HL Deb 06 July 1994 vol 556 cc1279-90

3.10 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Strathclyde)

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

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

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

My Lords, perhaps I may draw attention to the Marshalled List on the Bill. On Monday, the fourth Marshalled List ran to 24 pages. Your Lordships sat until after midnight on that day and disposed of seven-and-a-half pages of the Marshalled List. Today's Marshalled List, however, is only two pages less than Monday's; in other words, five-and-a-half pages of amendments have been added in the past 48 hours. We all admire the assiduity of those who have been scrutinising the Bill, but if we go on adding amendments as we go on through the Bill, we shall be sitting on it throughout August.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I of course have the responsibility for answering many of the amendments that are put down, and, like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, I admire the assiduity with which Members of the Opposition, and, indeed, some of my noble friends, have put down amendments. I am very much in the hands of those who wish to discuss the Bill, but I join with the noble and learned Lord in hoping that our deliberations will not go on for too long. We have some important matters to discuss, but I hope that we can deal with them speedily.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 30 [The 1968 Act]:

On Question, Whether Clause 30 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Clinton-Davis

The purpose of debating the clause is to enable the Committee to consider the relationship of the Bill to the Transport Act 1968. It is perhaps only in relation to this matter that we can debate the issue. I do not propose to divide the Committee on it, but I want to compare not just the approaches but some of the details of the two provisions that we are considering today compared with those enacted in 1968.

I concede that the Bill contains some improvements. Indeed, as we have stated from the very first, we are against maintaining on the statute book useless bureaucratic rules which do nothing for anyone, but I submit that in relation to the Bill as a whole, in particular since we are now considering Chapter III, the public is likely to be caused serious prejudice, and there will be a considerable clash with a great deal of the spirit and philosophy underlying the 1968 Act.

Essential safeguards for the general public in relation to safety and the environment, particularly so far as concerns local interests, are being substantially discarded. Those are issues of safety which have their root in the 1968 Act. We shall debate later, for example, Clause 33, which will remove the right of local residents to object for environmental reasons to licences being granted—something we regard as unacceptable. I mention that now merely as illustrative of the point that I am currently making. Safety provisions affecting heavy goods vehicles and public service vehicles, which were controlled strictly by the 1968 Act, will be impaired seriously, if not abandoned altogether. It is illustrative to contrast the approach of those who have framed the Bill and those who framed the 1968 legislation.

The 1968 Act provided for strict controls on heavy goods vehicles, including 16-axle, 38-tonne lorries. They were required to be licensed every five years. The provisions of the Bill that we shall be considering shortly substantially impair that approach. Why was the original provision made? Why the change? I believe that the original provision was introduced to ensure that road hauliers, who do not have a uniformly good record —they did not then and do not today; and I am in no way indicting the substantial body of road hauliers who do conduct their business in the best possible way—had their vehicles investigated properly at specific intervals to ensure that they were maintained properly. That was at least to mitigate—because one cannot wholly avoid them—risks of serious accidents, which of course involve not just the drivers of those vehicles but pedestrians and other third parties. That was the prime reason for the control.

What evidence is there of its substantial failure? Surely it is for the Government to demonstrate that that is the case; that there has been a substantial failure of the rules with which they are now seeking to interfere. It is not enough, surely, that it should merely constitute a burden upon some road hauliers. In my submission, there is no evidence of that kind. This is a system which has worked fairly and well. It has provided a benefit for the public outside the industry and indeed also, I should think, to the larger, reputable road hauliers against the activities of less scrupulous operators, and there are, as I say, still too many of them. Why, then, scrap the regular checks? Why damage the requirements which have been imposed to ensure higher driving standards? Why substitute irregular checks, if indeed there are to be any at all?

All those advantages, I repeat, were conferred by the 1968 Act. So why have the Government embarked upon those changes? Has there been some huge public demand? Did the public give any indication to the department that it wanted the safety and environmental aspects of the legislation to be diminished? Or rather was it because there has been, for some considerable period of time now, intensive lobbying and campaigning by certain elements of the road haulage industry?

That industry, on at least large components of it, has always opposed legislation which has limited its ability to function, despite certain safety and environmental precautions which were plainly needed. Its philosophy was, "Leave it to the market. We will sort it all out. We can deal with malpractices ourselves", even if there was no evidence to support that proposition, as is clearly the case.

