§ 2.37 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in view of the statement by the Road Research. Board that over 90 per cent. of the drivers of heavy vehicles subject to the 20 m.p.h. limit disregard the law as it stands, the Government can indicate what steps are contemplated to regularise the position.]590
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE CO-ORDINATION OF TRANSPORT, FUEL AND POWER (LORD LEATHERS)
My Lords, the facts disclosed by the Road Research Board, to which I referred in the debate in your Lordships' House on January 28, are only one of the considerations bearing on the speed limit for heavy goods vehicles. I fully explained the Government's attitude in that debate, and I regret that I am not in a position to add to what I then said.
§ EARL HOWE
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he considers as entirely satisfactory the state of affairs disclosed in the Report of the Road Research Board: that there exists a law which is completely disregarded by over 90 per cent. of the drivers of these vehicles? Furthermore, when may we expect a decision upon this matter? Surely enough time has now elapsed and there have been enough negotiations behind the scenes to enable Her Majesty's Government to give us an idea of what is going to happen. It seems to me that this is not a situation which should be allowed to continue indefinitely. Cannot the noble Lord give us a little more information on that point?
§ LORD LEATHERS
My Lords, I made it quite clear in the debate in your Lordships' House that there was a great deal to be commended in this proposal, and I was most anxious that we should be able to proceed at the earliest moment. Negotiations have taken place with a variety of interests, and they are still going on. I ask your Lordships to take into account the fact that the Transport Act has recently been passed, and a great many matters require attention, such as negotiations with labour and other interests. I think it would be a pity unduly to rush this matter while all these other urgent matters require attention. I feel that I cannot say anything further at the moment.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
May I ask the noble Lord whether he does not agree that the initiative in this matter should come from Her Majesty's Government? To place the responsibility of enforcing the law upon consultations with various interests is not government—it is just hiding behind the skirts of other people through not wishing to take action which, as the noble Lord knows, is really long overdue.
§ LORD LEATHERS
My Lords, I think those are odd words, coming from the noble Lord opposite, because for years he was precisely in the same position. If I were guilty of a delay of anything like that length, I should be almost ashamed to rise and use those words. I want to emphasise that we are deeply seized of the need to bring this about at the earliest moment and, indeed, we shall pursue it to that end.