§ 13. Mr. Marten
asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement about drivers' hours and the European Economic Community regulations relating thereto.
§ Mr. William Rodgers
Regulation 543/69 has applied to international journeys by United Kingdom registered vehicles since April 1973, and is being applied, on a staged basis, to internal journeys over a three-year period ending on 31 December 1980.
§ Mr. Marten
Is the Minister aware that the latest estimate of the cost of introducing these hours and restrictions is £350 million, with a 15 per cent. loss in productivity? As both the increased cost and the loss of productivity are policies which this Government—or any Government—should not follow in this country, will he not allow these regulations and directives to operate here?
§ Mr. Rodgers
I was not aware of those estimates. They sound vaguely familiar to me. I did not know that they were recent estimates. As I said in reply to an earlier supplementary question, I believe that there was a good deal of exaggeration—I blame no one for that—at a time when we were negotiating the introduction of these regulations. It is possible to argue that we wish that they did not exist. In all the circumstances, I think that the staged introduction has been widely welcomed as the best outcome of a difficult problem.
§ Mr. Spearing
Can my right hon. Friend say to what extent the question of drivers' hours is related to weights of vehicles, particularly increased maximum weights? Will he confirm that the latest proposal of the EEC Commission is for universal licences for vehicles of 44 tons, which would be 12 tons more than is allowed in the United Kingdom?
§ Mr. Rodgers
The reply to the first part of my hon. Friend's question is that there is no connection between these two considerations. He is right in saying that there is pressure from the Community to move to larger and heavier lorry weights. I have made plain to the Council of Ministers, and in the House, that that is unacceptable to the Government. I repeated that to my colleagues in Brussels yesterday afternoon.