Moved by Lord Whitty
1: Before Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—“EU Community Licence arrangements(1) It is an objective of the Government, in negotiating a withdrawal agreement from the EU, to seek continued UK participation in the EU’s Community Licence arrangements.(2) If the continued participation referred to in subsection (1) is achieved after the passing of this Act, no Minister of the Crown may make regulations under sections 1 to 5 or 23(2) of this Act.”
My Lords, Amendment 1 was put down by my noble friend Lord Bassam. I am pleased for him, but regret that he is still in the air between the Aegean and Gatwick and therefore unlikely to make it for this amendment, and possibly for the whole sitting. I hope that he nevertheless comes back refreshed. I am therefore taking on the responsibility for an amendment for which he has argued.
At earlier stages of the Bill, the sheer volume of road haulage traffic between the UK and Europe has been spelled out. Some 67 million tonnes of freight traffic passes through our ports, the frontiers of Europe, the Irish ports and the currently virtually invisible Irish border. The way in which that traffic currently moves, under the provisions of the European Community licensing arrangement, is as close to frictionless as you could get. Whatever the outcome of Brexit, whatever deal we vote on in a few months and in a few years, virtually everyone in the business wants to have a system that is as close as possible to the current European Community licensing system. That applies to the main companies, the FTA, the Road Haulage Association, Unite the union, and to exporters and importers. They all want to keep roughly the present system. That also applies to European importers and exporters. It ought, therefore, to be an object of negotiations that we retain something close to the current system in the long term, even beyond the transition period.
In that sense, we all know where we would like to be; and this Bill, as has been pointed out, is a contingency Bill to provide for a situation where we fall short of what virtually everybody recognises as the optimum—being close to the present system. I was not present in Committee but I spoke on Second Reading, and I concede that it is sensible to have such a contingency. However, we also know from the policy documents that were provided to us at the beginning of the process for this Bill that—according to the rather Delphic words in the text of the Bill—we envisage and propose to go back to a system that existed prior to us being in the EU. No doubt that will be updated and eventually digitalised but it is a pretty clunky system that, in the old days, relied on quotas and bilateral deals. The Bill would allow for regulation providing for a different system, but at the moment the only system on offer is one that reflects trading patterns and technology that are now long past.
We recognise that the system which the Bill currently envisages is therefore not fit for purpose for when we leave the EU. Amendment 1 therefore states the obvious and puts it in the Bill to make it clear what the Bill is about—namely, that ideally we would wish to have a relationship with Europe that, as regards road haulage, maintains as far as possible the present system. But we have to provide this contingency. That by definition means that were we to attain through negotiations or concessions a system that was pretty close to the present system, the need for most of the Bill’s provisions would fall. We know that, as the Government want, we are likely to be outside the customs union and the single market. In those circumstances, it is clear that “frictionless trade” is at best a relative term. There will be friction, costs and some barriers; rules of origin will almost certainly be imposed; and there will be checks and, therefore, delays. However, if we can achieve something close to the current system, we will not need a whole set of new regulations as the Bill provides.
In her Mansion House speech, the Prime Minister recognised, belatedly and quite recently, that for aviation, the UK will need to be party to the institutions of European aviation, particularly the European Aviation Safety Agency. Similarly for road haulage, we should seek to participate in the Community licensing system if we possibly can. That does not fundamentally undermine the principle of Brexit but it would be the best outcome for our future relationship with Europe in the road haulage area. I therefore accept that we should provide legislation for an alternative, which is what the Bill does; but we also need to recognise that, as we put law as provided in the Bill on the statute book, if we get much closer in negotiations to the present system, the bulk of the provisions will fall.
Essentially, that is what Amendment 1 is drafted to achieve: to set out at the very beginning of the Bill that this is a contingency and that in better circumstances—the optimum circumstances—most of the provisions of the Bill will fall. That would put the whole Bill in context; it would be much more rational; and the measures that the Government would undertake in pursuit of the objectives would be somewhat different from the format provided within the Bill. We would therefore hope that the provisions mentioned within the amendment would be able to fall. That would be, if you like, a preamble to the Bill. I know that English lawyers sometimes do not like preambles, but in terms of public understanding and appreciation in the road haulage industry itself, it would be clearer what the Bill is about. I therefore hope that the Government will accept this amendment or something very like it. I beg to move.
My Lords, my name is attached to three amendments in this group. I have added my name to Amendment 1, which is a retabling of an amendment put down in Committee by the Labour Party that would put on the face of the Bill that it is the Government’s objective to secure continued participation in the EU’s Community licence arrangements. This is another example of where a perfectly good arrangement currently exists in the EU but we will be leaving that arrangement and undoubtedly, I fear, moving to a less satisfactory situation. These amendments, as a group, are intended to encourage the Government to make the best possible arrangement with the EU for the future and to move to the best possible set of arrangements in the circumstances.
The amendments tabled by the Labour Party will almost certainly also ensure that the powers granted under this legislation will not be applicable if we stay in the EU’s Community licence regime, and that is very similar in principle to the sunset clause that I tabled in Committee. My Amendment 2 carries on this theme, because our argument is that the Bill should be applicable only with its original intended purpose, which is to make provisions for after we leave the EU, and that it should not be used as an opportunity to tidy up existing law. We often hear the phrase “skeletal Bill” but this is a “coat-hanger Bill”. It is possible to put any garment you can think of on this coat-hanger because it is drawn so broadly, and it is very difficult to see where the Government might go with it. Therefore, I believe that it is in everyone’s interests to keep the Bill to its original purpose.
Finally, our Amendment 7 would make it a negotiating objective of the UK Government that there must be reciprocity regarding the number of UK-registered hauliers travelling to the EU and vice versa. This is a key issue. The view of haulage industry leaders is that we have to do all we can to ensure that there is an agreement, because, in their eyes, it is certain that the system proposed here will not work. The Freight Transport Association says that last year 300,000 journeys to the EU were made by British trucks and that 103 permits were issued, as those were all that were needed. If the Government are to adopt the permit system, a massive scaling up will be required to cope with that volume of traffic, but I think it is unrealistic for the Government to believe that they can scale up quickly and satisfactorily to that extent.
There are other issues which the transport associations are very concerned about and which these clauses do not deal with. After Brexit, WTO rules will require a significant increase in the number of checks. However frictionless a system the Government manage to create, ensuring that there are a limited number of checks to be made, WTO rules will kick in and will require checks to be made on a much bigger scale than now.
Simple precautionary measures are bound to be required to deter people intent on cheating the new system. There is also the unlikelihood, in the eyes of those who engage with the system at the moment, that the new computer-based system that will have to be devised by HMRC will be fully functional in the less than three years that we have left before the end of the transition period.
Then, of course, there is the issue of bringing 85,000 businesses up to scratch—that figure is from the NAO report. Currently, those businesses export only to the EU. Therefore, although they are exporting frequently—on a daily basis in many cases—they have never made a customs declaration. These businesses have no processes in place and no departments dedicated to that. If you add to that increased border delays caused by non-tariff aspects of the Bill, such as the end of mutual recognition of standards, there must be every incentive to reach an agreement, because there will huge impediments to trade.
