Argyll and Bute MP Alan Reid has warned that some Bute businesses are under threat from plans to scrap a deal which exempts island-based HGVs from the annual MOT test.
Mr Reid has asked the Westminster government to rethink its proposal to remove the exemption, currently the subject of a public consultation.
Speaking in the House of Commons this week, Mr Reid said: “The Department for Transport is consulting on removing the MOT exemption for HGVs based on Bute, Islay, Mull and Tiree, but the exemption is there for a very good reason: there are simply not enough HGVs on those islands to justify the cost of an authorised testing facility and the cost of taking an HGV to the mainland is very high. Will ministers please stop this burden on island businesses?”
In response, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport Claire Perry MP said: “The hon. Gentleman knows that the consultation is being looked at on a Great Britain-wide basis and specific exemptions are indeed made for local service and delivery issues. I encourage him to continue eloquently to make the case for the existing exemption in his neck of the woods.”
Mr Reid said afterwards: “Losing the exemption would be costly. Bute would be particularly badly affected because all HGVs based on the island would need an annual MOT even if they never left the island.
“Islands have so few HGVs that it would not be cost effective for any island garage to install the equipment necessary, or pay to train staff to carry out these heavy goods vehicle tests.
“The nearest authorised testing facility able to carry out MOTs on HGVs is in Greenock. The cost of getting to the mainland would be high: a return ferry ticket at the extortionate commercial rates, the driver’s time and losing work while the test is done. Many island businesses would be affected, including dairy farmers who are already under enough pressure with low milk prices.
“The Minster’s reply was encouraging and I will keep up the campaign to retain this valuable exemption for island businesses.”
After Mr Reid told us of his views, we contacted Bute’s largest HGV operator, John Mackirdy, who said that although the exemption does apply to his firm, each vehicle in his fleet is still put through an MOT every year during one of its visits to the mainland, except for a small coal lorry which never leaves Bute.
Mr Mackirdy, who said the proposed rule change would not significantly affect his business, said: “Safety has to be paramount. If you don’t have an MOT, are you doing everything you should be doing to make your vehicle safe?”
Click here to read the consultation documents in full.