The overwhelming evidence is that the industry—the public service vehicle industry—has been resistant to change on too many occasions. That has included also, I have to say, the car industry. I witnessed that when I was dealing with transport and environmental issues as a member of the European Commission. The car industries of Britain, France, Spain and Italy were against the anti-pollution controls that the Commission wished to introduce back in 1985 and 1986. The road haulage industry was against the proposition that the Commission advanced—I know, because I did it—in respect of reasonable driving hours and rest periods. Indeed, it used its best endeavours to persuade the Government, and other governments too, to ensure that there was in reality little possibility of proper investigation of breaches of the rules that had obtained until 1985, and to ensure too that the rules that were to be enacted later would have very little value. That of course is why the European Commission is reconsidering rest periods and drivers' hours—a high priority, I should have thought, against the backcloth of serious accidents that prevails in Europe, including this country. Perhaps I may add in parenthesis that 12 member states decided to avoid supporting the Commission's proposal, which would have applied much stricter requirements, and instead went for a more permissive set of regulations. Those regulations have not worked and have not been capable of proper enforcement.

Sadly, I believe that essentially the Government's proposals are an industry-led concession. Public safety and the protection of the environment are sacrificed for some cost savings to the industry, which are marginal in any event. According to the briefing document that was prepared by the House of Commons Library, transport managers "dread" the five-yearly renewal of operator licences. They represent an undue burden—I quote the Minister who the other day adopted that phrase—on industry.

What a contrast in approach between the 1968 Act and these highly partial provisions. It is truly an example of the allegations which we have made of an unprecedented, heavily biased task force representing only one interest and setting the agenda for the Government to make up their mind on these proposals. That is all that the Government have listened to. As we have said, it has never been denied that the industry has subscribed heavily to the Tory Party's funds, and it is now getting its reward.

Lord Harlech

I thank the noble Lord for giving way. It is of interest that over the past 25 years, under the different genders of political administration, road haulage has increased and now accounts for 84 per cent. of our transport—the freight that is delivered to our shops, factories and therefore industries. It is not appropriate for the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, to believe that road transport should be discriminated against increasingly by statute, because it is carrying 84 per cent. of our freight to every outlet that the public requires, whether factory or shop.

Lord Clinton-Davis

I listened with interest to the noble Lord, Lord Harlech. The logic of his intervention was to suggest not only that road haulage should not be discriminated against, although I am not sure what he means by that—

Lord Harlech

With respect, we have GVQs and roadside checks. A policeman and two officials from the traffic commission can stop any vehicle at any time. That is a regular occurrence in road transport operations. One is eligible to be stopped and checked at any time, whether for emissions or whatever else.

The business of emissions was somewhat unclear. When we are checked—

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

Perhaps I may—

Lord Clinton-Davis

I have not finished yet.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

We are getting a little out of our procedural way—

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

Will my noble friend Lord Harlech accept that we should all like to hear what he has to say? Perhaps he would like to make a speech when the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, has finished his. I believe that the Committee will agree that his was not an intervention but perhaps the beginning of a somewhat lengthy speech. May we hear what the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, has to say? If we do not agree with him —and I shall not—we shall have an opportunity later to debate with him.

Lord Clinton-Davis

I am grateful for the characteristically helpful attitude displayed by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. For some time he and I have been involved in the small transport consortium in this place —and when he was a Minister and I was a Commissioner—and I always welcome help from that quarter.

I may forget later, so it is as well to respond now to what the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, said. He appeared to be suggesting that we should sweep away all the terrible infringements on the freedom of road hauliers. I do not understand that the Government's intentions are to achieve that, so his quarrel must be with the Minister—

Lord Harlech

If the noble Lord—

Lord Clinton-Davis

No, I shall not give way again because I should get into trouble with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, if I were even to think of it.

The Government assert that they are merely seeking to streamline the system of management. I do not believe that to be true. I believe that it will be infinitely more difficult to procure evidence for prosecutions, because regular licensing represents a key safeguard in the system of enforcement. That is our submission and we shall deal with it in detail later.

What has been the reaction of the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Police Federation? The Government say that they are under no obligation to consult the Police Federation. I wonder whether that is always the case and that they never consult the federation. I do not believe that to be the case. I understand that, while supporting some of the Government's contentions, the Association of Chief Police Officers is most anxious about this element. Perhaps the Minister can shed some light on that.

