conditions required by that section. What I am asking for here is a statement on the present position, three years after the passing of the 1968 Act.

In conclusion, I make no pretence at all that these Amendments are in such a form that they would satisfy the Parliamentary draftsmen. But I think their purpose is clear and, if the Minister is prepared to accept the substance and will promise to bring in suitable Amendments at Report stage, I shall be happy to withdraw them immediately. I can round off what I have been trying to say by asserting that the public is entitled to demand the protection of its safety by the promotion of high standards of vehicle operation covering their size and maintenance, and perhaps, above all, the com petence of the men who drive these vehicles. I beg to move.

4.49 p.m.


Since the noble Lord opposite was good enough to refer to some remarks that I made during the Second Reading debate, perhaps I may say one or two words by way of comment on his Amendments. I had told your Lordships of an occasion when I interviewed a driver of one lorry in Belgrave Square. Although he was an extremely experienced man, he told me that he had never heard of the Highway Code, and he obviously spoke no English at all. Furthermore, he knew nothing about the restrictions upon his vehicle over certain roads and certain bridges, and did not know how he could find that information in order that he should cause the least inconvenience to other users of the road.

For fear lest your Lordships might consider the one example that I have given insufficient in a case such as this, I have now carried out certain other inquiries—another six, to be exact, all in Belgrave Square, which is within walking distance of my home. The six lorry drivers I have interrogated since I spoke on the Second Reading of this Bill all said exactly the same thing: that they had never heard of the Highway Code and knew nothing about restrictions on the use of their vehicles. What was much worse, none of them could understand a word of English. They were all also highly experienced, thoroughly responsible and thoroughly respectable men. I think it is going to be very difficult for my noble friend the Minister to incorporate into this Bill the points which the noble Lord opposite made in moving his Amendment. I can well see that it is not really germane to what the Government have in mind. All I would ask my noble friend Lord Sandford is whether he will look at this point to see if it is possible to deal with it by some administrative means, if the Bill cannot cover it, or indeed by mere persuasion. I believe that these people, these good drivers of these heavy lorries, are only too willing to comply with our law and to do everything they can to make themselves acceptable, because they want to come here in increasing numbers and do a decreasing amount of damage. I support the noble Lord's Amendment in spirit, but I must confess that I think he has little chance of getting it incorporated in the Bill in the way in which he has drafted it.


I think the noble Lord, Lord Champion, has raised a matter of very considerable complexity. From the points he made in his speech I was not quite sure whether he was advocating that the owners of these Continental vehicles should see that their men are instructed in the main points required to drive on British roads or in the full Highway Code. But, whereas the main Points might not be utterly impracticable, I think it is probably wildly impracticable to expect all the Continental drivers who come here—and, conversely, all the British drivers who drive on the Continent—to be completely au fait with every Highway Code in every country through which they pass. And, of course, what is sauce for the lorries is also sauce for the private drivers. Many noble Lords and many people in this country set out from Calais and motor through Spain, Italy, France, Switzerland and Austria. Have they ever seen the Highway Codes of those countries? I very much doubt it. The obvious answer—and I do not know whether my noble friend can tell me about this—is that if we go into Europe there must be a universal Highway Code printed in various languages. One could then expect people to know something about it. But it seems to me that, as the noble Lord has approached the matter, he has got on to something pretty impracticable.

4.53 p.m.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving the Committee an opportunity to discuss this whole business of drivers' competence and for giving me an opportunity to expand quite a bit on what I had to say, in rather limited terms, for reasons which he recognised, during Second Reading. I think it is important to realise that what we are concerned with in the whole of this Bill is finding effective ways to enforce our legislation on visiting foreign goods vehicles and their drivers. When we have succeeded in doing that, as I am sure we shall through this legislation, the other things which, for the reasons that my noble friend Lord Mancroft gave, are really better handled by administrative action will be better handled. At the moment, there is a general ineffectiveness which not only has its effect on matters which should be enforced by legislative and statutory means but which also has a harmful and damaging effect on matters which probably are possible of enforcement effectively only by administrative arrangements. But I will come to that in a moment.

