First Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.


Tuesday 7 November 1989



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The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: MR. DAVID Knox

Allen, Mr. Graham (Nottingham, North)

Atkins, Mr. Robert (Minister for Roads and Traffic) (South Ribble)

Atkinson, Mr. David (Bournemouth, East)

Bidwell, Mr. Sydney (Ealing, Southall)

Bowden, Mr. Gerald (Dulwich)

Callaghan, Mr. Jim (Heywood and Middleton)

Clark, Dr. Michael (Rochford)

Cohen, Mr. Harry (Leyton)

Devlin, Mr. Tim (Stockton, South)

Faye11, Mr. Tony (Stockport)

French, Mr. Douglas (Gloucester)

Greenway, Mr. Harry (Ealing, North)

Howarth, Mr. Gerald (Cannock and Burntwood)

Livsey, Mr. Richard (Brecon and Radnor)

Marshall, Mr. David (Glasgow, Shettleston)

Patnick, Mr. Irvine (Sheffield, Hallam)

Ruddock, Ms. Joan (Lewisham, Deptford)

Watts, Mr. John (Slough)

Mr. B. M. Hutton, Committee Clerk

3 First Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Tuesday 7 November 1989

[MR. DAVID KNOX in the Chair]


10.30 am

The Minister for Roads and Traffic (Mr. Robert Atkins): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the draft Passenger and Goods Vehicles (Recording Equipment) Regulations 1989. The purpose of the regulations is to provide for offences and penalties in connection with the new scheme to approve repairers of tachographs. The EC tachograph regulation requires tachographs to be installed or repaired only by fitters or workshops that have been approved by the relevant authorities of the member states. In this country the authority is my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. A national network of tachograph calibration centres is currently authorised to instal or repair tachographs. Most operate under the sponsorship of one of three major tachograph manufacturers. That has given those manufacturers a virtual monopoly of the tachograph repair market. We have therefore brought in a new scheme for approving repairers of tachographs. The scheme is designed to introduce greater competition in the market and should help to keep the cost of repairs down. An operator will now be able to specify that his tachograph be repaired by any authorised repairer: he has not been able to do that until now. That is because many tachograph centres have had an agreement with their sponsor to sell or install only their sponsor's products. The new scheme came into operation on 1 April following lengthy consultations and discussions with the interested parties. Repairers seeking approval now have to apply to the British Standards Institution to secure certification to a quality standard known as BS 5750. For the scheme to be effective, penalties will be needed for those who do not comply with it. The regulations make it an offence for a vehicle to be used if it is fitted with a tachograph that has been repaired by someone who has not been approved under the scheme. We have told the interested parties about our proposals to introduce those offences and no objections have been raised. It is intended that the regulations should come into force a week after they have been approved in both Houses. I commend the draft regulations to the Committee.

10.32 am

Ms. Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford): The Committee will be pleased to know that the Opposition are unlikely to detain hon. Members for long. We agree with the proposals laid down in the draft regulations. Although the debate surrounding the introduction of tachographs has been extremely 4 contentious and Government and Opposition Members have disagreed about the correct number of working hours for lorry and coach drivers, the proposal that the illegal repair of tachographs should be made an offence is warmly welcomed. However, our fears about current working practices have not been fully alleviated. Members of the Transport and General Workers Union still feel strongly that the current practice allows a driver to undertake a full day's work of packing and loading without having those hours included in, or monitored by, the tachograph. My hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. Stott) raised that matter during the original debate in 1986, when he called for a duty limitation not only on the time behind the wheel but on the overall work. The effects of that loophole can be detrimental to the health and safety of drivers. Although I appreciate that this morning we are concerned with the mechanical efficacy of tachographs, we are not satisfied that their use in practice always meets the aims of existing legislation. None the less, we generally accept that tachographs play an important role in monitoring and enforcing working hours for drivers. The introduction of a registration scheme for accredited repairers of tachographs will undoubtedly help to ensure that good practices are observed. Enforcement is essential, so we support regulation 3, which introduces a new section that creates an offence for the forgery of seals on the equipment. It is hoped that the creation of that offence will help to reduce the temptation for a person to tamper with his own, his colleagues', or his employees' tachographs for personal gain. I shall next raise a matter that was brought to my attention by a member of the United Road Transport Union, because consideration of the function of the tachograph will show that the point that he made is valid. As tachograph cards are not subject to any serialisation numbers, a driver may have as many of the cards as he sees fit. He need not account for any one card, nor for the cards' use in a particular order. Tachographs record the time spent driving, the speed and the mileage within a 24-hour period. Drivers know the penalties of being caught without a card, but I am told that there is nothing to prevent them destroying a card that has been used for several hours in a shift and then continuing the same shift with a fresh card. Although members of the United Road Transport Union assure me that that happens infrequently, and that most members use the cards honestly, the system appears to be open to abuse. One suggested remedy is to make drivers accountable for every card issued to them. If cards are serialised, and if drivers are compelled to return them all—the used, unused and damaged —the temptation to destroy evidence of malpractice would be removed. I hope that the Minister will examine that idea, as it seems an effective way of maintaining good working practices. I am pleased that special provision has been make for persons who are found guilty of using a vehicle that has not been repaired in accordance with Community regulations but who are genuinely unaware of that fact. It is very important to safeguard innocent employees from unscrupulous employers. The creation of a special defence for that category of offence is encouraging.


10.36 am

Mr. David Marshall (Glasgow, Shettleston): I shall be brief, but I hope that the Minister can clarify two matters. First, what checks will be made to ascertain violations of the regulations? Secondly, while it will be an offence to be in possession of a vehicle that has been repaired illegally, by an unauthorised mechanic, will the Minister make clear the position in respect of the owner of a second-hand vehicle who is not aware that unauthorised repairs were made by the vehicle's previous owner?

10.37 am

Mr. Atkins: I understand the point raised by the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) in connection with her hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. Stott). The regulations have existed for only three years and need to settle down a little longer before changes are made. However, the comments from the hon. Lady and her hon. Friends, as well as from members of the Industry, are appreciated. The idea of putting serial numbers on cards is a good one. I have not heard of it before and confess that I had assumed that such a practice was already automatic. My officials 6 advise me that we can consider the matter again, and we shall do so. I shall take a personal interest, because serialisation of the cards seems only logical. I suspect that the administration of such a scheme was originally thought to be a little cumbersome, but we shall look at the matter again. I can tell the hon. Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Mr. Marshall) that, as in the past, the regulations will be enforced by the traffic examiners. We shall publicise the matter as widely as possible in the trade press, so that the industry is aware that the regulations will be enforced in the same way as tachographs and the cards that they contain. I cannot give the hon. Gentleman a direct answer to his second question, but I shall examine the matter further and will spell out the technical response in writing at a later date.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Committee has considered the draft Passenger and Goods Vehicles (Recording Equipment) Regulations 1989.

Committee rose at twenty-one minutes to Eleven o'clock.


Knox, Mr. David (Chairman)

Atkins, Mr.

Bowden, Mr. Gerald

Callaghan, Mr.

Clark, Dr. Michael

Favell, Mr.

French, Mr.

Greenway, Mr. Harry

Howarth, Mr. Gerald

Marshall, Mr. David

Patnick, Mr.

Ruddock, Ms

Watts, Mr.