Examination of Witness (Questions 100-119)|
WEDNESDAY 23 JANUARY 2002
100. Frankly, I think this is very important,
because, of course, you would undermine the existing membership
of the Member States, would you not?
(Mr Rees) I think we reinforce it, madam Chairman,
because if the Community can act as one voice, surely then we
101. No, with respect, Mr Rees, you are actually
emphasising exactly the point. Individual countries are in both
these organisations, and certainly the United Kingdom is way ahead
of a lot of these countries that are involved in both these international
organisations in implementing safety standards. Now you are saying,
and you continue to say, that the 15 will speak with one voice.
With respect, if the 15 spoke with one voice nowfrom choice,
not from duresswe would not be in the situation that we
are in in relation to safety, would we?
(Mr Rees) Madam Chairman, there is one point that
I did not make, and I apologise to you for that, that of course
when I was saying about acting with one voice, that is only for
those areas where there is one Community policy.
102. With respect, unlike some European languages,
this has an enormous number of conditional tenses which are very
general in their application and yet would give permission to
the Commission to intervene in many, many aspects of transport
(Mr Rees) The Commission can only, as you say, intervene
through making proposals which the Member States at the Council
of Ministers and the European Parliament have to approve. The
Commission's powers to intervene directly are limited.
103. So why would it be an improvement to have
you sitting in international organisations, instead of the member
(Mr Rees) We already sit as observers.
104. There is rather a difference.
(Mr Rees) There is a difference, in that we are talking
here about where there is a Community law in force, and all Community
Members are required to follow this law. Once you are required
to follow the law, the logic is that the Community speaks as a
bloc. On areas where there is not a Community competence, then
the Member States obviously express their own views.
105. There is a danger that you would become
the lowest common denominator rather than the highest on that
principle, would you not?
(Mr Rees) That is a danger. Let us try to get the
highest common denominator.
106. Now seatbelts. You have negotiations with
the manufacturers as far as fuel consumption, end-use Directive,
all of those things, are concerned. Would it not be simpler just
to require manufacturers not to allow the car to start unless
the seatbelt was engaged?
(Mr Rees) It might. I do not know whether it would
be technically feasible, but I can ask my colleagues.
Chairman: It is done all over the United States.
107. In the document you talk about a second
package of measures. Is the Directive that you were talking about
today what is referred to on pages 27 to 30?
(Mr Rees) Sorry, a second package of railway measures?
(Mr Rees) Yes, those are the measures that the Commission
has approved today.
109. On congestion charging or road pricing,
who is going to break the ice in Europe and get it under way?
(Mr Rees) The German authorities have already decided
to bring in a kilometre-based pricing system for heavy goods vehicles
from 2003. There is a legal problem now, but anyway it will probably
be later than 2003. That is nothing to do with the principle,
but simply a legal problem in terms of procurement. So the Germans
start. The Dutch have a policy also to apply it to heavy goods
vehicles and to private cars. Austria is also thinking of doing
the same thing. In London, as you know better than I do, there
is also a proposal by the Mayor of London for central London congestion
110. Now I want to ask you about milestones,
but kilometre-stones for this document. Are we going to have some
way in which the general public can measure how far this document
is succeeding in years two, three and four, or are we just going
to wait till the end and see whether it is totally forgotten?
(Mr Rees) It is a very good point. One issue that
I have not stressed to you is the need to bring the general public
along with us, because it is not only going to be difficult for
politicians to make these decisions, it is going to be impossible
if the general public does not understand why it cannot see the
111. Even worse if they do not agree.
(Mr Rees) Well ..... We have built in milestones.
The first one is at 2005. We cannot having anything before. What
we are proposing to do in 2005 is to issue a report on progress.
One of the things obviously that we can look at is safety and
whether the voluntary efforts in relation to safety are working.
We can report on this and see what the reaction is. So we have
to do this. We realise that we have not done it as well as we
should done in the past, and we want to do it better in the future.
The first one is from 2005 and then 2008.
112. Are there not too many goods being moved
around in Europe? Would it not be far better if we reduced the
amount being moved around in Europe?
(Mr Rees) As you know, in the Gothenburg Summit last
year it was decided to decoupleas the jargon word isto
try to dissociate economic growth from transport growth. It is
very difficult. Clearly, one has to address this question in the
light of charging the users of the transport system for the full
cost, both direct and indirect. If they paid the full cost, both
direct and indirect, and still want to use transport services,
I think that in a Community which is based on freedom we would
find it very difficult to say no.
113. So is this document really emphasising
that it wants to make it easier for goods and people to move around
in Europe, or is it wanting to try to encourage more sensible
use of resources?
(Mr Rees) The easy answerand it is an easy
answer, I am afraidis both. What we want to do is to create
a sustainable transport system where transport users pay their
real costs. Let me cite an example for you. Diesel is the same
as light-oil use for household heating. Even better, let me cite
the case of Belgium. The taxation rate in Belgium for diesel used
in transport and light-oil used for house heating is 500 per cent
different; it still emits the same amount of carbon. We have to
try to achieve a balance in the European economy when we are looking
at sustainability, and we do not want to demonise certain sectors
like transport and say, "Transporttoo much of it,
don't want any more." We want to achieve a balance between
all the activities that lead to the creation of greenhouse gases,
emissions, environmental nuisances, and try to have a balanced
approach which tackles the worst problems first. Transport has
bad problems, but there are other sectors of the European economy
with problems too.
114. Let me take one example, beer, 20 years
ago in my constituency most of the beer that was drunk was brewed
within about 20 miles of the area. Ought the government in the
United Kingdom to be encouraging local consumption of beer. I
understand that in the Chancellor's proposals for the budget there
are to be excise concessions for small local breweries. Would
that not be a good idea to reduce the number of lorries that are
shuttling beer and lager and other things round Europe?
(Mr Rees) This is a question of consumer choice.
115. No, it is not.
(Mr Rees) The interesting thing is if you look at
the way in which freight transport has developedfreight
transport has developed in general faster than the rate of economic
growthwe are not moving many more tons round but the ton
is moving longer. Instead of moving a hog's head of beer 20 miles
30 years ago we now get kegs coming 200 miles. The local pub then
has a selection of different beers.
116. Mr Rees, you are losing your public here.
I just want to ask you one thing, you have been very tolerant
and you have been very interesting, how many people do you have
in your section?
(Mr Rees) In the Transport Directorate as a whole,
I am the head of unit and my section only has 15 people.
117. Do they deal with aviation?
(Mr Rees) They deal with aviation economics. In the
Aviation Directorate there are round 70 people.
118. Are those 70 people capable of carrying
out all of the negotiations for all of the European airlines in
relation to foreign countries, instead of bilateral organisations
between the countries concerned?
(Mr Rees) We would not intend to do that, it would
be the Member States carrying on negotiations on a common footing
119. What is the difference between a common
footing and an agreed negotiation by the European Commission?
(Mr Rees) The common footing stops us being picked
up one by one by large countries.