Perhaps I could deal now with the Amendment as it stands, and accept the noble Lord's suggestion that we should consider Amendments Nos. 1 and 4 together. First of all, I would say that Part III of the Road Traffic Act 1971, which is mentioned in Amendment No. 1, deals with the granting of British drivers' licences by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. It does not relate, and could not relate, to the foreign drivers of visiting foreign commercial vehicles. Foreign drivers duly licensed in their own country do not have to obtain British driving licences. By international agreement, foreign domestic driving licences which have been issued after the foreign driver has given proof in his own country of his competence may be used in this country for a period of up to 12 months. The holding of this licence, issued in his own country, also exempts the foreign driver from the need to acquire a British heavy goods vehicle licence or a British public service vehicle licence.

As respects the Highway Code, which is mentioned in the noble Lord's Amendment No. 4, a British driving test examiner has power to question a native British driver on his knowledge of the Highway Code only during a driving test. To take power to examine visiting foreign drivers at any time, and to prohibit their driving if they were found not to be "reasonably conversant" with our Highway Code, would be discriminatory: it would be against our forthcoming obligations under the Treaty of Rome, and it would run counter to the liberal transport policy which is now internationally agreed. But, having said that, I shall be very glad to respond, and at some length, to the noble Lord's request for some indication as to how we impart our Highway Code to foreign visiting drivers. As my noble friend Lord Mancroft anticipated it would be, this is something that is much better done by administrative measures; and these are what they are. First, a simplified form of the Highway Code, in French and German, is available for foreign drivers. These have been sent to many foreign haulage concerns; and perhaps I could pass a copy across the Table for the noble Lord, Lord Champion, to see. They are available for issue to foreign drivers at the ports. A reprint of the summary of the Highway Code is shortly to be undertaken, and that reprint will be ready for distribution at all ferry ports next year. It will be available as these new arrangements come into force.

The noble Lord, also in Amendment No. 4, mentions Section 100 of the Transport Act 1968. This section occurs in Part VI of that Act, and was intended principally to cover drivers' hours and records. The "international agreement" referred to in this section could be, for example, the A.E.T.R. agreement, which is the European agreement concerning the work of crews of vehicles engaged in international road transport' promoted by the Economic Commission for Europe of the United Nations. This agreement requires drivers' record books to be carried but does not provide for certificates of competence to be held by drivers generally. It does, however, deal with certificates of competence as regards ability to drive vehicles in the case of persons aged from 18 to 21. The United Kingdom is a signatory to the A.E.T.R., but to ratify it requires an order under Section 100. When eight countries have ratified the agreement, it will come into force after 180 days. An order under Section 100 is at present being drafted. If and when A.E.T.R. is introduced into Great Britain under Section 100, then the prohibition procedure envisaged by the Bill will apply, since Section 100 of the Transport Act 1968 is mentioned in Schedule 2 to the Bill.

The noble Lord may be intending that police constables and examiners should be able to prohibit driving when a valid driving licence is not being carried. Powers of inspection of driving licences are contained in Part VII of the Road Traffic Act 1971, the consolidating Act. If I may, I will repeat what I said during the Second Reading, because it is relevant at this point. Drivers of foreign goods vehicles should carry appropriate driving licences and Section 225(4) of the Road Traffic Act 1960 allows the driver of a vehicle five days in which to produce that licence. In these circumstances it would be difficult to justify immediately imposing a prohibition notice on a foreign vehicle for apparent lack of a driving licence. That power does not exist in relation to a British driver.

I hope that that explanation will satisfy the Committee that there are international agreements adequate and appropriate to cover driving standards and that this is the right way in which to ensure that we have them. I hope that it will also satisfy the Committee that this Amendment, although absolutely right in intent, and although the Government have complete sympathy with it, would unbalance these international agreements. I hope also the Committee will agree with the point made by my noble friend Lord Mancroft, which I have been endorsing: that to secure the kind of things Lord Champion wants is better done by administrative arrangements within a tighter enforcement policy. I hope that, after that explanation, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his Amendment.


May I ask whether the Minister will answer my question about whether there is to be a universal Highway Code if we go into Europe?


I apologise for not answering that question. I think not; but so far as can be foreseen there will be a series of national highway codes—because each country's code will differ—embraced within a code of international agreements which may become tighter, firmer and more detailed as we progress.


