Consequential and Other Amendments

Part of ROAD TRAFFIC (DRIVERS' AGES AND HOURS OF WORK) BILL [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th March 1976.

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Photo of Mr Iain Sproat Mr Iain Sproat , Aberdeen South 12:00 am, 8th March 1976

And the Liberal Bench. I hope that for once the Scottish Press will note who does the work in the House on behalf of Scotland.

The Minister said that he had taken on board the worries of the industry about the regulation, and no doubt he has, but it was noticeable that tonight he barely mentioned the pronouncement of the EEC Commission last week. In common with most other hon. Members and with almost everybody in the road transport industry, I regard Regulation 543/69 as being totally impracticable. I oppose a daily distance limitation on driving of 450 kilometres. Although all operators in the North and North-East of Scotland are concerned about the matter, I should like to mention a particular example which puts into perspective what we are fighting.

Every day the trunk fishing service runs from Aberdeen to Hull, carrying the highest quality fish. The run is not 281 miles but 363 miles. If it were stopped, there would be serious repercussions for the fishing trade. Although the Minister does not have responsibility for the fishing industry—and he may thank his lucky stars for that—I am sure that he is aware that the fishing industry is going through the worst crisis it has had probably this century. It would be an intolerable body blow if the fish service between Aberdeen and Hull were to be disrupted. The view of many of my constituents in the transport business is that if Regulation 543/69 came into force it would make their business totally uneconomic, thus adding to the problems of unemployment.

I am opposed to the proposed daily driving period of eight hours as against the present maximum of 10 hours under United Kingdom regulations. I am also opposed to the total lack of flexibility in the regulations. Different countries have different problems, and the EEC regulations must recognise this. It should be the right of national Governments to introduce exemptions from the EEC regulations after proper consultation with the industry and the unions, and they should then be able to inform the Commission of their intentions.

The Minister did not make much mention of the Commission's pronouncement last week. He owes it to the House to give a little more information on it. I do not say that in a partisan way: I really want information, and I know that the industry does. The reaction of people in the industry is extremely unfavourable. Basically they say "We might as, well have got nothing because the changes proposed by the EEC are useless". To change from eight hours a day to eight hours with an option of nine hours a day twice a week is ludicrous. What are we in Aberdeen to do with our fish on the other five days? Is it to rot on the quayside, or be less fresh when it reaches Hull? This proposal is totally unacceptable.

It is suggested that a driver may travel more than 281 miles in a day if he has a tachograph fitted to the lorry. I am sure that the Minister knows the drivers' objections to what they call "the spy in the cab". We should still be up against the hours' barrier anyway.

I understand that it is open to us to apply for exemptions provided that we do so by the end of 1977. Perhaps the Minister could confirm this and indicate for what exemptions the Government feel we ought to apply. Unless he can give us much fuller guarantees, particularly about the way this proposal will affect Scotland, I cannot guarantee that I shall not divide the House.