The trouble is that there is a growing problem with falling standards in the road haulage sector. Let us take, for example, the annual report of the licensing authority which was issued recently. It depicted that the number of cases considered by the licensing review boards, which monitor the performances of operators who fail to reach the required standards, increased by a massive 56 per cent. compared with the previous year. The number of refusals of operator licence renewals showed a 50 per cent. increase on the previous year. Therefore, there is a great deal of evidence that, as a result of the current economic climate, road haulage operators have been under considerable pressure to cut their costs. Many have done so by reducing their maintenance costs and taking a chance on running unsafe vehicles, which represents a clear threat to public safety.

The industry—and almost without question the Government accept what the industry says—asserts that there would be cost savings of £2.6 million. But what is the cost which is not contained in balance sheets? What is the cost to the public in terms of any impairment of safety and of the environment? A few moments ago we heard a little about damage to the environment by vehicular traffic. What will be the costs of the enforcement that is to be undertaken by local authorities, the police, the vehicles' inspectorate and the licensing review boards? Will they outweigh the savings to operators? Will the costs of enforcement simply be transferred from the operator to those bodies?

Anxiety has also been expressed by the European Commission in its White Paper on a common transport policy. It stated: The road haulage industry is characterised by barriers to entry leading to a relatively large number of small operators trading alongside a smaller number of large ones". The White Paper states as one of its priorities for action that the conditions for access to the profession should be re-examined, as well as the regimes for compliance with licensing conditions and for road worthiness testing of vehicles. That priority should be supported in this country and not negated, and I believe that that will be achieved at least in part by this Bill.

Unduly low costs for transporting goods, occasioned by cutting corners and avoiding certain essential costs, are designed to promote road transport to the disadvantage of more environmentally friendly modes of transport. That, in part, is the answer to the noble Lord, Lord Harlech.

I believe that the approach that has been adopted by the Government in that chapter of the Bill is not conducive to the public interest. It should never have appeared before us in the first place. Therefore, we oppose that approach.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Harlech

Before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may ask him a question. I understand that the road haulage industry is highly regulated. Perhaps he will tell me what his government did in the 17 years in which they were in power to substantiate the railway industry in order to take freight off the roads and not encourage the road transport industry.

Lord Clinton-Davis

We did very much more than the present Government. But I should get into desperate trouble with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, if I were to embark upon a debate about the railway industry.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

The noble Lord is right. We are in danger of having a general debate on the road haulage industry, and I do not believe that this chapter of the Bill is quite the right vehicle for that.

I take a somewhat different view from that taken by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. I am going to use this opportunity of a round-robin debate on the present clause so that I do not have to bob up and down as we go through the multitude of amendments to be discussed later this afternoon. I believe that I can say all that I want to say in one go. But it is necessary to challenge one or two remarks made by the noble Lord opposite.

I was rather surprised by the condemnatory tone which he took in relation to the haulage industry which, by and large, has served the nation fairly well. He asked the Government to explain to him where is the substantial failure of the rules contained in the 1968 Act which occasioned this change of heart and deregulation of the regime. It is not for the Government to demonstrate any failure of the rules at all. This Bill is not about the failure of rules. It is about deregulation and removing unnecessary burdens from industry.

Lord Clinton-Davis

The Minister referred to undue burdens, but that phrase is not contained in the Bill. I hope that he will accept the incorporation into the Bill of the word "undue" or "unreasonable", but at the moment we are merely considering burdens.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I slipped into a trap and I beg the Committee's pardon for so doing. I should have referred to the removal of burdens. That is what this legislation is about.

The noble Lord is wrong to suggest that the provisions will eliminate regular inspections. They do nothing of the sort. The O-level licence holder is still subject to regular and random inspections so that there is no diminution of the safety element which is part of the inspection scheme.

The road haulage industry is not resistant to change; and it never has been. In its own view, it is certainly paying its own track costs. It is meeting pollution damages through the taxation system. This chapter of the Bill essentially removes the necessity to reapply for a licence at every fifth year. It does not mean in any way that the traffic commissioners cannot make changes to existing licences in terms of revocation and other conditions, which was an element of the 1968 Act. Those provisions will remain when this Bill passes into an Act.

Therefore, I do not understand what the noble Lord is grumbling about. There is no evidence that safety is threatened by the provisions of the Bill. Precisely the same enforcement levels can be maintained by police, trading standards officers and the commissioners. Indeed, the computerised system now employed means that traffic commissioners have almost instantaneous information of every transgression, whether in relation to the vehicle or the licence, wherever it may take place in the United Kingdom.

