HL Deb 02 November 2000 vol 618 cc1188-9

(" In Part I of Schedule 6 to the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. in column 3(a) of the Table, for "70" and "60" there is substituted "62".").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, the effect of the amendment is to reduce the maximum legal speed limit for a bus or a coach to 62 miles per hour. The amendment concerns bus and coach speed limits and tyre technology. Buses used on urban work can use heavy duty tyres which are resistant to being damaged by kerbing and general wear and tear. More important, they have about a 20 per cent longer service life. Unfortunately, they cannot be used above about 60 miles per hour. There is a way of avoiding that restriction by registering the vehicles as local service buses but those buses are limited to 50 miles per hour and there are other restrictions on their use.

As a result of those restrictions, only about half of the buses which could use those longer life tyres do so. Although the maximum legal speed limit for buses or coaches is 70 miles per hour on a motorway, in fact they can only go at 100 kilometres or 62 miles per hour.

EU directives require the fitting of a speed limiter unless the maximum geared speed of the vehicle is less than 100 kilometres. There are some preserved buses and coaches which do not need to be so limited but it is questionable whether they should be going so fast.

If this amendment were agreed to, there would be no effect on bus or coach speeds because the vehicles cannot exceed 62 miles per hour in any event. But it would be legally possible to fit the more robust and economical tyres. The savings would be in the order of £2.5 million per annum to the bus industry. I shall not weary your Lordships with the calculations by the tyre industry but I have sent them to the Minister.

I do not believe that there is any difficulty with the drafting of my amendment but it requires primary legislation and it seems that this is a good opportunity for that. I shall understand if the Minister would like to consider the matter further before declaring his position on the amendment but I intend to bring it back at a later stage. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for explaining to me at some hour last night what this amendment was really about. Since the word "tyre" does not appear in the amendment up until that point it was totally obscure to me. But it does relate to the interaction between the speed limiter at European level of 100 kilometres per hour, which is 62 miles per hour.

Although the noble Earl suggested that only coaches are limited in that way, that is not the case, because a simple reduction in the speed limit, which the amendment proposes, would affect quite a significant number of coaches permitted to run faster than 60 per miles per hour at the lighter end of the coach market which are not subject to the controls of the speed limiter.

The requirements which specify the speed capacity of tyres are contained within secondary legislation, as I understand it. So it is not necessary to bring forward an amendment in primary legislation.

Nevertheless, I am intrigued by the noble Earl's suggestion and the possible savings to the coach industry to which it may lead. I shall need to consider further the statistic that he has sent to me, but I do not believe that the matter requires primary legislation. I shall look at the possibility of making changes in the appropriate secondary legislation. I thank the noble Earl.

Earl Attlee

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response to my amendment. I doubt we shall see it again. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 329D: After Clause 258, insert the following new clause—