Chris Grayling contributions to the Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Act 2018

Mon 14th May 2018 Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Bill [Lords] (Commons Chamber)
2nd reading: House of Commons
Money resolution: House of Commons
Programme motion: House of Commons
27 interactions (2,934 words)

Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Bill [Lords]

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
(Money resolution: House of Commons)
(Programme motion: House of Commons)
Chris Grayling Excerpts
Monday 14th May 2018

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Transport

Second Reading

Chris Grayling Portrait The Secretary of State for Transport (Chris Grayling) - Hansard
14 May 2018, 5:11 p.m.

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The United Kingdom’s road haulage sector plays a major role in keeping our economy on the move. Each year, UK-registered heavy goods vehicles carry around £30 billion in goods between the UK and the EU, and around 300,000 people are directly employed within the industry. I saw a snapshot of the UK logistics sector’s importance this morning when I visited and opened the new United Parcel Service sorting and delivery centre at the DP World London Gateway logistics site. It is a strong and positive new investment in the sector that is helping British businesses to become more efficient and is, crucially, a vote of confidence in our future as a trading nation. The Bill is important because it is about our future as a trading nation.

The Bill provides a framework that should reassure hauliers that the final Brexit deal agreed with the European Union will be able to be implemented smoothly and will support the continued movement of goods by truck between the UK and Europe. We are committed to maintaining the existing liberalised access for commercial haulage. It is in everyone’s interest that there should be a mutually beneficial road freight agreement with the EU that secures our objective of frictionless trade and is in the interest of both parties.

The Government are moving ahead with the negotiations with the EU, and I expect us to move towards a proper agreement later this year—I am very confident about that. However, it would be irresponsible of this Government not to plan for all eventualities. I stress again that it is in everyone’s interest to secure liberalised access, which is by far the most probable result of the negotiations, but this Bill is prudent planning for the future. It forms part of the Government’s broader EU exit legislation programme and, as set out in the other place, the haulage permits aspect of the Bill provides a framework for the UK to manage permits in all eventualities, including if they are needed as part of our agreement with the EU.

Mr Chris Leslie (Nottingham East) (Lab/Co-op) Hansard
14 May 2018, 5:12 p.m.

The Secretary of State might be putting a gloss on what is potentially a catastrophic situation. I give him the opportunity, from the Dispatch Box, to give a categorical guarantee that, after exit day, the licences of 318,000 HGV drivers will still be valid to deliver goods across the European Union. Is that right?

Chris Grayling Portrait Chris Grayling - Hansard
14 May 2018, 5:12 p.m.

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman final details of the negotiations at this stage, but let me tell him some straightforward facts: 80% of the trucks that come through the channel ports and the channel tunnel are carrying EU exports to the United Kingdom, so it is pretty evident that it is in everyone’s interest that we reach a sensible agreement for the future. This Bill ensures that we have the legal mechanisms in place to deliver the registration framework that is needed for all eventualities, which is prudent and sensible.

The hon. Gentleman asked me a straightforward question, and I say to him straightforwardly that 80% of those trucks are EU hauliers bringing goods to the UK. I struggle to imagine other EU countries not wanting that to continue.

Mr Leslie Hansard
14 May 2018, 5:13 p.m.

I am sorry to interrupt the Secretary of State, but this is quite important. He acknowledges that I asked a straight question about the guarantee. Is it not the case that, even in that worst-case situation, some sort of bilateral agreement with other EU countries would be required and there is no guarantee that such an agreement will come forward? Is that not the truth?

Chris Grayling Portrait Chris Grayling - Hansard
14 May 2018, 5:13 p.m.

I cannot guarantee that EU countries and their businesses will want to continue selling goods to UK consumers, but my best guess is that French farmers will still want to sell their produce through our supermarkets and that German car makers will still want to sell their cars in our car showrooms. No, I cannot guarantee that it will rain or be sunny tomorrow, nor can I guarantee that EU countries will want to continue selling their products to us, but do you know what, I think they probably will.

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con) - Hansard
14 May 2018, 5:14 p.m.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on introducing a timely and good Bill to deal with all eventualities, and on so politely answering idiotic interventions that are trying to create fear where there is no need for it because, of course, goods will move smoothly with or without a deal.

Chris Grayling Portrait Chris Grayling - Hansard
14 May 2018, 5:19 p.m.

My right hon. Friend is right. The fact that this morning, just to the east of London, I visited a £120 million investment in the future of the United Kingdom as a trading nation by a major United States-based company says that I am not alone in believing that trade will continue and flourish in the future, because it will.

