HOUSE OF COMMONS
Fourth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
DRAFT MOTOR VEHICLES (INTERNATIONAL CIRCULATION) (AMENDMENT) ORDER 1989
Wednesday 10 May 1989
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The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Chairman: Sir John Stradling Thomas
Bottomley, Mr. Peter (Minister for Roads and Traffic)
Bradley, Mr. Keith (Manchester, Withington)
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Crewe and Nantwich)
Gale, Mr. Roger (Thanet, North)
Goodlad, Mr. Alastair (Eddisbury)
Gow, Mr. Ian (Eastbourne)
Grant, Mr. Bernie (Tottenham)
Hargreaves, Mr. Andrew (Birmingham, Hall Green)
Hawkins, Mr. Christopher (High Peak)
Hayhoe, Sir Barney (Brentford and Isleworth)
Hughes, Mr. John (Coventry, North-East)
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine (Lancaster)
Livsey, Mr. Richard (Brecon and Radnor)
MacKay, Mr. Andrew (Berkshire, East)
Page, Mr. Richard (Hertfordshire, South-West)
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey (Coventry, North-West)
Ruddock, Ms Joan (Lewisham, Deptford)
Taylor, Mr. John M. (Solihull)
Mr. J. R. Rose, Committee Clerk2 3 Fourth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Wednesday 10 May 1989
[SIR JOHN STRADLING THOMAS in the Chair]
The Minister for Roads and Traffic (Mr. Peter Bottomley): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the draft Motor Vehicles (International Circulation) (Amendment) Order 1989.
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster): What is a convention driving permit?
Mr. Bottomley: It is a permit that shows that a person is qualified to drive and has a driving licence in his own country.
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman: Who issues them?
Mr. Bottomley: A number of people. The nearest place in London is the Automobile Association in Leicester square.
Mr. Gow: This sitting takes place following the epic events of the past two days at the headquarters of the Transport and General Workers Union. It is of great interest to you, Sir John, and to members of the Committee, to know whether those assembled at the headquarters of that mighty union had before them a copy of this statutory instrument. Many matters were considered in those two days and I wonder whether the reforming zeal of the comrades extended to statutory instruments. Whether my hon. Friend the Minister or another hon. Member should answer that question only the fluxion of time will show. I raise a matter that is close to my heart. To what extent, if at all, are the contents of this statutory instrument capable of being amended by, or subject to the approval of, the Minister's friends who are now assembled in Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg? We are constantly told that authority, power and decision-making have been transferred to Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg at the expense of this House. Yesterday, during the Committee stage of the Finance Bill, I asked a similar question of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Thames (Mr. Lamont). He said that clauses 51 to 54 of the Finance Bill had to be cleared with Brussels. It was prised out of him that we could not introduce a Finance Bill without the consent of our former right hon. and learned Friend Sir Leon Brittan. 4 What consultations has the Minister had with the folk in Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg? You are most diligent in the discharge of your duties, Sir John, and have probably committed the statutory instrument to memory. My hon. Friend who sits on the Treasury Bench and I want to know whether it had to have the consent of the Commissioners or the Council of Ministers of what I used to call and still call the European Assembly, although my hon. Friend the Minister calls it the Parliament, in Strasbourg. That is what we want to know. Those are fair and reasonable questions. If there is to be a further erosion of power from this House to my hon. Friend's colleagues, at whose shrine he worships, it is right that the Committee should be fully informed before we decide whether to agree to the motion which was spoken to so admirably by my hon. Friend in his masterly speech.
Mr. Bottomley: At least one member of the 1/128 branch of the Transport and General Workers Union at Transport House is aware of every detail. I am that member. I think that we can leave the others who gathered there, instead of gathering at Walworth road, to speak for themselves. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) asked whether there were consultations with the Europeans meeting in assembly, or as a Parliament, in Strasbourg. I think that the answer is no. Article 4 follows a case in Northern Ireland. The European Commission drew our attention to the fact that our restrictions, which mean that people can drive only temporarily vehicles that are imported temporarily into the United Kingdom or Great Britain, are not in line with the terms of the single market. That is why we are making it possible for them to drive vehicles that they have not imported temporarily with them. I hope that that clarifies the matter. I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne if what I said in my opening remarks did not make that plain.
Mr. Gow: I thank my hon. Friend for his characteristically excellent reply. I conclude my contribution to our Committee proceedings by noting, as the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms Ruddock) will have noted, that, characteristically, not one representative of the Liberal party has had the guts to turn up to this important meeting. When the future of the nation is under discussion, when the safety of mankind is under debate, the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Livsey), the representative of the Liberal party—the party which claims to be committed to safety and to be the friends of all men, and even all women—absents himself from this most important Committee. The significance of that will not have been lost on you, Sir John.
Ms Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford): I must defend the other, numerous members of the Transport and General Workers Union who have responsibility for this area of work and who, like the Minister, are aware of the contents of this document. 5 The national secretary for road transport has given it his considerable attention and is happy that I should be here—also as a member of the TGWU—and not oppose the instrument because, as the Minister said, Brussels has decided all in this respect and today we are here simply to do a tidying-up operation. I want to put on record the fact that the TGWU has been anxious about all proposals that lead to deregulation. It fears, as I do, that deregulation of the kind we have witnessed on our roads leads to lower standards and may increase the dangers on our roads. I do not suggest that foreign drivers in general are less able, but there is no doubt that some countries have lower standards. We fear that some people who come here to take work in public service or other commercial vehicles may not have reached the same standards as we have in Britain. Indeed, we are worried that some vehicles which are brought here may not meet our high standards. For all those reasons, anxieties have been expressed, but they are not matters for debate today.
Mr. Bottomley: As an appendix to the debate, perhaps I may remind the Committee that enforcement applies equally to foreign drivers and to United Kingdom-based drivers. I draw the attention 6 of drivers from foreign lands to the case reported in "Transport Week" of a French driver who exceeded his hours and was fined £2,000. In addition to this statutory instrument, it should be realised that the enforcement effort continues. I am delighted to work with the TGWU, with the decent employers and with the police services to ensure that people do not break the law, which can create a danger to other road users.
Ms Ruddock: The Minister should, of course, give us more enforcement officers. The case that he cited is an excellent example, but we all know that too few people are carrying out enforcement and that too few people are picked up. I travelled along the Old Kent road this morning, and I can tell the Minister that I encountered several vehicles that were not of the appropriate standard which should have been picked out and dealt with.
Question put and agreed to.
Resolved, That the Committee has considered the draft Motor Vehicles (International Circulation) (Amendment) Order 1989.
Committee rose at twenty minutes to Eleven o'clock.
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:
Stradling Thomas, Sir John (Chairman)
Bottomley, Mr. Peter
Hargreaves, Mr. Andrew
Hughes, Mr. John
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
MacKay, Mr. Andrew
Taylor, Mr. John M.