Transport Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:45 pm on 9th November 2000.

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Photo of Lord McIntosh of Haringey Lord McIntosh of Haringey Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords) 7:45 pm, 9th November 2000

My Lords, I shall start by recognising that the scheme set out in this amendment is very different from that which we considered earlier. I am grateful for the consideration that has gone into its framing. It is much less all-embracing and, of course, it is permissive. I do not believe that it goes as far as the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, would wish us to believe. I do not think that it would be possible for the Secretary of State to make exceptions and say that one major facility should be covered by the scheme and that another should not. That would be going too far. Indeed, if that were to be done, it would almost certainly be challenged in the courts. Similarly, for reasons that are self-evident, it is not possible to have a scheme that covers only the ports, as recognised by my noble friend Lord Berkeley.

My noble friend has repeated the points that I made in response to the earlier amendment and I do not feel disposed to rehearse them again. However, I should emphasise that road safety is enormously important to this Government. We are proud that we have the best record on road safety, but we are not complacent about it. We are always looking for better ways of improving safety. When we are looking at ways to improve safety, it is important for us to consider the best use of resources. Clearly we are concerned with road safety, with issues of road damage and with issues of unfair competition--especially between good operators and less-good operators.

Perhaps I may summarise the fundamental trouble with this amendment without repeating what I said previously. The very locations that would be covered by the scheme are those where it is least likely that there will be overloading. The locations with over 25,000 movements a year are fundamentally those locations used by the larger operators. We said last time, and I think it was generally agreed, that the larger operators are much less likely to be guilty of overloading than the smaller and more dodgy operators, who will simply not appear on the weighbridges to be set up under this amendment.

My fundamental objection to this amendment is that it is an indiscriminate approach to weighing all lorries of a certain kind. Those lorries of a certain kind are the least likely to be guilty of overloading. In that case, targeted enforcement of the law is much more appropriate.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, asked a legitimate question: what would we do instead of the amendment? I think I said last time that we are working with the Road Haulage Forum and we are looking at the possibilities of mobile weighpads. We do not have a timetable on it yet but we hope to move quickly and we want to follow the excellent advice of the Commission for Integrated Transport and establish a modern, intelligence-based enforcement system, involving better targeting of inspections and additional tools. This makes efficient use of resources and will minimise disruption to responsible hauliers. The amendment would affect all lorries indiscriminately and particularly those of responsible hauliers, which would make things difficult.