HC Deb 21 June 1993 vol 227 cc59-60W
Mr. Harris

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what was the result of the Transport Council held in Luxembourg on 7 and 8 June 1993.

Mr. MacGregor

[pursuant to his reply, 11 June 1993, c. 383–84]: The Transport Council resumed on 19 June the meeting that it had held on 7 and 8 June. I represented the United Kingdom.

The Council resolved the long-standing issues of road freight vehicle taxation and charging of road freight cabotage. This agreement was fundamentally based, as the Danish presidency acknowledged, on work carried out by the United Kingdom presidency. I am delighted to say that this completes the single market in transport and that British interests were fully protected. This agreement will provide a significant opportunity for British hauliers in European markets.

The Council agreed that the definitive Community arrangements on road haulage cabotage—the right to carry loads within another country—will come into force on 1 July 1998. The present Community cabotage authorisation and quota system will continue until then, with the total quota for the Community for two month cabotage authorisations being increased on 1 January 1994 to 30,000, and annually from 1 January 1995 by 30 per cent.

The Council agreed on a broad framework to be applied by all countries in introducing permits, as indicated as one option in our Green Paper "Paying for Better Motorways". The details of this are entirely consistent with the options I set out in the Green Paper.

The Council agreed that the maximum annual user charge for road freight vehicles should be 1,250 ecu, to be reviewed every two years, with the first review by I January 1997. The definition of roads that may be covered is essentially motorways and similar roads, with a possible extension to other roads under a Community procedure.

The Belgian, Danish, German, Luxembourg and Netherlands delegations announced that they had reached an agreement on a common user charge system for their territories, under which one permit will cover the use of roads in all five countries. This will be better for British hauliers than individual charges in each of the member states. The agreement provides for charging to start from 1 January 1995, with reduced charges for the first three years for Greek transport operators and for the first two years for Irish and Portuguese.

The Council agreed on minimum rates of vehicle tax, and that until the end of 1997 five member states can apply rates up to 50 per cent. below the minimum rates.