Road Safety Bill [HL]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:30 pm on 22nd November 2005.

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Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham 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) 4:30 pm, 22nd November 2005

My Lords, I am glad that noble Lords expect me to be the harbinger of good news. I am always a harbinger of good news because I bring the Government's view on these complex issues. I begin by apologising for the absence of the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, who replied to this debate on the previous occasion. She is unfortunately ill with food poisoning, so noble Lords will have to put up with my answer today.

As we indicated then, this amendment is unnecessary because powers to regulate the use of the material in question already exist. The issue with which we are faced is that Europe is concerned to provide a whole series of regulations for all types of heavy goods vehicles. Compliance with these regulations will become mandatory in the UK through the forthcoming introduction of a European system of,

"whole vehicle type approval for new goods vehicles and their trailers".

This approval system, which will provide a regulatory framework against which vehicles can be assessed, is being developed by the European Commission and member states.

As I have indicated, UK regulations already permit the use of ECE 104 tape. If we began work now to change UK regulations to mandate the tape, there would be only a short period before the introduction of the amended regulations and that of the European approval system. We do not consider the cost and time that would be needed to make these changes separately to be justified, given the small benefit which would be achieved by a slightly earlier introduction. I am not underestimating the importance of the concept for road safety, but we are talking about a very limited period between our capacity to introduce the limited powers that we have and the whole vehicle position which the European Union is developing.

The introduction date for that has still to be agreed, but it will be mandatory for all new goods vehicles and their trailers. Therefore, the House will recognise that we do not see that we would derive benefit from acting on powers which already exist in legislation. But in any case the amendment is unnecessary, because we enjoy those powers at present. I hope that the noble Lord will recognise the strength of that argument.