This Bill deals only with part of these issues. It makes no reference to the mutual recognition of lorry driver qualifications or to a shortage of skilled workers—13% of trucks on British roads are driven by EU drivers. Therefore, we are keen, through these amendments, to encourage the Government in every possible way to ensure that they make an agreement. I fear that we are not in a strong position on this, but the Government have to make every effort. Unless they do so, there is a huge chance that our major haulage companies will move abroad. There is already talk of companies seeking to register abroad in order to trade more easily. None of us wants that to happen.
My Lords, I will speak to Amendments 2, 3 and 7 in this group, Amendment 3 being in my name. Before I do so, I note the comments from the Chief Whip a few minutes ago on what noble Lords are supposed to do during Report stage. I question the second point, which says,
“a member to explain himself in some material point pf speech”.
I do not imagine that the Minister will be able to answer that, but I hope that we all explain ourselves.
I support all the points made by my noble friend Lord Whitty and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson. The noble Baroness said that this is a coat-hanger Bill, and she is probably right, but I suggest that it is a great deal better than nothing. There are many other sectors being debated in the context of Brexit for which there is nothing. We should give the Government a bit of credit for this, albeit that the Bill as it stands is pretty defective in many of the solutions that it comes up with. My conclusion, along with that of the noble Baroness, is that the system will not work anyway.
It is worth mentioning that, although this applies to road haulage, the border checks that we are all concerned about cover a very large number of different issues. Previous speakers have mentioned some of them. The easy one, actually, is customs. If that is done well and the IT system works—there is a big question about that—much of the work can be done in advance and, in theory, there would be no delays at frontiers, provided that it all goes smoothly. We discussed the drivers in Committee and their need for permits for vehicles and trailers and then we get into the interesting bits, which are the responsibility of Defra—plant and animal health and welfare, foot-and-mouth and rabies. You cannot check for those away from the frontier; it has to be done at the frontier. I do not know how many trucks per year would come under that, but they probably all need inspecting.
The noble Baroness mentioned food standards and compliance with standards. Do we want non-compliant food coming in? Who will check that? If these checks are not done at the frontier and are done inland somewhere, that would work for the railways all right but it would not work for roads because there is a wonderful opportunity for the trucks to stop in a layby and make whatever changes are necessary. My Amendment 3 and the others are designed to ensure that there is a solution if the cliff edge happens, which is still an option that we have debated many times.
I hope that the Minister will have some answer to that question of cliff edges because otherwise we will have massive queues. The port of Calais and some of the other continental ports are very concerned about that because it is as important between the UK and the continent as the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic—and anywhere else with a frontier. There needs to be a solution not just for customs but which covers all the other potential checks that may have to be taken.
I recall asking the Minister, either at Second Reading or in Committee, whether she could produce a list of all the different checks that might have to be done on goods, freight and trucks. Her response was that she would find it very difficult. I do not blame her, but that puts the argument in a nutshell. This will be a complete disaster unless something is done to mitigate the effects. If there is no urgent or quick solution, we must enable the present situation to carry on as long as possible until a solution is found. I look forward to the Minister’s reply.
My Lords, I would like to amplify what the noble Lord said. The effect on the logistics industry will be almost catastrophic if Brexit goes ahead. Are the main players in that—the FTA, the RHA, the Rail Freight Group and the Port of Dover—freely able to make their representations, or have they been made subject to some sort of confidentiality clause, which is a gagging clause, which stops them making representations?
My Lords, may I help the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, in his question about the rules of debate? If he were to make a point that I had not understood, I could ask him to clarify his point and he would then be allowed to get up a second time to do that, just briefly.
My Lords, I listened carefully to what the noble Lords opposite said and there is very little that I take issue with. They made very good points indeed. But my position is that we are sending Her Majesty’s Government in to negotiate the Brexit deal. The last thing that we want to do is unnecessarily to tie the hands of our negotiators and perhaps find out at the last moment that that hand-tying exercise has compromised our negotiating position. I sympathise with the points that noble Lords made, but I do not have sympathy with the amendments and I hope that my noble friend will advise the House not to accept them.
The groaning silence means it must be my turn. With the words of the Government Chief Whip ringing in my ears, I will try to be as brief as possible. My noble friend Lord Berkeley covered the issue with faint praise, and I join him in that. The Government are ahead of the game in this area, but it is a game that we do not really want to be in. He was right to emphasise the inspections, checks and so on. I hope that, as with the coat-hanger Bill of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, the point on reciprocity is noted.
The main amendment in the group was addressed by the overall comments of my noble friend Lord Whitty. It is almost impossible to appreciate the sheer volume of the road haulage business. I do not know about other noble Lords, but because of this Bill, I have been forced to learn quite a lot about the industry. I see that the Minister nods her head; so has she, clearly. What I am more familiar with is the queuing effect of delays. It happens in the railway environment where a nicely worked out procedure can be subject to a delay of only a matter of seconds, but if the queue is long enough, chaos will ensue. I am particularly cautious about wonderful computer systems. Most people will sympathise when I say that big computer systems in the public sector are rarely delivered on time and on budget. The truth is that such systems rarely are, and we hear about that in the public sector. They are very difficult to deliver, and in many ways this computer age of ours is still in its infancy in terms of the difficulty of using these machines for large-scale practical applications.
The chaos that could arise from the systems at a port not working properly could lead to what at least we rather soft westerners would think of as “starvation” where having only vegetables in their season might start to become a reality instead of a gimmick in a fancy restaurant. The transport of food stocks which are time critical could become awfully difficult. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will give us extremely strong assurances that the intent of Amendment 1 is in fact the Government’s intent. I hope my noble friend will not press the House to divide on this issue, but to convince him not to do so, she will have to give us strong assurances that it is recognised that the best possible outcome is a system as close as reasonably practicable to what we have. It is almost a schoolboy statement, but I really would like a pledge signed in her blood.
My Lords, I shall speak first to the various amendments relating to the negotiation aims, which address the points made by many noble Lords on the continuation of the Community licence regime, before moving on to why we need to make the regulations irrespective of the outcome of the negotiations. I hope I have been clear on the Government’s objective throughout the passage of the Bill: we want to maintain the existing liberalised access for UK hauliers. A mutually beneficial road freight agreement with the EU will support the objective of frictionless trade. We are confident that our future relationship with the EU on road freight, as part of our wider continuing relationship on trade, will be in the mutual interest of both sides.
These amendments would enshrine negotiation objectives in the Bill. On their overall principle, I must be clear that we do not believe that an attempt to mandate a particular stance in negotiations, in the way that these amendments would, is appropriate in the Bill. We will need flexibility to be able to adapt our approach in different areas. I am afraid that I shall not be able to accept these amendments, but I understand that noble Lords need the reassurance that we aim to have in place the arrangements that we need to maintain continued access.
The current arrangements for road freight access between the EU and UK through the Community licence allow drivers to use a single permit for trips between all EU member states. The licence also allows transit traffic through EU member states. Several noble Lords have spoken about the advantages of the Community licence. I am aware of those benefits and that many hauliers would like to see it continue. While continued participation in the Community licence arrangements is one potential outcome of the negotiations—we will certainly discuss it—there are other means to replicate the access that the Community licence provides, which these amendments would rule out.
