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Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who contributed to the debate on my amendment. Perhaps I may, first, deal with what was said by my noble friend the Minister. He believes that the best way to resolve such issues is through internal procedures; indeed, procedures established for that purpose. That point was reiterated by my noble friend Lord Borrie. Of course I agree with that, but my noble friend Lord Borrie is quite right to say that one of my major concerns is the situation which arises where there is no union recognition. I wanted to be sure that a union member in such circumstances who sought to make a report to a union official about his worries would receive adequate protection.

The contribution of my noble friend Lord Borrie has, to some extent, set those fears at rest. I thank him for what he said. It would probably have been better if I had drafted the amendment to a different part of the

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Bill, as pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Newby. I am grateful to him for his support because he clearly understands the very genuine concerns that we have expressed on this side of the House.

I believe that I have taken the issue as far as I possibly can. Indeed, I have frequently said that I entirely support the Bill. I believe it to be a very good and progressive move and something which will be of great benefit to employees and employers. I have voiced some of the concerns that I and my noble friends have had about the role for trade unions. The debates that we have had on two occasions have, to some extent, dealt with those worries. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Northern Ireland (Sentences) Bill

Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and to be printed.

Road Traffic Reduction (National Targets) Bill

12.7 p.m.

Lord Elis-Thomas: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.--(Lord Elis-Thomas.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Lord Brougham and Vaux) in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Meaning of "road traffic"]:

[Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 not moved.]

Lord Brabazon of Tara moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 1, line 6, after ("excluding") insert ("vehicles used solely for the transport of freight and").

The noble Lord said: Before I begin, I should point out to the Committee that my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth, who is not able to be present today, has, I believe, one of the best excuses that I have heard in a very long time for not being here; namely, that he is getting married. I am sure that Members of the Committee will join me in congratulating him. However, he will be back on Wednesday for what I gather will be the Report stage of the Bill.

I am pleased that we are able to have a Committee stage for the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, will perhaps recall that the last road traffic reduction Bill, which went through this place during the final stages of the last Parliament, was so rushed that noble Lords were discouraged from even tabling amendments for this stage so that there would not have to be a Committee stage. Indeed, the Bill would otherwise have been lost. Therefore, I am very glad that we can have a Committee stage today to enable us to air some of the issues which were raised on Second Reading. I hope that

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the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, does not have a large "Resist" typed at the top of his notes for all the amendments but that he will be able to consider them most carefully. The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, said at Second Reading,

    "Therefore this Bill will encourage the use of forms of transport other than the private car".--[Official Report, 5/6/98; col. 596.]

Clause 1 therefore excludes,

    "vehicles constructed or adapted to carry more than eight passengers in addition to the driver".

I shall call those vehicles buses or minibuses for simplicity.

At Second Reading I mentioned freight. I believe that there is a good case for adding vehicles carrying freight to the exemption in the Bill. The freight industry has done much to improve efficiency over recent years. Indeed in the past 10 years the number of lorries on Britain's roads has fallen by 15 per cent. while the volume of freight carried has increased. The movement of freight by rail has increased dramatically since privatisation. The rail freight industry has set ambitious targets for further increases. However, this move to rail, while most welcome of course, must be achieved by the rail freight sector continuing to make progress in offering industry a competitive, reliable and efficient service attracting new business on merit and price. Legislation such as proposed in this Bill, which would potentially seek to force freight from road to rail or to other modes of transport by the imposition of arbitrary, legal targets in respect of road freight traffic growth, would be seriously damaging to the competitiveness of British industry.

As I said at Second Reading, freight is not carried around the country for fun. It is an essential part of a modern and prosperous economy. I therefore believe that there is just as good a case for excluding freight from these targets as there is for excluding buses. The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, said at Second Reading that he did not feel he could accept this amendment. I look forward to hearing his reasons, and those of the Minister, presumably, for that attitude. I shall, of course, listen carefully to his comments. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The impact of the Bill would be seriously weakened if this amendment were to be accepted. Goods vehicles not only represent a significant proportion of all road traffic but also have a larger impact on the environment than cars. If Amendment No. 3 was accepted, the Bill would relate only to passenger vehicles. We do not think that this is acceptable and therefore resist this amendment.

Lord Elis-Thomas: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, for moving his amendment. I am pleased that we have an opportunity in this Committee stage to air these issues. I hope I can reassure the Committee on this point. I certainly do not share the view of the noble Lord that the targets are arbitrary, legal targets. I think those were his words. The targets are very much related to the reports. This Bill seeks to ensure that there is a balanced appraisal of interests.

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If we are agreed that there is to be a reduction in road traffic for all the reasons that we set out at Second Reading, I feel that the inclusion of freight transport vehicles, as a form of transport for which reduction is sought, is an essential part of the Bill. That is why I indicated at Second Reading that I would find it difficult to accept this amendment. Since that stage I have considered the noble Lord's arguments. I believe what the noble Lord wishes to do--I support him in that--is to protect the interests of business, whether that is the road freight business or commercial businesses that opt to use road freight rather than other forms of transport.

I recognise the improvements that have been made by the freight industry. I am particularly excited--although I did not think I would be prior to the event--by the results of rail freight privatisation. EWS has expanded its freight business substantially. That has had beneficial effects for the economy of south Wales and other parts of the UK. We are moving in the right direction in terms of freight.

The intention of the Bill is to set targets and to produce reports which will encourage the public sector, the private sector, government and business to move towards those targets in a voluntary and progressive way. There is plenty of evidence on mainland Europe of road traffic reduction policies which benefit business. They reduce the running costs of companies and increase the amount of work that can be carried out by each vehicle and driver combination. A policy to reduce road freight can, in that sense, be beneficial to industry. For all those reasons I ask the noble Lord to reconsider his amendment.

12.15 p.m.

Earl Attlee: I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Brabazon for moving his amendment. I declare an interest as president of the Heavy Transport Association. How does the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, view the effect of the M.4 motorway in south Wales as regards generating business? One sees businesses and factories springing up all around the motorway. How does the noble Lord view the effect of the A.55 in north Wales? Does he accept that the construction of roads and the development of good communications generate industry?

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: I am not sure that I want to answer the question posed by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, but I wish to make a couple of comments on the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara. It is a mistake to think that the only way you can reduce transport--that includes freight transport--is by transferring it to some other mode. You can also reduce the need to move goods around. That is part of a long-term planning strategy. It is because we need to encourage these long-term strategies, either on the part of private business--as the noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, has said--or on the part of local authorities, that we need these long-term targets to encourage a gradual shift from a less desirable to a more desirable way of moving goods around.

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