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I believe that there is substantial room for improvement in the present system to provide a service better geared to operators' real needs. Under proper controls, testing can continue to be carried out to high standards outside the Civil Service. I hope to propose legislation to enable this to be done in the next Session of Parliament. In the meantime, I shall be continuing discussions with the industry on the details of the new arrangements.
Nevertheless, does my right hon. Friend agree with the representations that have been made by road hauliers and individual garages in my constituency that heavy goods vehicle testing is not an appropriate function for the competitive market? Does he accept that the stations must fulfil statutory functions objectively? Have they not been working well? For heaven's sake, let us leave well alone.
The straight answer is that I do not agree. I believe that the new system will provide a better service to the customer, which is what the policy is all about. I know that the industry has expressed concern. That is why we have discussions with representatives of it. I sincerely hope that over the coming months we can meet the fears and concern that they have expressed.
Are not the proposals another example of the Minister's silly dogma? Are they not a recipe for even more unsafe lorries and for bribery and backhanders from various operators in the road haulage business? Will the right hon. Gentleman, for once, listen to the wise words of his hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Sir D. Price), who summed up the position correctly?
I always listen to the wise words of my hon. Friend, but I do not happen to agree with them on this occasion. We have several months in which to look at the details. One of the things that we want to do is to improve the service to the road haulage industry—for example, by getting stations to open earlier and to open on Saturdays. That is what the policy is all about.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that road safety is particularly endangered at present by the failure adequately to grit roads in adverse weather conditions? Does he accept that it is his responsibility to put an end to this problem?