Our current liberalised non-permit-based agreements with some non-EU countries provide for mutual recognition of operator licences in lieu of the requirement of a permit. The UK-Turkey agreement is one such example. The EU has a similar arrangement in the EU-Swiss land transport agreement, where permits are not needed and mutual recognition is allowed. Our future agreement with the EU could be based on a similar scheme and, if that were the case, permitting would not be relevant. Including the objective to seek continued participation in the Community licence arrangements may make it harder to agree such a beneficial deal for our hauliers.
The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, has tabled an amendment to the regulations made under Clause 1 that would see them apply only to an EU member state outside the UK, rather than any other country. This would mean that the focus of this part of the Bill will be only on arrangements with the EU. The Bill creates the legal frameworks to deliver for any administrative system that might be required as part of the final deal, but it also caters for our existing bilateral agreements with countries outside the EU. It is important that the Bill enables the regulations to cover these agreements so that there is compliance and consistency in the administration of a permit scheme, the allocation of permits and enforcement in relation to permits.
Non-EU agreements have previously been dealt with under administrative powers. The Bill will repeal the International Road Haulage Permits Act 1975 and bring in an entirely new framework. It is in UK hauliers’ interests to be able to use one system to apply for permits for non-EU countries as well as any permits that may be required, but we are clear that we hope that there would be no such requirement under any new EU schemes. I do not agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, that this is a coat-hanger Bill, but I am grateful to her for introducing me to a new term. It is important that we do all we can to provide consistency and certainty for the industry in how they can apply for permits and the methods of allocations for these permits. That is why the Bill should refer to all countries outside the UK and not just EU member states.
The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, is quite right that the World Trade Organization’s most-favoured-nation rules apply to the road haulage sector except when there is an exemption or it is part of a wider free trade agreement, which is of course something we are seeking with the EU. The free trade agreement would cover sectors crucial to our linked economy, such as the haulage industry. On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, on the Chief Whip’s statement, I believe that the words on today’s list were taken directly from page 130 of the Companion. I will not attempt to justify them further, but I am grateful to the noble Countess, Lady Mar, for her intervention on that.
Noble Lords have raised the issue of borders, customs and border delays. I acknowledge the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, that much work needs to be done in this area, but this work is happening in consultation with industry. In the case of this Bill, the provision of a permits scheme—whatever its detail or design—is intended precisely to ensure that there will be no delays for UK hauliers at our borders or any other borders in relation to their permission to travel.
Moving on to the amendments relating to the wider need to make regulations, irrespective of whether we have a future relationship with the EU that relies on permits, I understand that there is concern about the inclusion of enabling powers in the Bill if they will not be used at any point in the future in relation to our arrangements with the EU. However, as I have outlined, the Bill covers existing permit-based arrangements so we would need to continue to use them.
As the Prime Minister outlined in her March speech, our default is that UK law may not necessarily be identical to EU law, but it should achieve the same outcomes. Specifically on transport, she stated that,
“we will want to protect the rights of road hauliers to access the EU market and vice versa”.
In direct response to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, we are not seeking to return to the arrangements that we had before becoming an EU member state. The Bill does not suggest an alternative system—that is a matter for negotiations—but simply puts in place a mechanism for delivering the outcome of those negotiations. That is the responsible thing to do.
I have been clear on the Government’s objective for the negotiations in relation to the UK haulage industry. We aim to stay as close to the status quo as is reasonably practical. That objective is shared by the haulage industry and noble Lords across the House. We do not believe that this amendment is necessary; it may have the unintended consequence of making the objective of continued liberalised access harder to achieve. I therefore hope that the noble Lord feels able not to press his amendment.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. She made a number of points, which I take on board. I understand why she does not want us to tie the hands of the negotiators—the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, made roughly the same point. I would have hoped that we could find a form of words that introduces the Bill that does not refer to the negotiations, but as a default situation, were we unable to preserve the Community licence scheme. Unfortunately, neither I nor my noble friend Lord Bassam have found a form of words, and it is getting a bit late in the process for this Bill. However, I wonder whether the Minister is prepared to accept that there could be a form of words that makes it clear that this is a contingency Bill. It might not go all the way back to 1973 or 1968, but it allows an entirely different permit-based system to operate. That is our default position if we are not to continue with the present system or something close to it.
The danger is that the Government are kidding themselves that frictionless trade can operate even in the most benign post-Brexit situation if we are outside the customs union and the single market. We do not want to complicate things further by also being outside the licensing system and unable to reproduce, effectively, the same system for our hauliers as we have now, in effect putting them at a serious disadvantage compared to continental hauliers and, indeed, other systems of transport.
Because I understand the Minister’s need to keep flexibility in the negotiations, I am prepared to withdraw the amendment. It is important, however, that the Government recognise that the aim must be to get as close as possible to the present situation and that the costs of an entirely new system, however modern and technologically advanced—noble Lords have made the point that technology is not easily delivered in this context—will be additional, on top of costs that will apply at the frontiers and ports in any case.
Perhaps as a technicality, I point out that I am not sure that my noble friend Lord Bassam would be quite so generous to the Minister; nevertheless, I am happy to withdraw the amendment at this stage, given that the Minister and other noble Lords recognise the intention here. I still think there is a bit of a problem with the way the Bill is presented, but I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 1 withdrawn.
Clause 1: International road transport permits
Amendments 2 and 3 not moved.
Clause 2: Number and allocation of permits etc
Moved by Baroness Sugg
4: Clause 2, page 2, leave out lines 37 to 44 and insert—“( ) as to how the Secretary of State is to decide whether to grant an application for a permit, including provision specifying criteria or other methods of selection (which may include first come, first served or an element of random selection).”
My Lords, in Committee we discussed the process by which permits may be allocated to hauliers in a future permit scheme, should there be one. I am bringing forward an amendment that clarifies the Secretary of State’s powers to make regulations catering for all the different scenarios that may arise. The amendment does not change the Government’s policy on the methods that need to be available to allocate permits. Instead, in response to previous discussions, it aims to make legislation clearer on what regulations may include, while ensuring that regulations can be made specifying all the methods of selection we need to have available to us.
I understand that noble Lords are concerned about the use of these methods, so I will set out how we would use them and explain why they are on the face of the Bill. The Bill enables regulations to be made which provide that permits are required for a journey, if they are needed. Whether they are needed or not will depend on the agreements we negotiate. The Bill also makes regulations to make provision as to how the Secretary of State will decide whether a permit is granted. Regulations may specify criteria or other methods of selection. To ensure that the Secretary of State has the power to make regulations that cater for different approaches, the Bill provides that the methods of selection may include an element of random selection and “first come, first served”.
On first come, first served, our existing permit schemes are undersubscribed, so our applicants have always received what they have applied for. For example, in 2017 we issued 66 permits for Ukraine from a quota of 400; for Georgia we issued six permits from a quota of 100. This means that permits are issued on demand, and in these cases it makes sense to issue permits as we receive applications—on a first come, first served basis. In the future, where there are more permits available than are applied for, we will issue permits to all eligible applicants.