I have a great deal of sympathy with the intention behind the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Champion; but having listened to the speech of Lord Sandford I appreciate the difficulties and I welcome his assurance that the point raised by Lord Champion will be dealt with by administrative action. However, I want to question what I think was implicit in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hawke: the suggestion that drivers could not be expected to know all the highway codes or their equivalent in all the countries through which they are driving. Surely, if they are driving through a number of countries on the Continent then it should be expected of them that they should know what standards are expected in these other contries. Indeed, each section of the foreign guide issued by the Automobile Association begins with a passage setting out in simple terms what are the standards required in that particular country. If drivers of ordinary vehicles in this country can be examined on our own Highway Code, how essential it is that drivers of large and potentially-dangerous commercial vehicles should at least know the standards that we require in this country !


May I make a point of explanation here. I was referring to the Highway Code as being a rather voluminous set of rules and regulations and not to the simple rules which the right reverend Prelate visualises in some guide. I very much doubt whether he himself when driving on the Continent has mastered in detail the highway codes of every country through which he has driven.


I accept the noble Lords' point and I hope that he will also accept the point I am making, which is that it is essential that drivers of heavy commercial vehicles in this country should be expected to know what are the standards that we require in this country. In conclusion, may I say how much I welcome the assurances given by Lord Sandford that these matters will be dealt with administratively.


May I ask one simple question? I think Lord Sandford said that provided foreign drivers were qualified in their own country, they would be qualified to drive in this country for 12 months. What happens after that?


They have to get a British licence if they want to drive continuously in this country.


I am grateful for the support which this Amendment has received. Obviously, the Committee have recognised the importance of the points which lay behind the actual moving of the Amendment. I am a fairly old Parliamentary hand, old enough to realise that this Bill is not perhaps the right vehicle for what I sought to do; and here I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, to whom I am particularly grateful for his illustrations further backing up the points I made when we last discussed this matter. His plea to his noble friend, as I understand it, has been completely accepted: that this is something which will be done (in so far as it still remains to be done) by administrative means. At least I have learned something from Lord Sandford that I did not know before: that this simple guide, in French and German, is sent out by his Department to many foreign haulage firms.

The noble Lord, Lord Hawke, said that this idea was impracticable. I am bound to say that I agree with the right reverend Prelate that it ought to be possible for people to know the highway codes of other countries when they take upon themselves the responsibility of driving in those countries. I recognise the difficulties here and I agree with Lord Sandford that the setting up of an international code will surely follow our entry into the enlarged E.E.C., and that that code will he applicable to all the countries which will then constitute that body. The last thing that I would wish—I think I made mention of this in my speech; and I agree too, with Lord Sandford—in a matter of this sort is to be discriminatory, for the obvious reason, to put it at its lowest, that other countries would retaliate. These things must be reciprocal. Having said that, and in view of the assurances which the Committee have secured as a result of the Amendment which I moved, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.9 p.m.

LORID CHAMPION moved Amendment No. 2: Page 1, line 14, at end insert— or (d) the licensing authority exercises any function in relation to a large goods vehicle as defined in section 71 of the Transport Act 1968.").

The noble Lord said: Like my first Amendment, this is a paving Amendment and in this case it leads to Amendment No. 5. If the Committee agree I propose to discuss Amendments Nos. 2 and 5 together. This is a simple Amendment aimed at ensuring that so far as possible large goods vehicles leaving our ports follow routes prescribed by a competent person, and drawn up with regard to the use of roads believed suited to the type of vehicle. With the improvements which are taking place, many of our roads are suitable for the type of vehicles we have in mind, but thousands of miles of our roads are still totally unsuited to the long and wide vehicles which arrive from abroad. Also I must add that they are used daily by our own operators. Motorists who follow these large vehicles for miles along narrow roads find their impatience mounting and this leads them to "chance their arm" and attempt to pass. This is responsible for head-on killer collisions. We may have all suffered from that sort of frustration, and if seriously challenged I think that most of us would confess to taking a risk at times and afterwards admitting to ourselves that it was a very silly thing to do. It seems to me that there can be nothing objectionable about routing vehicles along roads best suited to their bulk, any more than there is about enforcing a route in a town by a system of one-way streets. Often it is the case that a greater distance by a better road proves to be a much quicker route, and time is of the essence in respect of economic road transport.