I cannot see what lies behind the series of amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. It seems to me that they are an undisguised attack on the road haulage industry. They seek to impose even further controls which will achieve very little, whereas the Bill seeks to remove unnecessary burdens on—in this case—the road haulage industry.

Lord Skelmersdale

I should like to look at the problem from a slightly different angle. As I said on Second Reading, I have the honour to sit on the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. Every year the Department of Transport produces an instrument to increase the costs of operators' licences. Recently, various members of the committee had occasion to query that and I am glad to say that those queries were answered satisfactorily by the Department of Transport.

I understand that in recent years the licences have changed from three-year to five-year licences. They cost several thousands of pounds. Although the Joint Committee is prevented by its standing orders from considering policy, individual members of the committee are bound to ask themselves from time to time what is the need for that licensing requirement.

When listening to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, on the one hand and my noble friend Lord Lucas on the other, it seems to me that the best way to attack the offending vehicle and licence holder for transgressing any pollution, road safety or other regulation which inevitably is attached to road transport of whatever size is through the vehicle itself.

Of course we all recognise the continuing need for licensing authorities to be able to check on operators and their activities at any time. But I have gone through the Bill fairly carefully, as other Members of the Committee must have done, and I can find nothing in it which prevents that continuing to happen.

Furthermore, Clause 34 adds specifically to the 1968 Act conditions for securing road safety. We should consider that and involve ourselves in that rather more. We should not concern ourselves with the five-yearly operator's licence. I still accept that there must be an operator's licence and that, as my noble friend Lord Lucas said, operators must be checked on from time to time. But I do not see why that has to take place at quite such regular intervals. Perhaps we can be told.

Lord Monkswell

In rising to support my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis, I should like to put forward a slightly different view on the matter. However, it is also different from that expressed by other speakers. I should like to concentrate on the historical and technological context of the legislation and the proposals now before the Committee. We have only to think back to the 1960s to realise that there was a burgeoning increase in the use of road haulage for freight because of technological changes and the cheapness of oil vis-à-vis the railways and the development of different industrial, commercial and residential styles of living and working.

I believe that we should talk about two industries; namely, the road haulage industry and the manufacturing industry which supplies the vehicles. Both industries were fragmented, if I may put it that way, in that there was a large number of road haulage operators in effectively rather small units. That situation also characterised the manufacture of road haulage vehicles. If that situation, whereby the industry began to develop and expand rapidly because of the changes in technology and in the price of oil and so on, had been allowed to continue unregulated, grave problems would have arisen.

Perhaps I may give Members of the Committee one example of what I mean. I worked in the road haulage industry in the 1960s. I can remember being told by one of the drivers that it was a regular occurrence for the big ends of his engine to fail while he was driving along the road. He would then have to park, dismantle the engine sump and replace the big end shells, scraping them in and fitting the engine back together again. Such a job took several hours to complete. Then he would get back in the cab and continue his journey. If we can imagine such a situation multiplied a thousandfold occurring on our motorway system, not only would there be a problem for the road haulage industry but, if lorries were continually breaking down on the side of the motorway, there would also be a problem for the whole of society. We would, indeed, have a real problem.

I am not saying that the 1968 Act effectively prevented such things happening. However, it was part of the process of regulating the industry to ensure that modem technology was implemented and that both the manufacturing industry and the road haulage industry invested in modern equipment. But what has changed between the 1960s and the 1990s? As has already been said, we now have a situation where a very high proportion of freight in this country is carried by road. We have a vastly extended motorway system compared with that which we had 30 years ago.

There have been changes; but probably the most significant change has been in terms of the manufacturing scene. I believe we all recognise the fact that there are far fewer manufacturers of road haulage vehicles these days than there were 30 years ago. By and large, that has been beneficial in the sense that there has been the ability to invest in economies of scale which have reduced the price of vehicles comparatively and enabled the introduction of new technology.

There is one further interesting question. What is likely to happen as a result of deregulation? We can look at another area of deregulation; namely, the buses. That deregulation had, by and large, one or two positive aspects; but it also had some quite horrendous negative aspects. One of the things that happened as a result of that deregulation was the introduction and the use of smaller buses. I have in mind the smaller buses that run around our suburbs picking up people and taking them to their destinations. That was a positive result of deregulation in that it created the conditions to enable the industry to invest in what was effectively an aspect of new technology—a new type of bus.