There are two parts to the Bill, the first of which is all about the permits. It enables us to introduce a scheme that simply allows trucks to cross borders in a variety of scenarios—this is, basically, like a truck having its own international driving licence. In many circumstances, through a variety of international agreements, that is a necessity in order to carry goods from one nation to another. We are simply making sure that we put in place the legal framework for the Government to establish a system for issuing permits if, after we have concluded the negotiations, it proves necessary to do so. We have designed the legislation to be flexible in response to different circumstances. We do not want to place any undue regulatory or financial requirements on the industry.

Permits are a feature of almost all international road freight agreements outside free-trade areas. The UK already has several permit-based agreements with non-EU countries, including Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Russia, Tunisia and Ukraine. The UK also has liberal, non-permit agreements with Albania and Turkey. The Bill will also cover non-EU agreements relating to permits, which means that there will be one simple, straightforward administration system that is designed to be as easy as possible for haulage firms to use.

Sammy Wilson Portrait Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP) - Hansard
14 May 2018, 5:15 p.m.

I, too, welcome the Bill. The Government are right to make it clear that in the event of no deal we will still have made preparations. The Bill makes a distinction between international permits with other EU countries, and permits and agreements with the Irish Republic. Why is such a distinction made?

Chris Grayling Portrait Chris Grayling - Hansard
14 May 2018, 5:16 p.m.

We worked on this carefully. The important thing to say is that this is not in any way related to broader discussions about border matters. We are aware that some hauliers travel from Belfast to Dublin to Holyhead to deliver their goods within the UK—we are talking about a UK business delivering its produce within the UK—so this provision is simply designed to ensure that that will not be impeded in any way by the regulatory system. I will say a bit more about that later in my remarks, but we want to ensure that nothing can undermine the integrity of the UK and people who travel from point A to point B within it. That is very important to me.

The final details of the scheme will, of course, depend on the agreements that we reach, and the Bill allows for that. It creates flexibility and allows us to make regulations on the allocation of permits to best meet the needs of the economy. Guidance on the allocation process will be issued to hauliers.

This aspect of the Bill also allows the Government to charge fees in relation to applications for permits and the grant of permits. I stress that our aim is purely to set those fees on a cost-recovery basis so that we minimise the impact on hauliers; this is not designed to be a revenue-raising mechanism. The system is simply designed to cover its own costs, and the amounts involved will be relatively small for anyone seeking a permit. The fees will recover only the day-to-day cost of administering the scheme. The set-up costs of the scheme are being funded as part of a £75.8 million grant from the Treasury to the Department for Transport as part of our preparations for all the different Brexit scenarios.

The Bill provides for the first set of regulations made under clauses 1 and 2 to be subject to the affirmative procedure, which means that the House will be able to scrutinise the new permitting system fully and properly. The first regulations will set out the overarching framework that will be used for the provision of permits under any future agreements. As I have outlined, we are confident that we can maintain our existing liberalised access with the EU, but the Bill will help to cater for any possible future permit arrangement with the EU.

On timing, we plan to have the system for a permit scheme ready by the end of the year. It is important that we make sure that we are prepared for all eventualities. Any applications for permits after the relevant regulations are in force will be dealt with under this system. The first regulations made under clauses 1 and 2 will cover the permits required under existing international agreements, including provisions relating to Armenia and Ukraine. If we then agree a permit-based arrangement with the EU, we will make further changes to the regulations to cover the agreement reached. In the unlikely scenario that we end up with a restricted number of permits to the EU as part of a future relationship, we have committed to providing a report to Parliament. That report must assess the effects of such restrictions on the UK haulage industry during that year. That assessment is, of course, vital, but I reiterate that this is about a flow that is more inward than outward, both in goods terms and in haulage terms, so I remain confident that we will reach a sensible agreement for the future. The permit scheme is necessary to make sure that trucks have their equivalent of the international driving licence to cross borders. I will not allow us to get into a position in which the industry does not have the administrative basis to take its business forward in all eventualities.

Before I move on to part 2 of the Bill, let me touch briefly on the 1968 Vienna convention on road traffic, which the UK signed 50 years ago and which the Government have recently ratified. The convention will come into force here before 29 March 2019. It was introduced by the United Nations to enable international road travel and to increase safety by establishing common rules for roads around the world. It builds on the earlier 1949 Geneva convention on road traffic and, indeed, the 1926 Paris convention, which was the first in this policy area and which the UK has already ratified. Why does it matter? Because we need to make sure not only that trucks can come across borders, but that we are able to line up with the rules in other countries, such as Germany, on trailer registration.