This drafting, with reference to “first come, first served”, ensures that the Secretary of State clearly has the power to provide in regulations that permits may be allocated on that basis. This is clearly a simpler process for the Government and hauliers where the supply exceeds the demand, but it means that hauliers will not be asked for as much information and additional criteria do not need to be applied, which will keep the process as simple and quick as it can be.
Moving on to random selection, the Bill enables regulations to be made that specify how the Secretary of State will decide whether a permit should be granted. That provision can include specifying criteria or other selection methods, which could include an element of random selection. If the demand for permits exceeds supply, we will look to allocate them in a way that maximises the benefits to the UK economy and that is fair and equitable to UK hauliers. We will set out this criteria in regulations and the Secretary of State will provide guidance relating to the information that applicants must provide.
As I said previously, we will be consulting on the criteria to be included in regulations, but these could include relevant factors such as the need for an applicant to hold a valid operator’s licence, the environmental standard of the vehicle authorised to be used by a permit, the sector the applicant operates in, or the proportion of a haulier’s business that is international. However, there might be cases where the application of criteria does not enable the Secretary of State to allocate all the permits. It is necessary, therefore, that other methods of selection should be available. As I said, the exact details of any permit scheme, if needed, are yet to be determined, so we want to ensure that the Bill enables regulations to be made that address scenarios where the application of criteria needs to be supplemented by other methods of selection.
I have listened to concerns noble Lords have raised that all permits will be allocated randomly and that getting a permit could be purely a matter of chance, but this is not the case. Where random selection is used, it will not be used on its own without any criteria being applied. The change of drafting to,
“an element of random selection”,
is a constraint on the delegated power to ensure that random selection cannot be used on its own. I state again that, while we expect some of these provisions not to be necessary, in passing this legislation we must ensure that the Secretary of State has the power to make regulations that enable a range of outcomes. That is the responsible thing to do.
We have made explicit mention of the method of first come, first served and random selection in the Bill to make it clear that the Secretary of State has these powers. Given that there might be circumstances in which these methods are used, it is appropriate that these powers are spelled out clearly in the Bill. This will ensure that there is no doubt that these powers are available to him and will provide transparency about what may be included in regulations. We have aimed to be open about the potential use of these methods and I have sought to set out the circumstances in which we envisage that these methods may be used.
I recognise the concerns raised about this wording and I hope that the detail and the amendment as set out will allay some of the fears about how the powers might be used. As I said, we will be consulting on the draft regulations. Additionally, the Government have tabled an amendment that will require the first regulations made to be subject to the affirmative procedure. We will come to that later, but it will mean that noble Lords will have the ability to scrutinise the regulations and, in particular, the way in which the Secretary of State has used his power under Clause 2.
As I have stated, I am confident that we will reach an agreement where all hauliers who seek a permit can get one—if, indeed, we need a permit system—but, as a responsible Government, we are preparing for all outcomes. I hope that the amendment makes the intention of the clause clearer and that noble Lords will support it. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have Amendment 5 in this group. The noble Baroness has in part answered the issues it is intended to raise, but it is not very clear in the Bill, in which the criteria for granting a permit seem to be entirely an issue of allocation of numbers, in terms of either the number of drivers or the number of vehicles, and what is available for a particular country. The amendment attempts to say to Ministers that there also need to be some qualitative criteria as to whether permits are given.
In the way the noble Baroness described it, the consultation might include that, but I would like that to be a little more explicit. We need to make sure that the operators who apply for and are given permits have reached certain standards of performance in relation to safety and maintenance, and to the employment and training they provide for their drivers and others; in relation to certain financial criteria that enable them to be of good financial repute; and in relation to certain environmental standards, as well as safety standards.
I hope that the consultation will cover all those things. What the Minister has said clearly includes that, but it is slightly odd that the wording of the Bill does not refer at all to regulations. I would therefore be grateful if the Minister could even more explicitly reassure me that these issues will be taken into account when criteria are established as to the suitability of operators to receive permits under the new system—if we need a new system.
My Lords, to take further the argument put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, I note that the Minister said that the Government would seek to maximise the benefits to the UK economy in the way in which permits are distributed—and that needs to be done in a way which seeks to enhance the good repute of the industry and therefore of our country. I was struck by a point put to us in a briefing from Unite, which suggests that permits should be linked to the good repute of the operator; for example, their record on driver infringements should be taken into account, not just to reward good practice but to incentivise further good practice. I raise this issue because I seek an assurance from the Minister that the Government will be prepared to investigate such an approach, which seems a much fairer system than that suggested in Committee, when we talked about first come, first served and some kind of balloting system. There needs to be something to encourage good practice in the industry.
My Lords, of course I support my noble friend the Minister’s amendment. On the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, the noble Lord was Roads Minister many years ago and I was the opposition Front Bench spokesman on transport. We had a lot of fun together and we made various improvements. The noble Lord will know that to engage in international goods vehicle operations, one needs an international goods vehicle operator’s licence—one can have an international licence or a national licence.
When the noble Lord was Minister, I would try to increase the standard required of all operators—not just international operators but national operators as well. Sometimes he took my suggestions—there was one issue on which we achieved an improvement—but, generally speaking, as happened with most Ministers, the Opposition’s suggestions would be turned down.
However, if we wanted to, we could raise the bar for having an international operator’s licence. The tests already include the need for good repute and financial standing. If an operator gets into trouble with their annual pass rate or the number of prohibitions they pick up on the roads, the traffic commissioner can remove their licence. However, the noble Lord is right: if you want to engage in international operations, you need to operate to a higher standard than national operations—because, let us face it, operators operating on the continent are representing the United Kingdom. So the noble Lord raises a good point, but it is already covered by the fact that, to engage in international operations, you need an international goods vehicle operator’s licence under the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Act.
Well, maybe that will change someday.
To speak briefly to Amendment 4, I think the noble Baroness has tried hard to interpret the long debate we had in Committee about the method of allocation and we will have to see how it goes: I think we cannot go much further on it. However, I support my noble friend Lord Whitty’s Amendment 5 on these criteria, which Unite has quite rightly been proposing for the operators. As the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, mentioned, though, it is going to get even more unfair if foreign lorries coming here do not have to comply with the same criteria. We risk losing more traffic to foreign lorries: it is massively out of balance at the moment and will get worse. I am not sure how we do it, because the Minister said about a previous part of the Bill that we cannot legislate about anything to do with foreign lorries coming here. I hope she will reflect on the need not only to take into account my noble friend’s amendment but how to apply that to lorries that come to this country so that there is a fair balance.
My Lords, I too welcome the movement that the Minister has shown in the redrafting of Amendment 4. The essence seems to me that there will be a series of criteria to determine who should get permits and that the use, particularly, of random selection will emerge only where the differentiation by the criteria shows candidates to be equal. In other words, the objective will be to have objective criteria that can do the differentiation process, and only when bids of equal merit are placed in front of the selection would we stoop, sadly, to random selection. Let us hope we never get there—let us hope that there are enough permits anyway.
The Minister met many of the aspirations of Amendment 5 and I hope she will repeat them in her summing up. I hope she will give some warmth to repute as a concept for selection. There is the idea of a single criterion—safe, environmentally okay, et cetera—but it is crucial to recognise that it is more complex than that. We need to look at an operator’s track record: do they consistently work to a high standard? Are they consistently a good representative of that industry?
