HL Deb 29 November 1990 vol 523 cc1068-70

3.40 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many foreign goods vehicles whose weight or dimensions exceeded those permitted by British law sought to enter the United Kingdom in the last 12 months; and how many of these were permitted to enter.

The Minister of State, Department of Transport (Lord Brabazon of Tara)

My Lords, approximately 390,000 foreign goods vehicles entered the country in 1989 and 15,124 foreign vehicles were weighed in 1988/89 by the department's traffic examiners. Of those, 9,565 were weighed in ports and 2,624 were prohibited from further movement until the excess load had been removed.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, can my noble friend stay whether it is intended to enforce British law in this respect? In view of the Answer to the first Question this afternoon, that might be an appropriate response.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, it is certainly intended to enforce British law in this respect. During my researches I noticed that my noble friend asked a similar Question almost two years ago. I then said that we had weighed 5,700 foreign registered vehicles in the previous year and that we proposed to weigh 8,800 during that year. I hope that the House will be pleased that we have reached the figure of 15,100 vehicles this year and are looking for a further increase next year.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, can the Minister say how many examiners there are at present and whether the Government plan to increase that number? I ask the question in view of the wide variety of obligations that examiners must fulfil not only in relation to the weights and dimensions of lorries but also in relation to condition and driving hours.

Lord Barbazon of Tara

My Lords, I do not have a figure for the present number of traffic examiners. I am well aware that they have duties other than the weighing of lorries which, as the noble Lord described, they must continue to carry out. However, we propose to increase the number of weighings next year.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, it is all very well to increase the number of weighings but what happens if they are found wanting?

Lord Barabazen of Tara

My Lords, one stops the lorries from proceeding and makes the drivers unload their excess load.

Lord Mowbray and Stourton

My Lords, how are we progressing with improvements to our bridges so that they can take the vehicles which may be allowed by our foreign friends in Europe?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, we have a derogation from the 40 tonne directive until 1st January, 1999. We are continuing to survey and strengthen our bridges where necessary.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, will my noble friend clarify his answer about action taken in cases where the load is excessive? He indicated that the driver would be made to unload but, if the vehicle is too large and its dimensions are excessive will it be denied entry?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, in such a case, yes. However, there are few cases of excess dimensions so that seldom happens. The common problem is overloading.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, is the Minister aware of the grave anxieties that have been expressed in the media by representative bodies engaged in the road haulage business to the effect that there are too many cowboys and that there is an insufficient number of testing examiners to carry out the increasing obligations that are being imposed?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, when I last answered the Question asked by my noble friend two years ago I said that 24 per cent. of lorries had been found to be overloaded. The survey now shows that only 17 per cent. are overloaded and therefore there has been an improvement during the past few years.