The second part of the Bill gives the Government powers to establish a trailer registration scheme to meet the standards in the 1968 Vienna convention. Many EU countries have similar schemes. It will mean that UK operators will be able to register trailers before entering countries that require trailer registration for travel on their roads. By trailers, I mean not the trailer on the back of a car that carries a tent, but full HGV trailers that cross borders to carry goods from point A to point B. The Bill will allow us to set the scope of such a scheme’s coverage.

The detail will be set out in regulations, but our intention is to require only users travelling abroad to register their trailers. It is not UK-only, but purely about those travelling internationally. Only commercial trailers weighing more than 750 kg and all trailers weighing more than 3.5 tonnes will need to be registered. As was clearly set out in the other House, the duty to register will apply almost exclusively to international hauliers. Virtually all private-use trailers, such as caravans and horse trailers, will not fall within the scope of mandatory registration, because it is rare that trailers of that kind weigh more than 3.5 tonnes.

We will consult on the scope of the trailer registration scheme over the next few months, and we will try to make sure that we are in good shape later this year to put in place the right scheme, depending on the nature of our agreements and what is required to ensure the smooth flow of trade across borders. We plan to recover the costs of running the scheme by charging fees, which we expect to be lower than those currently set out for the registration of motor vehicles. It is of course important that the new arrangements are complied with; if they are not, we will apply existing penalties to those who transgress.

Mr Robert Goodwill Portrait Mr Robert Goodwill (Scarborough and Whitby) (Con) - Hansard
14 May 2018, 5:22 p.m.

Many hauliers hire trailers for specific uses. If trailers are used predominantly in the UK, they obviously will not be registered. What sort of timescale does the Secretary of State think would be reasonable for registering a trailer before it embarks on an international journey?

Chris Grayling Portrait Chris Grayling - Hansard
14 May 2018, 4:12 p.m.

In all this, we will want the process to be as rapid as possible. There will inevitably be a surge at the start when hauliers look to register trailers that will be used internationally, but my hope is that once that initial surge is over, it will be possible to carry out the registration very quickly when there is a change of circumstance. We do not expect to have a system that is so expensive that it deters somebody who wants to register a trailer in case it is used internationally. We want to ensure that there is only a small cost to businesses. Many people will want to register their trailers in case what my right hon. Friend highlights happens.

We listened carefully to the debate in the other place and we are working on a report on trailer safety, which is a policy area in which proper analysis will be beneficial and will help safety on our roads. Off the back of the report, we will be able to offer a clear and comprehensive analysis of the complex issue of trailer safety and towing-related accidents. That was a constructive element that came out of the debate in the other place, and we will certainly engage with it.

On the question of the island of Ireland, the Bill covers the whole United Kingdom, other than two provisions that amend legislation in Great Britain and Northern Ireland respectively. Road haulage policy and trailer registration are devolved in Northern Ireland, but not in Scotland and Wales. We have been working with all the devolved Administrations as the Bill has developed. With regard to the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, the Bill supports the commitments made in the December 2017 joint report to avoid a hard land border. This is an enabling Bill, and the Government will preserve the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom.

The Government are committed to ensuring that trade and everyday movements over the land border continue as they do now. The Bill does not create a permit regime in relation to the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, nor does it create a hard border between them. It means that trailers travelling only between the UK and Ireland will not need to be registered. It also avoids the situation that I described earlier in which someone who chooses to go via Dublin to come over to the UK finds themselves needing a permit even if they are moving purely within the United Kingdom. I can confirm that the Bill will not impact on border arrangements and that there will not be, as a result, any new transport-related checks at our borders.

Sammy Wilson Portrait Sammy Wilson - Hansard

Will the Secretary of State clarify whether there will have to be a separate agreement between the UK Government and the Irish Government covering people who are taking lorries across the border, whether through Ireland to the rest of GB, or simply carrying loads from Northern Ireland into the Irish Republic?

Chris Grayling Portrait Chris Grayling - Hansard
14 May 2018, 5:25 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman will understand that I cannot speak for the Irish Government. We are putting in place a mechanism that ensures that there is no issue on our part. The Irish Government, like any other Government, are of course perfectly able to put barriers in the way of trade, but we will not do that. We will not create a regime that affects those travelling into the Republic of Ireland or those travelling through the Republic of Ireland into the United Kingdom. I cannot give guarantees on behalf of the Republic of Ireland, but I cannot for a moment believe that people there will want to put in place administrative systems that we do not put in place.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP) - Hansard
14 May 2018, 5:26 p.m.