My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their comments on this group. I absolutely appreciate the intention behind the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and agree that we should expect our hauliers to operate to high standards. While we could include conditions on permits to cover the areas he raised, as my noble friend Lord Attlee points out, the operator licensing regime already requires this of operators and is quite an effective means of achieving this. We do not need to apply conditions to the use of a permit with a view to achieving exactly the same thing. That is not to say that we would not grant permits subject to conditions. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, has raised areas that we would absolutely consider within these conditions. The Bill as drafted gives the Secretary of State the discretion to make regulations authorising the grant of a permit subject to conditions, but we do not want the regulations to impose such conditions; that would make the permit regime more complicated for hauliers if those conditions are already covered elsewhere.
I absolutely understand the query about why some parts of the criteria and not others are in the Bill: believe me, it is something I spent much time discussing with the Bill team. Having considered the public law principles relating to the exercise of discretion and the need, for example, to take relevant factors into account and not to take irrelevant factors into account, we have taken the view that it is preferable to include in the Bill the specific references to first come, first served and random selection, to make it absolutely clear that when considering the scope of the enabling power the Secretary of State has the power to include these methods in the regulations.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, that we want vehicles coming into the UK to meet the high standards that we expect of our own operators— even more so if we are using that as a criterion to allocate permits. However, Clause 2 enables regulations to be made only about permits issued to our operators, not permits for access to the UK by foreign hauliers, as the noble Lord acknowledged. The international agreements we set up with other countries will usually mean that a permit will be given only to a haulier who has that country’s equivalent of the operator’s licence. In a permit scheme with the EU, should we have one, all hauliers will have the operator’s licence governed by the same EU rules as we have at the moment. The best way to raise international standards is to continue to work with our partners to improve those standards.
I am happy to confirm to the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, that we will indeed consult carefully with industry on the criteria used. She made a very interesting suggestion on good repute and that is certainly something we will consider warmly. Sadly, I have not seen the briefing from Unite. Perhaps the noble Lord will be kind enough to forward it to me so that we can consider its suggestions, but I confirm that we will include trade unions in our consultation. We meet Unite regularly but we will ensure that we meet it when we discuss the criteria. If we are in the unfortunate situation of having to have a criterion, we should certainly use it to do what we can to improve the haulage industry.
I hope noble Lords will support the government amendment with the intention of trying to make the clause clearer.
Amendment 4 agreed.
Amendment 5 not moved.
My Lords, in moving Amendment 6 I will speak also to Amendment 8. This is to do with the quantity of permits and the fees, which we have already discussed in relation to Amendment 7 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson. Amendment 6 seeks to put in the Bill a proposal that when the Government are negotiating the number of permits, either with the European Union or each member state individually—if that is the way it is to be done, because clearly we do not know which way it will go—there should be reciprocity in terms of the number of permits and the fees charged. I would like to see this objective in the Bill.
I am sure the Minister will want to do this for the sake of the UK haulage industry, but it is something which sometimes gets forgotten and it is very important if we are to have a modern, thriving haulage sector here, both in terms of the quality, which we have discussed, and the fees charged. One would hope that the fees would be reasonable in comparison with the fees charged by many other member states. I include some of the newer member states in eastern Europe, where the fees may be very low, and that is one of the reasons that we get so many trucks from eastern Europe here because it is a lot cheaper for them to operate. I hope the Minister will take all that into account. I beg to move.
My Lords, two things above all concern the haulage industry in relation to this aspect of the Bill: the number of permits that will be available, which the Minister has already addressed, and the key issue of the potential cost of those permits. As the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, has just said, it is, at least in part, about fairness—to give our operators a fair opportunity in competition with those from the rest of Europe. We should not be making it more expensive than we have to.
I raised this issue in Committee. In her response, the Minister made the point that if we made the EU permit free, the Government would just put up the cost of the operator’s licence to cover the cost of it. I can clearly see that point of view, so the amendment in my name is an attempt to balance that issue and shut off that exit for the Government by saying that, overall, the cost has to be proportionate.
What I am really trying to do is to urge the Government to minimise the cost of these permits. It is probably not terrifically significant for the big operators but for the small operators—the people who have just one, two or three lorries going to Europe—it is a very significant aspect of their cost structure, so I ask the Government to give the industry a break and make this as cheap as possible. There is also a symptomatic or symbolic thing in this decision: it has been free in the past, for very logical reasons because the EU has been an extension of our domestic market so people were therefore not charged extra for going there; but, symbolically, they are now to be charged more for the right to travel and transport goods overseas. It is therefore important that we keep that cost to the minimum possible.
My Lords, once again the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, raises important points and I agree with them. That should be what the Government will negotiate for—equal access, reciprocity, et cetera—and I am sure that my noble friend the Minister will tell us that that is the case. However, once again, I would not like to see the Government tie their hands by agreeing to have the noble Lord’s amendment in the Bill, because it might be necessary to do something that does not quite meet the requirements of his amendment in order to achieve some other desirable outcome. I hope that he will reluctantly accept that point.
As to the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, I agree with the sentiment, particularly on the need to minimise the costs. I hope that if we did have to have this system, it would be just a technicality that a permit would be issued and the costs could be very low. Whatever we do, it must be on some form of cost-recovery basis where the international haulage industry pays for it, but there is the horrible prospect that, for some reason, the system that we will have to adopt is much more complicated and expensive to administer than the old Community licence system. The noble Baroness’s amendment says that the costs should not exceed that, which I suggest to my noble friend the Minister means it is not wise to accept that amendment. It will otherwise be impossible to recover the costs of operating the system. I entirely agree with the sentiment but I hope that my noble friend the Minister does not accept the noble Baroness’s amendment.
Before the noble Earl sits down, I hope he will accept that the wording I used was not that it should not exceed it but that it should not be “disproportionate”.
My Lords, we generally support the sentiment of both these amendments and hope that the Minister will be able to give assurances in both areas.
My Lords, as I said in Committee—I am keen to reiterate it now—our aim is to set fees on a cost-recovery basis and keep them as low as possible. We will look to minimise the costs to hauliers in using any permit scheme, should we need one. We are well aware of the tight margins that many hauliers operate within and will do all we can to reduce the cost of any permit scheme.
The Bill allows us to charge fees for permits and we propose to charge those fees, if needed, for the recovery of only the costs of providing these permits. The Treasury‘s guidelines, Managing Public Money, set out how such fees should be set and what elements can and cannot be included in that calculation. The Government believe that those using this service should meet the costs of it, rather than the costs being passed on to taxpayers more generally or going on the operator’s licence.
We will follow these guidelines in setting our fees, which means hauliers will not pay any more than they need to to meet the costs of the service. The best way to minimise permit costs for hauliers is to ensure that our systems are as efficient and effective as possible. I acknowledge the points made earlier by noble Lords about IT systems. For these permits, we are exploring how we can use our existing systems with a view to users having a single system for all our permit schemes. We hope that will simplify the process, and there is significant investment.
