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Earl Attlee: I am extremely grateful to the Minister for that reply; indeed, I could expect no more. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 395 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

[Amendments Nos. 396 and 397 not moved.]

Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 398:


(" . After section 96 of the Transport Act 1968 (permitted driving time) there shall be inserted--
"Strategy for provision of service areas.
96A. The Secretary of State shall publish a strategy for the provision of service areas on special roads and the trunk road system so that commercial vehicle drivers can--
(a) conveniently comply with the provisions of section 96 of this Act, and
(b) have access to a comprehensive range of ablutions."").

The noble Earl said: This amendment concerns the provision of suitable rest facilities for drivers of commercial vehicles so that they can comply with the law and industry can attract and retain suitable drivers.

The road transport and the bus industries are currently experiencing a shortage of drivers. Part of the cause may be the poor image and working conditions of the industry. In the past there were many establishments, collectively known as transport cafes, distributed along the trunk road network. Nowadays few survive and most have been turned into Little Chefs or Happy Eaters. Unfortunately, heavy commercial vehicle drivers are not welcome because their vehicles are large and their spend is modest in comparison with that of most car drivers. However, that is progress and we do not oppose it.

The market for commercial vehicle drivers has developed a little. There are now a few locations, called "truck stops", distributed around the country. The BP company is in the lead in this field. However, there are severe problems. If a noble Lord were to visit Clacketts

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Lane or South Mimms services on the M25 at night with his 38-tonne articulated horse box, he would probably find nowhere to park, even though he must do so in order to comply with the drivers' hours rules. If, having managed to park, the noble Lord needed a shower after a hard day on the road, he might often find the washing facilities to be, frankly, disgusting.

Noble Lords may be surprised that I have tabled this amendment. However, the poor facilities available impinge upon the ability of the industry to recruit. Worse still, a driver who has spent all night in his cab, still sticky and sweaty from his or her (and why not?) previous day's work, will not be in the right frame of mind to undertake his responsible duties. Thus there are also important safety implications here.

It is not the duty of the Minister directly to provide improved service facilities; that is a matter for the industry. However, the industry is not well structured to deal with it. There is also the problem to which I alluded where it is understandably more profitable to look after car drivers than commercial vehicle drivers. The Highways Agency, which answers to the Minister, has a role to play in selecting sites for motorway service areas, but no doubt it has severe problems with the NIMBY syndrome.

The Minister's department is also responsible for planning. Can the Minister make any changes to planning guidance in this regard? What is the Minister doing about the problem of service areas for commercial vehicle drivers generally? I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: As the noble Earl said, the provision of services on motorways and other roads is a matter for private developers. However, the policy gives guidance to intending developers. It makes clear, for example, that drivers should not have to travel on the motorway system for more than half-an-hour before coming to a motorway service area and having the chance to stop and rest. That objective has been largely met on the motorway system and in most cases there is provision for lorry parks as well as car parks. However, I understand the noble Earl's concern that on non-motorway roads the provision is more patchy. We undertook in the transport White Paper to issue further advice on the provision of services, particularly for lorry drivers. We expect that to be published later this year.

Existing policy is therefore well known and generally effective. Customers have concerns about the quality of services at motorway service areas. That is a matter which the guidance should address both as regards car and lorry drivers. However, little would be gained by requiring the Secretary of State to publish a more detailed strategy. As I have said, the provision on the motorway network largely meets the criteria we have set. The drivers' hours rules already provide flexibility to enable drivers to find a suitable stopping place where they can take their required break or rest period.

So far as concerns planning, we have looked at the planning guidance in this area. The new draft planning

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procedures encourage greater development of motorway service areas which fit in with the general distance criteria and, in certain locations, the development of park-and-ride facilities attached to motorway service areas.

In general we have the network covered--it is covered for lorry drivers as well as for car drivers--and a formal strategy of the kind requested by the noble Earl does not seem to be the best way of addressing the problems he identifies, which are essentially an important element of customer provision for private sector companies.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: Before the noble Earl decides what to do with his amendment, perhaps I may ask the Minister a question. I recognise the problem that the noble Earl seeks to address with his amendment. I also recognise the difficulties that local authorities have in fulfilling the guidance I thought to be in existence--I seem to remember it from my time on highways committees--and in achieving its aims. People do not want service stations near where they live.

Can the Minister tell the Committee how successful the guidance has been in creating sufficient rest places on the remainder of the priority network--that is, on the non-motorway priority network--on which large volumes of traffic, including HGVs, currently run on any one day?

Lord Whitty: I said that the situation on the non-motorway network was rather more patchy. We have almost entirely met the criteria we have set ourselves on the motorway network and on the main trunk roads, but there are parts of the trunk road system where facilities do not exist at sufficient intervals. In some cases there are planning permission issues but, more often, it is a straightforward commercial issue as to whether the volume of trade would be sufficient for a developer to provide such facilities.

Earl Attlee: Before acceding to the Minister's attractive invitation to withdraw my amendment, does he think that it is a reasonable aspiration for a commercial vehicle driver to have a shower at the end of his day's work?

Lord Whitty: I think a shower at the end of a day's work is one thing; every thirty miles is an entirely different matter.

Earl Attlee: I thank the Minister for his excellent reply. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 399 not moved.]

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Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 400:

    After Clause 256, insert the following new clause--


(" . In the Road Traffic Act 1988, after subsection (6) of section 41, there shall be inserted--
"(6A) The Secretary of State shall publish the regulations made under this section in a fully updated form on at least an annual basis.
(6B) The Secretary of State shall produce and release electronically all the extant regulations made under this section."").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, this amendment is simple: it seeks to provide that the construction and use regulations are published once a year, fully updated. In addition, the regulations would be available electronically on the net. Quite understandably, there are frequent amendments to these regulations but it is very difficult to access the extant regulations. I am fully confident that the Minister will have no difficulty with the amendment. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, deals with a different matter and I suspect that I shall not be able to support him. I beg to move.

Lord Berkeley: I am grateful for the noble Earl's friendly introduction to my amendment. I do not have a view on Amendment No. 400, but I should like to speak to Amendment No. 402, which stands in my name.

As the Committee will be aware, the Government have announced that they intend to introduce 44 tonne lorries generally in this country, probably at the end of the year. Can my noble friend tell the Committee the means by which they intend to change the legislation; in what kind of order and how will it be done?

The Government have made it quite clear that the lorries permitted to operate at 44 tonnes will have to have six axles and so on; they will also have to have Euro II exhausts. Back in 1994 the Government allowed 44-tonne lorries to operate under certain circumstances to combined transport terminals. There are not an enormous number operating-- probably not more than 100 in the country--but they do provide a very useful and important commercial service as part of generally inter-modal operations. Freightliner, which is probably the biggest inter-modal operator in this country, has 90 of these vehicles, and just under 10 per cent of its loads, it believes, need this 44-tonne derogation.

Without getting into the debate of whether 44-tonne lorries generally are a good or bad thing--we have been through that--Freightliner, quite rightly, is rather concerned that having bought these lorries and operated them quite happily for six years, it may well not be allowed to operate them next year, even though other 44-tonne lorries will be operating. These lorries were not built with the Euro II exhaust because that design was not around earlier.

So my amendment seeks to suggest that the original road vehicle construction and use regulations which permitted this should not be changed for 10 years after this Act commences. I am sure that the wording is not

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right but I also hope that my noble friend will see the point of the argument and may be able to come up with an alternative solution.

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