I understand that the Secretary of State cannot speak for the Irish Government, but can he tell us what discussions he has had with the Irish Government about this, and therefore give us an indication of what the position might be?

Chris Grayling Portrait Chris Grayling - Hansard
14 May 2018, 5:26 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman will know that the Irish Government are part of the European Union negotiations. We continue to discuss this and other transport issues as part of those negotiations, and I am entirely confident that we will reach a sensible place at their conclusion.

Let me sum up. As I have outlined, we are committed to ensuring that the road haulage industry can continue to prosper as we leave the European Union. As part of our programme of EU exit legislation, this Bill prepares us for a range of scenarios. It will ensure that the UK can fulfil its international obligations and will be ready when we leave the EU.

The Government have been supported by the industry in bringing forward these sensible measures, and we have talked extensively with it over the past few months. I believe that this represents prudent planning for different eventualities. I personally want to lead a Department that is prepared for all those eventualities and that can deal with whatever circumstance lies ahead, notwithstanding my view that we will reach a sensible partnership agreement for the future this autumn that will enable us to remain good friends and neighbours of the European Union, and that will allow the trade between us to carry on flowing as it does today. I commend the Bill to the House.

Andy McDonald Portrait Andy McDonald (Middlesbrough) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard
14 May 2018, 5:28 p.m.

The Bill presents a long overdue opportunity to consider the importance of the transport and logistics industries to the United Kingdom and the commercial road haulage sector in particular. The industry employs more than 2.5 million people and is the fifth biggest sector of the economy contributing £124 billion.

One of the privileges of my job is to meet people from across the transport, freight and logistics sectors. In the course of those discussions around transitional and post-Brexit arrangements, I hear an increasing frustration and anger at the cavalier “it will be all right on the night” approach from this Government, and rightly so, because there is no evidence that economic self-interest will prevail.

As we debate the prospect of a permit system for the haulage industry in the event of a no-deal Brexit, it should be recalled that the UK has 600,000 goods vehicle driving licence holders. There are nearly half a million commercial vehicles over 3.5 tonnes registered in the UK, which are responsible for moving 98% of goods. This is a serious and vital industry and we meddle with it at our peril.

Break in Debate

Andy McDonald Portrait Andy McDonald - Hansard
14 May 2018, 5:35 p.m.

My hon. Friend makes a good point. One does wonder why no such contingency has been put in the Bill, and we will have to address that in Committee.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders tells me that, on average, 1,100 trucks from the EU deliver components worth £35 million to UK car and engine plants every single day. The UK automotive industry relies on just six major ports for the export of 95% of completed vehicles. The SMMT says that some manufacturers face costs of up to £1 million an hour if production is stopped due to component supply issues. A 15-minute delay to parts delivered just in time can cost manufacturers £850,000 per year. Is it not blindingly obvious that the current trajectory of this Government, with Brextremists at their core, means that we are heading for economic and trading chaos?

Chris Grayling Portrait Chris Grayling - Hansard
14 May 2018, 5:37 p.m.

May I ask the hon. Gentleman a simple question? If business shares the pessimism that he is laying before the House, can he explain the string of positive announcements of investment in the United Kingdom that we have seen in the past few months by Vauxhall, Toyota and others? If things are so bleak, why are they choosing to make substantial investments in their future in the United Kingdom?

Andy McDonald Portrait Andy McDonald - Hansard
14 May 2018, 5:37 p.m.

If the Secretary of State had looked at the papers over the weekend, he would have seen exactly why. A lot of people are making their plans to get out of the UK if necessary. That is exactly what has happened. He is playing with fire on this, and he really should wake up and smell the coffee.

The Government have done little to help the road haulage industry. They have made a complete and utter dog’s breakfast of contingency planning for the M20 motorway. A lorry park off the motorway has been desperately needed to help alleviate problems during Operation Stack, and it is all the more needed ahead of Brexit next March. Yet the Department for Transport failed properly to undertake the critically important environmental risk assessment before the planning process for the £250 million project and had to scrap it last September. This incompetence will have disastrous consequences. If this Government cannot successfully plan how to build a lorry park in Kent, how do they expect anyone to believe that they are capable of introducing an alternative haulage permit scheme?

Break in Debate

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP) - Hansard
14 May 2018, 5:59 p.m.

It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill), who must be one of the very few of us in this place to have a class 1 licence.