Can the Minister confirm whether the cost of the permits that she mentioned will include just the operation of the system or will there be a requirement for hauliers to fund the setting up of some IT system that might, or might not, last several years or go wrong or anything else? I hope her answer will be that it is just the operation.
The noble Lord has read my mind. I was about to come to the fact that I can confirm today that these fees will cover only the day-to-day running costs. The Government will cover the set-up costs of the scheme, which is being funded by part of the £75.8 million we have received from the Treasury as part of our planning for exiting the EU. I hope noble Lords and the haulage industry are reassured by that. I fully agree with noble Lords that we want the greatest possible access for road hauliers, coupled with the lowest possible costs to hauliers, but we do not believe that we should be asking the taxpayer to pay indefinitely for permits.
Before I turn to the specific amendments, it may be helpful to set out some detail on current fees. Fees are already charged in relation to some of our permit agreements with non-EU countries. They are reasonably consistent. For example, there is an £8 fee for a single-journey permit to any country with which we have a permit agreement, such as Ukraine. In our agreement with Morocco, we charge £50 for a 15-trip permit. The ECMT permit—referred to in the regulations as an ECMT licence—which allows unlimited journeys for a year, costs £133. All those fees have been set on a cost-recovery basis and give a good indication.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, raised reciprocity. First, on the number of permits, many international agreements, such as our agreements with Ukraine and Belarus, are permit-based and agreed under the principles of reciprocity. In circumstances where the agreed number of permits is used up, additional permits can be provided. We do that on a reciprocal basis because no country wants to limit the amount of haulage carried out. Under a future permits scheme, we would absolutely seek reciprocity in the number of permits so that neither side is limited and we are confident that that can be achieved. In the first group, we discussed amendments relating to negotiation objectives being in the Bill, and the Government remain of the view that they should not be included in the Bill.
Secondly, on fees, the arrangements for issuing and charging for permits are handled at a national level and the UK has no agreements with other countries that address the cost of their permits. We are not aware of any international road haulage agreement that has such an agreement. We set our own fees for UK hauliers and other countries set their own fees, including for permits for travel to the UK. To give some examples, in Ireland there is a separate fee for Community licences that we do not have. The Netherlands charges fees for both applying for and issuing ECMT permits, whereas we currently charge only for the issue of a licence. Other countries’ fees can be higher or lower than the fees charged in the UK, depending what the fees choose to cover.
Looking at equivalent charges in other countries, I mentioned the single-journey permit. The equivalent permit in the Netherlands costs around £4, slightly less than in the UK, but in Finland it costs £35, which is more than in the UK. In Norway there is no charge for permits, but it charges around £98 to issue a Community licence. While we charge £133 for an annual ECMT permit, it costs around £219 in Serbia, and in the Netherlands there is a fee of around £302 for applying and a further fee of around £121 for issuing the permit. I am afraid I have no details of some of the new EU members which the noble Lord mentioned. It is proving quite difficult to get hold of the details, but we will get them and consider them when setting fees.
If we have permits and seek an agreement on fees, other countries may wish to charge more. I think the examples I have given show that there is quite a lot of disparity between the charges. We do not want to seek reciprocity on fees because it could be unnecessarily complicated and it has never been done before, which may delay our reaching an agreement. As noble Lords are aware, we are keen to get an agreement in place as quickly as possible.
If we end up with a permit scheme, we may have to introduce fees, and we expect that other countries would do the same. They could be higher or lower than the fee charged in the UK depending on what the fees cover. While we will look at the international comparisons, the best we can do is to make sure the costs are as low as possible for hauliers.
As to exactly what the fees will amount to, I regret that I am not able to provide exact figures because that will depend on the negotiations and the cost of administering any permit scheme as required. However, I repeat my assurances that if permits are needed, we want to keep the fees as low as possible—in the region of the existing permit fees that I have referred to.
Noble Lords are right to highlight the impact of these fees on the haulage industry. We intend to have one set of regulations and permits that will include fees, and I am pleased that the later government amendment on affirmative regulations means that noble Lords will have the opportunity to discuss those fees. Prior to the fee being set, we will of course consult fully with industry, including small and medium-sized businesses. I absolutely acknowledge the noble Baroness’s point that it has more effect on them than it does on the bigger hauliers. That is something that we will consider. The government amendment on consultation that we will come to later will make that consultation a statutory requirement.
I sympathise with the aims of the amendments but I hope noble Lords will agree that the costs are best met by charging fees for permits on a cost-recovery basis. If the permits are needed, the Government are committed to covering the set-up costs of the scheme and will do all we can to keep those day-to-day running costs as low as possible. The fees, if needed, will be discussed carefully in the consultation and will be subject to further scrutiny from noble Lords should our later amendment on the affirmative resolution be accepted. However, I confirm that we aim to keep the costs as low as possible. With that, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
I am grateful to the Minister for that detailed reply. I had understood from our debates in Committee that there might have been one opportunity for us to negotiate the amount of charges with the EU as a whole. That is clearly not the case and the examples that she has given indicate that my amendment is not a good idea at all, which I now accept. All I can say before withdrawing it is that her department will have to negotiate with not just 26 member states but quite a few other countries around the outside. I hope she has enough staff with the right expertise to do that so that we do not have the cliff edge we were talking about earlier. However, I am very grateful for the information that she has given us, and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 6 withdrawn.
Amendment 7 not moved.
Clause 5: Fees
Amendment 8 not moved.
Moved by Lord Whitty
9: Clause 5, page 3, line 43, at end insert—“( ) If continued UK participation in the EU’s Community Licence arrangements is not agreed as part of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal agreement with the EU, regulations must provide an exemption from fees for UK registered hauliers for the period of five years beginning with the date on which the new international road transport permit scheme is introduced.”
My Lords, there are three amendments in this group. Amendment 9 is another of my noble friend Lord Bassam’s amendments. Evidently, either the European open skies aviation system or the Gatwick Express have not yet delivered him to this Chamber.
Amendment 9 deals with much of the territory that was discussed in the previous amendment. Indeed, it was discussed in Committee when the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, had an amendment to delete the whole of this clause. The amendment was intended by my noble friend Lord Bassam to be a compromise and effectively say, “Let’s not charge a separate fee for the new permit system for five years to avoid an unnecessary or unfair additional cost on the hauliers”. Some of this has been dealt with in the previous discussion, and the Minister has indicated that it may not be a large amount of money. Nevertheless, it is an increased cost in a sector that is facing other additional costs, as I explained in relation to earlier amendments—costs at the frontier, the cost of documentation and so on—and one in which margins are already very low and competition is particularly acute. A new permit system really should not require a new payment by the hauliers themselves.
The other complication was also alluded to by the Minister: at present there is no charge for the Community licence. The Government argue on occasion that the charge is covered by the operations licence—the domestic licence, in other words—but if that is the case and we move to a new system, I have not noticed the Treasury arguing on grounds of full cost recovery that the operating licence fee should therefore be reduced. This is an additional and unfair charge on the haulage industry which particularly hits SMEs, and there are quite a lot of single-driver or two or three lorry operations in the sector.