I believe we all recognise that horrendous problems also arose because of that deregulation, one of which was the use by operators of old and, indeed, quite decrepit buses in the hope, effectively, of making a fast buck. Some operators undercut their competitors by not investing in modern machinery, effective maintenance regimes, and so on. That created problems for the industry and introduced unfair competition as regards the better operators. It also created problems for the travelling public in the sense that people have had to put up with some fairly arduous riding conditions, if I may put it that way. Moreover, environmental pollution has been aggravated.

One of the side effects of bus deregulation is that drivers now park their buses in the centre of Manchester at the bus station without switching off their engines. That is because they have such a struggle in starting them up. Therefore, we have many buses parked in the centre of Manchester during their turn-around time with their engines running. That has introduced a pollution problem not just for passengers but also for people living in the centre of Manchester.

What is likely to be the result of the deregulation proposed by the Government? If it will produce just a marginal saving of cost to the operators, then we need to ask the further question: what will be the downside? If the Government can point to the possibility of new technology, new methods of working and the introduction of new investment into the industry as a result of changing the regulatory regime, that might be a positive reason for going for it. But if we look at the vehicle haulage industry, it can be seen that, basically, the only major significant change on the books at present is the increase in the vehicle weight regulation. There are other reasons in this country why the latter is not a feasible proposition. Indeed, we only need to think of the standard of bridges, and so on, that would have to be upgraded to allow for such an increase in the weight restriction. I am not aware of any significant changes in that respect. I see that a noble Lord wishes to intervene. I give way.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Harlech

I am much obliged. I wish to intervene for just a moment. It is evident to me that we are discussing in great detail an historical issue. As I have already stated, 84 per cent. of our freight is now carried by road. That is due to the non-investment in rail freight over many years through different genders of government. Indeed, we now have to control lorries. As regards operators, we now have annual testing and also random testing in lay-bys which can take place at any time during a 24-hour period. The rest of it is up to the Government. The fact that we continue to discuss such a matter is a reality of kinetic energy that we have given business, and therefore our distribution of that technology to road freight. We have done it both Europewide and nationwide.

Lord Monkswell

I understand what the noble Lord is saying; but the implication of his remarks is that the road haulage industry is discriminated against in terms of the regulatory regime. I suggest that that is not really the case because if one looks at other mechanisms of transporting goods, one can see that the railways, for example, are heavily regulated and circumscribed with rules and regulations. The fact that it tends to be all within the one industry does not do away with the fact that there are people checking the tracks and the trains to ensure that safety and environmental regimes are met. The air transport industry is also heavily regulated to ensure that safety, anti-pollution and other requirements are met. Therefore it is not right to say that the road haulage industry is particularly penalised in terms of the regulatory regime. In concluding my remarks at this point, I must say that I support my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis. I would ask the Government what benefits society will achieve by changing the regulatory regime as they are proposing at the moment.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

I believe there has been a certain amount of ingenuity shown in having a debate on a single line clause with regard to the 1968 Act. I shall resist the temptation to follow the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, down memory lane. I am sure many Members of the Committee remember motoring in the old days. My recollection is that every spring and autumn one had to flush out the car radiator to remove or to put in anti-freeze. However, I shall not comment on that any further.

I turn to the question that I was originally asked by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, as regards the 1968 Act, to which of course this clause refers. That Act provided in Part V a licensing system for the operators of goods vehicles used for the carriage of goods for hire or reward, or in the course of a trade or business. The purposes of the system are to help to ensure road and vehicle safety, to provide level terms of competition between operators, and to control the use of operating centres. The changes proposed in Chapter III of Part I of this Bill, to which this clause is the introduction, are concerned mainly with the procedures which have to be followed by operators who wish to remain in the industry. They also simplify and clarify, partly by minor consolidation, some of the provisions so that licence-holders can be more certain what their licences do and do not authorise them to do.

The main deregulation provided by Chapter III is to move from the present system of licences granted for a maximum of five years to a system of continuous licensing. We believe that the current system is unnecessary and a costly administrative burden on operators. They have to apply for fresh licences whether or not they are making material changes in their operation.

I shall give the Committee some idea of the unnecessary burden this represents. I can tell the Committee that in 1992–93, out of 14,500 applications for replacement licences, all but 250 resulted in fresh licences being granted in the terms which had been applied for. Out of that 250, 90 were refused outright and the remainder were granted on reduced terms. None of the 90 refusals and only a handful of the licences granted on reduced terms were for reasons associated with the suitability of operating centres.

