I beg to move,
That the Motor Vehicles (Speed Limits on Motorways) (Amendment) Regulations 1974, a copy of which was laid before this House on 21st March, be approved.
The purpose of the regulations is simply to permit goods vehicles of over 3 tons unladen weight to travel at up to 60 mph on motorways, the position prevailing before the blanket 50 mph limit was brought in to save fuel last December. The House may be wondering why we should be debating speed limits for heavy lorries rather than the restoration of the general road speed limit of 70 mph on motorways, and how it is that limits which were introduced very simply require a long and complicated process to reverse them.
The regulations made last December introducing the general maximum speed of 50 mph on all roads not subject to lower limits were made without the need for specific parliamentary approval as a result of an Order in Council under the Fuel and Electricity Control Act 1973, which dispensed with the procedural requirements of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967. Such a procedure is not available for the restoration of pre-December limits, and that prescribed by the 1967 Act for quite different circumstances has to he followed.
As for motorways, for vehicles other than heavy goods vehicles we must proceed under Section 13 of the 1967 Act, and regulations have been made subject to the negative resolution procedure to restore the general 70 mph limit from tomorrow.
To restore the 60mph limit for heavy goods vehicles requires an affirmative resolution under Section 78 of the 1967 Act, and this is the resolution now before us. If the House approves it, as I hope it will, it will come into effect tomorrow, thus putting motorway speed limits back to where they were before the fuel crisis.
I regret that petrol supplies at present do not permit restoration of the 70 mph limit for all-purpose roads—that is roads other than motorways—and this limit must remain at 50 mph until the supply position improves. When the time comes to change it, it can be done under Section 77 of the 1967 Act, and no parliamentary procedure is involved.