I therefore hope that the Minister will recognise that there is a need to cushion the burden, and the amendment would give her the opportunity at least not to introduce it for several years, during which the totality of the new system could, hopefully, be fully tested, made completely digital and therefore reduce the cost recovery required. We could then perhaps end up with a rational system of what falls on the basic licence and what falls on the European licence. There is therefore still an argument for the amendment. Although I accept much of what the Minister said about the size of the cost, it is nevertheless an additional cost on a precarious industry.
The other two amendments, which are actually mine, relate to a different issue. This in part relates to concerns expressed by Unite the union that aspects of the Bill’s provisions, particularly this clause, suggest that the responsibility falls on the individual driver rather than the operator. The responsibility for meeting the criteria in the regulations to follow and for operating within the new permit system must fall to the operator. The driver, whether contracted or employed by the operator, should not be the person penalised, but the clause explicitly states that, in certain circumstances, it should be the driver who is penalised.
Amendment 10 recognises that the operation of the system will at some point become completely digital. That would make life easier for the driver and, indeed, the operator, in that the driver would not have to find umpteen different documents for a multinational trip and ensure that they were all up-to-date and in order, but could present all that on an iPhone or an iPad. Explicitly recognising that in the Bill would be useful.
My second amendment deals with the issue of the driver’s as against the operator’s responsibility. Clause 8(2) specifically makes the driver responsible for any breach of regulations by failure to show documents, but it is the operator’s responsibility that the driver should have those documents and the operator should ensure that all of his or her lorries are furnished with those documents. The idea that that is primarily the driver’s responsibility is wrong: it must be part of the operator’s responsibility.
I am not saying that it is intended to remove all responsibility from the driver. Clearly, the driver has a responsibility to co-operate with the authorities and if the driver is obstructive or obstreperous to the examiner or whoever is trying to enforce the rules, that driver would be caught by Clause 8(3), which provides that anybody who obstructs the implementation of the regulations commits an offence. That would include the driver in those circumstances, but responsibility for ensuring that both the vehicle and the documentation are in order must lie with the employer or the operator. My amendments give the Minister a possible way out of that. She or her department may find a better way but, at the very least, I would be grateful if she could accept the principle, on the record, and say clearly that the Government’s intention is for it to be the responsibility of the operator, and that the regulations under the Bill will carry that out.
Amendment 9 deals with the costs of the permit. Will the Minister recognise, on the record, that the present system does not require such a payment and that fairness will be maintained in future systems, with the cost falling where it should and not becoming an additional cost for operators in an increasingly difficult and highly competitive industry? I beg to move.
My Lords, this is another interesting amendment. I have a query for the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, about drafting. The amendment refers to “UK registered hauliers”. What does that mean? Does it mean that the company is registered in the UK or that the operator’s licence is held here? You could have a company which is registered on the continent, or in Ireland, whose operator’s licence is actually held in the UK. There is some lack of clarity there. I do not know whether the noble Lord has thought of it.
My worry about the amendment is: if the operator is not going to pay, who is? The noble Lord also made a very important point about competition in the road haulage industry being acute. He is absolutely right: it has been so for a long time. The reason for that is that the cost of operation in road haulage is well understood. Modern vehicles are extremely efficient; you can get maintenance contracts which take out all the risks. You know the costs of the fuel—it is very high, because it is heavily taxed—the costs of the driver, and the cost of other taxes and any necessary permits. If there is a cost to the permits, the market will take account of that. Although the noble Lord is right that it is a horribly competitive market, the prices will actually just rise very slightly to take account of the cost of permits. I do not think that the noble Lord’s concerns about absorbing the costs hold good.
I hope that the Minister will provide reassurance on Amendments 10 and 11. It seems that, in road haulage legislation, the driver is responsible for everything but has little actual power to do anything about it. I hope my noble friend can give some reassurance on that.
My Lords, I support the amendments and will build on the points made. Amendment 11 is particularly important. The generality of placing responsibility on the driver is becoming increasingly out of date with the complexities of the real, modern world. In other transport environments, it is recognised that the wider responsibility lies with the operator, and I hope that the Minister will be able to give assurances on that.
Amendment 10 is also sensible and goes in the right general direction. We are moving into a wholly digital age—even I have an iPhone.
Amendment 9 deals with a very serious issue. The industry will feel aggrieved if there are additional charges. It would argue, accurately, that it is an enormously efficient industry, as the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, pointed out, and we respect that. The industry works to very small margins and it is therefore inevitable that these charges will be passed on to customers. I hope that there will be full consultation before any charges are considered and that everything is done to make them as low as possible. I think the Minister has already said this, but it cannot be repeated often enough. In the previous group there was some talk about considerations of other factors such as what other people were charging, and so on. I hope that those will not be the considerations; the simple consideration should be that the Government pay all the capital and the set-up costs, and everything else is driven down to a low level.
I hope that the intention of this amendment, to outline and emphasise just how important this is to the industry, is accepted by the Government and that the Minister will be able to repeat herself by saying reassuring words.
My Lords, I will first address enforcement and Amendments 10 and 11. The sections on enforcement use the model of enforcement powers that are already in place in the context of operator licensing, Community licences and permits. Under current arrangements, the Community licence is the paper document that hauliers are required to carry in the vehicle and show to inspectors on request, so a switch to paper copy permits, should they be needed, will not fundamentally change this process.
The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, is right to highlight the benefits of digital documents. We want to see the haulage sector moving in this direction and are working towards that, but unfortunately we are not there yet. The Bill already provides the flexibility to move to that digital system in the future. Clause 1 provides that the permit,
“may be in any form the Secretary of State considers appropriate”.
That would enable the Secretary of State to specify the form of permits as digital once we have all the processes in place for that and once the industry is ready for it. Some of our existing permit agreements with other countries require a paper permit to be carried, and indeed all our existing permit schemes are currently paper-based, so it would be slightly counterproductive to insist on a digital permit at this stage. However, I can reassure the noble Lord that we are working towards that and that the current drafting allows us to move to that as and when we are ready to do so.
On the noble Lord’s amendment to Clause 8, the offence in Clause 8(2) relates to the conduct of a driver when a requirement is made of him or her by an examiner. Clause 6(2)(a) requires a driver to produce any permit carried on the vehicle to an examiner, and failing to do so without reasonable excuse would be an offence under Clause 8(2). That offence is relevant where a driver is frustrating enforcement activity, and mirrors similar offences for failing to produce documents carried on the vehicle, such as drivers’ hours records under Section 99 of the Transport Act 1968.
I absolutely understand the noble Lord’s point that if a driver has been sent on a journey by an operator without the necessary permit, the driver should not be punished for that. I agree, and to avoid this we included the wording,
“that is carried on the vehicle”,
in Clause 6(2)(a). Therefore, the driver will be prosecuted for failing to show a permit only if there is one on the vehicle which has been provided by the operator. If that is the case, that would be an offence under Clause 8(1), and that offence applies to the operator, so the driver would not be prosecuted for failing to produce a permit if they had never had such a permit in the first place. I hope this clarifies the scope of these offences to the extent that the noble Lord feels able not to press those amendments.