The Ministry of Transport White Paper told us that an improvement in road safety depended on safer roads, safer vehicles and safer drivers and pedestrians. To that I would add that until we get the safer roads we require we need to route vehicles along the, safer roads which we have already. The Economic Development Committee for the Movement of Exports, under the chairmanship of the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, reported in 1966. One of its recommendations was: The drawing up of recommended routes for heavy traffic should be expedited and more impetus given to the programme for strengthening certain bridges.

I do not know whether that recommendation has been implemented. If it has, I have never seen it. But if by any chance it has been implemented, have foreign vehicle operators been advised of the recommended routes? If recommended routes are available, are the Department of the Environment officers employed at the ports aware of them, and do they advise foreign drivers accordingly? I think this routeing is necessary in connection with the passage of traffic to and from our older ports; it is even more necessary in connection with the rapidly expanding ports such as Felixstowe. The roads in the Eastern Counties are not suited for the sort of traffic which now travels to and from the port of Felixstowe and other rapidly developing East Coast ports. Felixstowe is developing so as to deal with a large amount of heavy Continental traffic, mainly container traffic, and the roads to and from Felixstowe badly need widening. In the meantime, I believe it would be possible to improve the passage of traffic if it were routed over the best roads available. This simple Amendment does not require a great deal of explanation. The problem is one which needs airing and I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say. I beg to move.


I take it that I shall be correct in speaking to Amendment No. 5 with Amendment No. 2. I wish to support what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Champion. As I walked from the House last Thursday, at a few minutes after nine o'clock at night on the corner of Bridge Street I saw an enormous vehicle, with Spanish registration numbers, which came from Madrid. It was articulated and must have been over 60 ft. in length. It turned into Parliament Square and as I walked across Whitehall it appeared again. In turning into Whitehall it went right across the road and almost touched the kerb of the island in the middle of Whitehall. I took a cab and followed the vehicle, which went round Trafalgar Square and, to my astonishment, down Northumberland Avenue. Presumably it then turned on to the Embankment because the driver had known he could not get on to the Embankment from Bridge Street. He also must have known that he could get on to the Embankment from the turn under the Charing Cross Bridge.

I mention this in support of my feelings about this Amendment. The vehicle I saw was an enormous one and appeared to be beautifully equipped. It was superbly driven, although it was a left-handed drive. If the driver was a foreigner who knew no English and did not know his way about London, it was a magnificent piece of driving; but I think that it must have been a British driver. He took this extraordinary route to reach the Embankment and was presumably on his way to the docks. I do not wish to say more, except to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Champion, that if the Government accept the Amendment we shall get close to what a number of noble Lords have said: that the time is coming—we mentioned this only last week in two different debates, one about by-passing important towns—when large vehicles will have to be routed and confined to certain specified roads.


I heartily support this Amendment. I have seen these enormous Continental lorries in small country towns. It is difficult for the drivers to get them round corners and they cause the most appalling congestion. Although I do not know how it could be done, I think that long vehicles such as these, the majority of which come from the Continent, ought to be prevented from travelling too near one another. If two such vehicles are too close together it is almost impossible to pass them. Another aspect of this matter is that if these enormous vehicles are allowed to travel through small country towns where there is old property by the side of the roads, eventually, through the vibration which the vehicles cause, the houses will be shaken down. I hope that my noble friend can give your Lordships some encouragement that the Government will accept the Amendment.


I support what is contained in the Amendment, but I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, will point out that there are considerable practical difficulties. At least the noble Lord, Lord Champion, is putting a very important principle before us, to which reference has also been made by the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier. We have not sufficient roads to carry these vast vehicles and we have to make the best possible use of the limited resources that we have. As is well known to your Lordships, one of the main difficulties is that often roads from motorways to areas where these very large vehicles have to go are most unsuitable to carry heavy weights, so it is all the more important that there should be careful directions about where these vehicles can go.

We in Cheshire are only too well aware of this problem. We have heavy vehicles coming from Liverpool and Manchester which have to get on to the M.6 and they have to travel on unsuitable roads. Therefore it is all the more important that they should be told exactly where they may go. There is a further point that the ring roads provided in some cities are not used by the drivers of these very heavy vehicles. They travel through the middle of the cities along streets which are incapable of accommodating such traffic. Therefore I hope that the principle contained in the noble Lord's Amendment will be seriously and sympathetically considered by Her Majesty's Government.