The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, in supporting the five year provision, pointed to the research document in the House of Commons Library which he said stated that transport managers dread the licensing system. In fact, the document states that transport managers dread the bureaucratic burden of the licensing system. It is that bureaucracy that we are tackling but we are leaving the system substantially in place. The cost to the operator every five years is considerable. For example, it costs over £100 for each of the advertisements the operator must place in the press when he applies to renew his licence. From the consultations we undertook on our proposals for the deregulation of operator licensing, we know that the provisions of this part of the Bill will be welcome to the industry. We have also recognised the fears that some other interested parties have for the environment, safety and the control of operators and their operating centres, and we have provided appropriate safeguards.

We recognise the continuing need for licensing authorities to be able to check on operators and their activities at any time notwithstanding the change to continuous licensing. There is nothing in the Bill which would undermine the licensing authorities' powers in this regard. Applications for licences by new operators and for major variations to existing licences would still be subject to full scrutiny, with an opportunity for objections and representations to be made by interested parties following the publication and advertisement, as appropriate, of the details of the application. There would be an opportunity for the licensing authority to review operating centres at five-yearly intervals to ensure their continued suitability and to attach or vary conditions or, in certain cases, remove an operating centre altogether.

My noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth quite rightly pointed out that there would be no change in the licensing authorities' ability at any time to investigate any operator causing concern, to check on required standards and to take disciplinary action.

My noble friend Lord Skelmersdale pointed out there would be no change to the role of the vehicle inspectorate in technical checking at operating centres and at the roadside on vehicle standards, tachographs, overloading, and so on. Other provisions of this chapter are aimed at making more detailed and some minor changes to the provisions of the 1968 Act to make the current system work better overall. We have also taken the opportunity to consolidate some of the provisions.

I sum up and, I hope, allay some of the fears of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. We believe that Chapter III should make the system of goods vehicle operator licensing less burdensome on operators without in any way reducing safety controls or environmental standards. As my noble friend Lord Harlech rightly pointed out, this is an important industry as regards the whole basis of our economy and I think it is only right that we try to get the balance of these things correct and do not allow the balance to tilt one way or the other.

Lord Clinton-Davis

I thank the Minister for that intervention. He is always sweetly reasonable. However, at the end of the day one has to uncover the tinsel a little. I simply do not accept—he would not expect me to do so—the caveat which he just entered about the qualifications and the safeguards that are still being maintained and all the rest of it. I, too, agree this is a question of balance. I do not underestimate the value of this industry. It is an important industry which should be encouraged. However, at the same time I do not believe that the balance should be tilted in the way the Government are tilting it. It is not only I who take this view. There is a well-known journal entitled Motor Transport which states: In the UK just about anybody is welcome"— as regards entry to the industry. The article continues: The UK's licensing authorities seem reluctant to revoke licences and effective disciplinary action is far too rare". —that is even under the existing system— And, faced with these relaxed attitudes, what does the Government do? It sets out hellbent to get rid of every device designed to keep up standards of safety and operation". I do not quite go so far as that; but that is what Motor Transport had to say about that particular matter. In another editorial on 27th January Motor Transport stated, the Department of Transport is showing signs that it has not quite thought through this deregulation drive. Some impending regulations have already been exposed as farcical"— Those are the Government's regulations. Take the plans for vehicle height restrictions, for example. Firms operating vehicles over 4.88m will have to give local authorities two days' notice before every truck movement. Transport companies have condemned this; trade associations have warned firms will be forced out of the business; and local authorities are unsure if they will have the manpower even to check proposed routes. Yet these rules are due to come into force at any time". I am not sure whether they have come into force by now. The article continues: What is the point of killing tiresome rules and replacing them with equally irksome regulations"? The article states: the Government must encourage the growth of professional firms that work legally and discourage cowboys. Remember, moves to cut red tape will make life easier for professionals. But they will also make it easier for the cowboys". That is the anxiety expressed by Motor Transport, which is a respected journal. That is the difference between the two approaches: that of the Government and that of this side of the House.

This has been a useful debate. I thank those Members of the Committee who participated. However, as I indicated, I do not intend to press the matter to a Division.

Clause 30 agreed to.

Viscount Goschen

This may be a convenient moment to take the Statement. I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

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