I think I will continue the theme of Opposition Members expressing their genuine concerns about what is happening and about how we go forward, while Conservative Members just continue to tell us, “Everything will be all right on the night. Why should we worry? Just believe us. It will all be okay.” The Government’s confidence is indicated by the fact that a Parliamentary Private Secretary has been going round the Government Benches giving out a crib sheet and lobbying for support. I think that tells us how confident the Government really feel.

I understand the need for the Bill, which is a back-up in case there is no deal. For that reason, I certainly would not vote against it, but I hope that the UK Government are doing their best to ensure that part 1 is not required and that the existing streamlined operations we enjoy under the Community licence scheme remain in place. However, we have to look at the current reality. We have a Brexit Cabinet that cannot agree a customs arrangement. The Tories are determined to pull out of the customs union and the single market. They are absolutely all over the place, and the clock is ticking away, so the prospect of a seamless transition becomes more and more unlikely.

In many ways, the Bill is symptomatic of the Government and their approach to Brexit. It is mainly superficial. There is a statement of intent, but we do not know the detail behind the Bill. We do not know what the permit system will look like or how it will operate. We do not know what fees will be applied. We do not even know whether limits will be applied to the number of permits. Like the Brexit process in general, the Bill is just the equivalent of talk but no action.

There is a further irony. The Bill is another example of primary legislation formulated in the other place. When it suits the UK Government they tell us that the House of Lords is only a revising chamber and that it should not get in the way of the business of the Government, yet if it is willing to do the Government’s bidding, we are supposed to laud its expertise. However, when it applies its expertise and says there is a need for a customs union, a vote to stay in the single market and a meaningful parliamentary vote in this place, somehow we have to ignore that expertise and wisdom. That shows the hypocrisy of Government Members when it comes to the House of Lords.

Another aspect of the Bill is that it is a part of the no deal preparations. The Brexiteer argument is that preparing for no deal will show the EU we are ready to walk away, thus strengthening our negotiating position. However, I am pretty sure that the Bill is not going to have Michel Barnier quaking in his boots. This is the first Bill going through Parliament in preparation for no deal. I suggest there is a long way to go to strengthen the Government’s hand. We are only a couple of months away from summer recess and a whole load of other legislation will be required for the Government to be in a competent place in terms of no deal arrangements. There is no way that the Government are strengthening their hand. If anybody thinks that we are in a stronger negotiating position, they are kidding themselves.

The Government have not even published their transport priorities in a single policy or place, so we do not really know their overall hoped for direction of travel. We know in theory that they want frictionless trade. They want extensive free trade agreements without any meaningful show of what that means in reality and how it would be implemented—that is a key issue.

On haulage, we know that the supposed preference is for things to remain much as they are under the Community licence arrangements, but where are we on those negotiations? If agreement is reached for arrangements to continue as is, or if a reciprocal licence arrangement is agreed, that means few extra checks will be required. There is still, however, the fundamental issue of the customs and border arrangements, which is far more relevant to hauliers and businesses reliant on the import and export of fresh goods.

What will be the timescale for a new IT system? Has any work actually started on it? How much of the £75.8 million allocation for transport Brexit preparation has been spent so far and what has it been spent on? What is the planned programme of work for the fund for the rest of the financial year? Is the renting of Manston airfield as an emergency lorry park part of the Brexit preparations and expenditure? As the shadow Minister said, they cannot even get their plans for a car park correctly in place. That is £13 million down the drain.

Chris Grayling Portrait Chris Grayling - Hansard
14 May 2018, 6:03 p.m.

It may be helpful to the House if I say that the preparations for any disruption, not necessarily Brexit-related, of the Channel ports are well under way. Work on the M20 will begin in a matter of weeks, either late this month or early next month, to ensure that we have greater capability than we did in 2015 to store more lorries. We are not relying on Manston airport. It remains available to us in the short term, but it is not included in our long-term plans.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown - Hansard
14 May 2018, 6:03 p.m.

The Transport Secretary says that the work is going to start shortly. Can he give me a timescale for the completion of the lorry park?

Chris Grayling Portrait Chris Grayling - Hansard
14 May 2018, 6:04 p.m.

I will go into detail another time, but we are putting in place plans that will enable us to store at least as many lorries as we did at the worst of the situation in 2015 without creating a situation where the motorway cannot flow in both directions. Those plans are well advanced and we will have them in place before next March.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown - Hansard
14 May 2018, 6:04 p.m.

I remain to be convinced. That seems to be another example of, “Believe me, it will be okay. We’re dealing with it, just trust me.”