5.20 p.m.


Perhaps I may remind the Committee of the purpose of the powers that we are taking under this limited Bill. It gives us powers of enforcement that are appropriate for use against foreign goods vehicles, because the current procedures appropriate for British-based vehicles and their drivers have proved ineffective against foreign goods vehicles and their drivers. In doing this, as I have said, we have to take care—and we are taking care—not to impose any rules, regulations, restrictions or requirements on foreign vehicles and their drivers that we do not impose on our own heavy vehicles and their drivers. To do this would be to discriminate on grounds of nationality; it would conflict with the existing liberal international agreements, and it would run counter to our forthcoming E.E.C. obligations.

But the desire of the noble Lord, Lord Champion, that heavy vehicles should be restricted to roads capable of accommodating them is certainly not only appreciated but widely shared—there is not a Member of this Committee who would not share it—and not least by my right honourable friend the Minister for Transport Industries and my right honourable friend the Secetary of State for the Environment. In his recent speech at the Conservative Party Conference the Minister stressed that the heavy lorries of the future should be confined to roads properly able to accommodate them; and my right honourable friend is at present discussing with the industry the problems associated with the heavy lorry and the environment—the sort of issues raised by my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard just now—and, in particular, the driving of heavy lorries in places unsuited for their presence; our historic towns, for example.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, in announcing the construction of a further 1,000 miles of motorway to be ready by the early 1980s, stressed that one of the aims was, to achieve environmental improvement by diverting long-distance traffic, and particularly heavy goods vehicles, from a large number of towns and villages so as to relieve them from the noise, dirt and danger that they suffer at present. He went on to say: Priorities within the programme will reflect the Government's aim to provide adequate access to the major docks well within the time span for the whole programme. The whole programme goes up to the early 'eighties. All this will apply to all heavy goods vehicles of all nationalities, British and foreign. It does not, I submit, call for mention in this Bill, which is solely concerned with enforcement procedures against foreign goods vehicles. But it does involve an expanded road programme (and I have given the Committee the relevant quotations from that) and then involves—but only then—proper routing of all lorries on to proper routes for them when such routes are available. The trunk network linked to the major ports will be complete by the early 'eighties.

I hope that the Committee, having heard that explanation, will accept that we are fully aware of this problem, and are tackling it, but that an Amendment to this Bill restricted to foreign goods vehicles would not be appropriate for securing it. Nevertheless, I am grateful to the noble Lord for having moved the Amendment, because it has given me the opportunity of making this explanation to the Committee and the Committee the opportunity of discussing it.


It is one of the advantages of this House that almost invariably if you start a discussion on something you will find somebody who has personal experience and is willing to give your Lordships the benefit of that personal experience. In the first Amendment that I moved, clearly it was the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft; and now the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, is able to support this Amendment by his personal experience which happened so recently. We have had also the right reverend Prelate with his experience of the roads in Cheshire. I happen to know something about the M.6 and some of the roads off it, and I know well the difficulties which can arise from trying to follow some of the vehicles that have been "batting" along at 60 and 70 m.p.h. on the M.6 and then find themselves cut down to the sort of speed at which they ought to be going on some of these roads that the right reverend Prelate and I happen to know.

I agree with the right reverend Prelate that quite often the ring roads are not used properly by vehicles, and I sometimes wonder whether the difficulty arises from bad routing signs, which occasionally are found in some of our towns. Perhaps to some extent the position has been improved recently, but I remember once trying to get down from Birmingham on the old A.38 and I was directed out towards the ring road. I followed the signs for some distance, and then suddenly lost them. My difficulty was that it took me longer to get back into the centre of the city and to start all over again down the middle of it than it would have done if I had gone slap through the middle in the first instance.

I think the Amendment has served a good purpose. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, told us what the Tory Party Conference were told. I am bound to say that it makes me feel that Tory Party Conferences may be of some use after all. Perhaps Parliament should have been told first, and not the Tory Party Conference. But having stirred the noble Lord up to the point where he has repeated the words used at the Conference, where they were sensibly used, I am bound to say that I am grateful for the fact that he has to-day told us of them. As I made clear in introducing the first Amendment, I put it down in order that I might extract information and to bring to the attention of the Department what is the feeling of the Committee. I believe that the feeling of the Committee in this matter is that something ought to be done in respect of all the points that I have raised, and those that have been raised by other Members on the Amendments. Having regard to that, and to the reply that I received from the noble Lord, for which I thank him, I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.27 p.m.

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 3: Page 2, line 16, at end insert ("or will be exceeded if the vehicle is driven on a road").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 3, and with the agreement of the Committee I will take the opportunity to speak to Amendment No. 6, which is linked with it. This is a small and rather tiresome point which it is difficult to deal with except at some length, and I hope that the Committee will bear with me. The Government have given an assurance that the enforcement powers sought in the Bill will be exercised mainly at the ports of entry. Offending vehicles will be prohibited from proceeding on to our roads. To enforce existing road traffic laws in ports it is necessary to be sure that offending vehicles can legally be prohibited from proceeding and that the enforcement officers can legally exercise their enforcement powers in the port areas. The difficulty arises from the fact that ports do not have roads fully falling within the definition of "road" given in Clause 6(1) of the Bill. These Amendments seek to ensure that enforcement will be effective in the dock areas.

Amendment No. 3 merely brings sub-section (3)(b) of Clause 1 (powers of authorised persons in relation to the weighing of vehicles) into line with subsection (2)(b) (powers of examiners in relation to other potential contraventions of enactments). The phrase is necessary since no weight contravention has in fact occurred until a vehicle is actually used on a road. The legal requirements as to weights arc at present laid down in the Construction and Use Regulations 1969, made under Section 64 of the Road Traffic Act 1960. That section makes it an offence to use on a road a motor vehicle or trailer which does not comply with the regulations made under that section. However, as I mentioned, ports do not have roads in the full legal sense. This Amendment will enable an authorised person to prohibit the driving on a road of a vehicle which would commit a weight offence if it were to be driven on a road. The authorised person must have reason for thinking that the vehicle would be driven in an overweight condition on the road.

If I may now speak to Amendment No. 6, the need for this stems from our latest legal advice that the powers to require the weighing of vehicles contained in Section 224 of the Road Traffic Act 1960, which will become Section 160 of the Road Traffic Act 1971 when that is effective, could be held by the courts not to extend to areas such as ports, which do not all have roads within the definition in Clause 6 (1). There never has been a test case. Since the Government attach considerable importance to implementing the powers at the ports, there should be no doubt that vehicles can be required to be weighed when they are on harbour land. The opportunity has therefore been taken in this respect to clarify Section 224 of the Road Traffic Act 1960.

This new clause will therefore enable an authorised person to require a foreign goods vehicle, any trailer drawn by it and a foreign public service vehicle to proceed to a weighbridge and to be weighed when the vehicle is on "harbour land". "Authorised person" means one of the Department of the Environment's examiners, a certifying officer, an authorised police constable and a Weights and Measures inspector. "Harbour land" means for all practical purposes (a) land which is part of a harbour; and (b) land which is adjacent to a harbour and is occupied wholly or partly for the purposes of "harbour operations" defined in Section 57(1) of the Harbours Act 1964. "Harbour operations" includes inter alia(i) the warehousing, sorting, weighing or handling of goods on harbour land or at a wharf; and (ii) the movement of goods or passengers within the limits within which the person engaged in improving, maintaining or managing a harbour has jurisdiction or on harbour land. The Docks and Harbour Authorities Association have been consulted and are in agreement in principle with the Amendment. Naturally, permission will have to be granted by the individual port concerned before an authorised person conducts checks on their property.

This foreign vehicles Bill can only clarify the existing legislation in relation to foreign vehicles. To avoid any charge of discrimination it will be necessary to introduce a similar provision in relation to British vehicles. I want to take this opportunity to assure the Committee that legislation will be introduced at the earliest opportunity. I want to give that assurance not only to this Committee but to put it on record for the international haulage industry as a whole, so as to give an assurance that by taking measures in this Bill we do not intend to discriminate against foreign vehicles and to leave our own vehicles untouched by similar legislation. I hope that that explanation of this small point will satisfy the Committee. I beg to move.


I am sorry I cannot retort to the noble Lord that I fear this is not within the terms of the 1971 Bill. As a matter of fact it seems to me to be wholly so, if I have understood what the noble Lord has said. It is true that his speech was a little involved when he talked about roads, roads, roads and they seemed to come in such rapid succession that it was a job to tell which roads he was actually referring to. But I am bound to say that it seems to me sensible that these powers should be added, and from this side I would have no objection to that.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 1, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?


I will not detain the Committee long but I think that the point I wish to raise can be dealt with more quickly under the Question, Whether the Clause shall stand part than under the Schedule. It is this: In Clause 1(1) mention is made of Schedule 1. In Clause 1(2) reference is made to the second Schedule. I told your Lordships the story of the massive foreign vehicle which I saw on Thursday. My recollection is that it did not have the requisite notice "Long vehicle" on the back. It occurs to me that under Schedule 2 (page 9 line 26) the requirements of Section 91(1)(c) of the Transport Act do not go far enough in requiring the authorised person to see that the vehicle has such a notice as "Long vehicle" on it. The requirements refer solely to registration marks. I put this forward simply as a matter of interest and to ask the noble Lord if he would be good enough to look into that. I think it should be covered in this Bill because it is so clearly said in this Bill that we are referring to foreign vehicles. I would only like to say one other word. I am sorry that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester has gone, but the noble Lord, Lord Champion, referred to ring roads and nobody mentioned by-passes. I think it is very important, now that ring routes specify a route on existing roads, that we should try to keep the distinction in the description between ring routes and "bypasses".

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 2, 3 and 4 agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 6:

Amendment moved— After Clause 4. insert the following new clause—

Application of Road Traffic Act 1971, s. 160, to vehicles on harbour land

".—(l)The powers conferred by subsection (1) of section 160 of the Road Traffic Act 1971 (whereby an authorised person is empowered to require the person in charge of a motor vehicle to allow the vehicle or any trailer drawn thereby to be weighed, and the weight transmitted to the road by any parts of the vehicle or trailer in contact with the road to be tested, and for that purpose to proceed to a weighbridge or other machine for weighing vehicles) shall be exercisable in relation to the person in charge of a motor vehicle which is a foreign goods vehicle or a foreign public service vehicle and is for the time being on land to which this section applies, whether that land is or is not a road, and whether apart from this section those powers would be so exercisable or not; and any reference in that section to those powers or to such a requirement shall be construed accordingly.

(2) This section applies to any land which forms part of a harbour or which is adjacent to a harbour and is occupied wholly or partly tor the purposes of harbour operations.

(3) In this section "harbour" and "harbour operations" have the meanings assigned to them by section 57(1) of the Harbours Act 1964."—Lord Sandford.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 [Interpretation and transitional provisions]:

LORD SANDFORD moved Amendment No. 7: Page 8, line 18, at end insert— ("( )In relation to any time before the coming into operation of section 160 of the Road Traffic Act 1971 (in this subsection referred to as "section 160")—

  1. (a) in section (Application of Road Traffic Act 1971, s. 160, to vehicles on harbour land) of this Act the reference to subsection (1) of section 160 shall be construed as a reference to subsection (1) of section 224 of the Road Traffic Act 1960, and
  2. (b) in section 1 of this Act, and in subsection (1) of this section, any reference to section 160 shall be construed as a reference to section 224 of that Act read together with section (Application of Road Traffic Act 1971, s. 160, to vehicles on harbour land) of this Act and with the preceding paragraph;
and in relation to any time after the coming into operation of section 160 any reference in section 1 of this Act, or in subsection (1) of this section, to section 160 shall be construed as a reference to section 160 read together with section (Application of Road Traffic Act 1971, s. 160, to vehicles on harbour land) of this Act.")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment 7 and at the same time to speak to Amendment 8. We cannot know for certain at this precise moment whether this Bill will come into effect before or after the Road Traffic Act 1971. which is a consolidation Bill due to become effective on April 1, 1972. Subsection (7) of Clause 6 is required to cater for either contingency, and that subsection now needs further amendment to cater for Amendments Nos. 3 and 6, to which the Committee has just agreed. This further Amendment is provided for by Amendments 7 and 8. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 8:

Amendment moved: Page 8, line 26, leave out from ("Schedule") to end of line 29.—(Lord Sandford.)

Clause 6, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clause and Schedules agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with the Amendments.