On the cost element of this group, the amendment proposes that fees should not be charged for five years. I have already outlined, and am happy to do so again, that our aim is to set fees, should they be needed, on a cost recovery basis and to minimise those costs to hauliers using any permit scheme. If we were to exempt hauliers from any permit fees for five years, these costs would have to be borne by another party. That would either be the taxpayer or it would need to be done via the cost of the operator licence, as the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, pointed out, which would mean that all freight operators would pay for it. The latter would be more in accord with the principles in Managing Public Money which we are trying to stick to.
The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, is right to predict that I will use the argument that the costs of issuing Community licences are covered by operator licensing fees, which also operate on cost recovery. The issuing of Community licences is a small part of the costs of the operator licensing regime, and these fees are kept under review. If we no longer have to issue the Community licences and this reduces the cost to be covered by the fees, of course we will consider that when the fees are reviewed.
However, overall we think it is fairer that those who benefit from a service cover its running costs, rather than have all hauliers or all taxpayers paying for a benefit that only a small number get. Earlier, I confirmed that the fees will cover only the day-to-day running costs, with the Government covering the set-up costs of the scheme, which is being funded as part of our grant from the Treasury. Again, I am happy to confirm that we will do all we can to keep those fees low.
I hope that this discussion and the fact that the fees, should they be needed, will cover only the running costs will reassure the noble Lord that the fees charged to hauliers will be proportionate and stop an additional burden being imposed on the taxpayer. I can also reassure noble Lords that, should the government amendments be accepted, these fees, should they ever be needed, will be subject to three further measures: a statutory consultation with the industry; an affirmative procedure to allow proper parliamentary scrutiny of the regulations; and a report following their introduction to examine the impact on the haulage industry.
The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, has again suggested that we might benefit from further discussion on this. However, as with Amendment 1, I feel that I have been clear about the Government’s position on the Bill and the Government have nowhere further to go. Therefore, if the noble Lord wants to push the matter further, he will have to test the opinion of the House today. However, I hope that with these reassurances and the government amendments that we will come to later, he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I am slightly disappointed by what the noble Baroness has said, and I also need to take heed of what she said on the previous group of amendments. Talking about the money, as I understand it, after the initial set-up costs, which will be borne by the taxpayer, it is still the intention to put a charge on hauliers for a service that will replace the Community licensing system, which is not currently charged for but is covered by the costs of the domestic operators’ licences.
I fully accept that from time to time these arrangements have to be reviewed, but with this amendment I am saying that at a time when hauliers are faced with substantial changes and increased competition from people who are still in the European Community licencing system, this will be seen as a charge on their costs. It is correct to say that we need to protect taxpayers’ money, but we also need to protect the industry, which eventually contributes to taxpayers’ money. Therefore, I am not sure that I am satisfied with the noble Baroness’s answer on that.
In relation to the other two issues, I take the point about digital provision and the fact that we are not there yet; nevertheless, it is right that the Minister has put on the record that a digital presentation of the documentation would be accepted. However, I am not entirely clear that she has gone far enough in relation to the driver’s responsibility, because Clause 8(2) implies a rather wider range of circumstances than simply refusing to provide documentation which is on board. When it comes to the regulations, the Minister will need to look at that a bit more tightly if we are not to transfer the responsibility of meeting the documentary requirements and other provisions, which lies with the operator, to the individual driver. She probably accepts that in principle but I am not sure that the Bill says that at the moment, and I hope that the regulations will do so. The reassurance that she has given us that the regulations will come through the affirmative procedure is helpful.
Returning to the issue of money, I do not think that what the Minister has said will reassure the industry significantly. However, she has allowed herself some elbow room on this. In view of the degree to which she has tried to give reassurance in respect of previous amendments and this group of amendments, I will not press this amendment tonight, although she challenges me to do so. The Government need to address this matter and to come back to us in a way that reassures the industry. It may be that, even at Third Reading, she will be able to say something more in that direction. However, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 9 withdrawn.
Clause 6: Production of permits and inspection of vehicles
Amendment 10 not moved.
Clause 8: Offences: breach of regulations etc
Amendment 11 not moved.
Moved by Baroness Sugg
12: After Clause 8, insert the following new Clause—“Report on effects of EU-related provisions(1) After any year throughout which relevant restrictions apply, the Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a report assessing the effects of the restrictions on the haulage industry in the United Kingdom during that year.(2) Relevant restrictions apply when, in relation to at least one country which is a member State of the European Union, regulations under both section 1 and section 2(1)(a) apply (so that permits are required and only a certain number are available).(3) For the purposes of subsection (1), a year means any continuous period of twelve months (not including any period which already has to be reported on).”
My Lords, in Committee, a number of noble Lords brought forward amendments to require the Government to analyse and report on the impacts on the efficiency of the UK haulage industry of any permit scheme that might be introduced, and to report on the Government’s intentions, expectations and achievements with regard to future arrangements with the EU. While we have been clear that we are seeking continued liberalised access to the EU, I recognise the concern of any impact of a limited scheme on the haulage industry. I gave an undertaking to the Committee that we would publish details of any permit scheme as soon as they were available. I also undertook to consider how best to review the impacts of any permit scheme, should one be required.
The new clause proposed by the Government requires the Secretary of State to lay an annual report assessing the effects of any restrictions on the haulage industry. We already issue permits to UK hauliers to travel to some non-EU countries where we have agreements that require permits. This amendment would be triggered only where the UK has struck an agreement with at least one country that is a member of the EU that requires a permit scheme, and where there is a limit on the number of permits available for hauliers travelling to EU member states.
The amendment also sets out the length of the reporting interval. If an assessment of the effect of a permit scheme is to be of value to Parliament and to the industry, sufficient time must pass to enable the effect to be assessed and evidence to be gathered to inform that assessment. Setting the timing of the obligation to report for the first time as one year on from any regulations coming into force will ensure that the actual effect of the regulations is properly assessed. The Government believe that the amendment they have laid imposes a proportionate obligation to assess and report, while addressing the concerns that were raised in Committee. I beg to move.
My Lords, I welcome this amendment, as far as it goes. Again, we debated this in Committee. The noble Baroness has tabled the amendment after Clause 8 and explained very clearly its purpose. However, when I read it, I said to myself, “What are ‘relevant restrictions’?” It is not included in the definitions and, although she has explained it, in the cool light of day when the Bill becomes an Act, I would read it and say, “Whatever is that?” Could she look again at that and either clarify it or come back with a definition at some stage?
My Lords, in speaking to Amendment 12, I will speak also to Amendments 13 and 14 in my name. In the real world, you have to realise when you are not going to get any further. The noble Baroness has, in effect, accepted the thrust of our concern that there should be proper reporting. I think our amendments are much better but I know that she will not agree with me, and so I will settle for what I have got.
My Lords, I am grateful for noble Lords’ contribution to this group and pleased that they welcome the broad aim of the amendment. On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, I hope that I have spelled out clearly exactly what the restrictions will be—and we will continue to do so. Again, that is something that we will consult the industry on and details can be included in regulations.
Amendment 12 agreed.
Amendments 13 and 14 not moved.
Clause 12: Trailer registration
My Lords, this group of amendments deals with the situation for the trailer market. It is clear that the provisions in the back half of the Bill, which deals with trailers, are important and welcome. As the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, said, at one point I had to be quite familiar with all this, but, thankfully in some ways, I have lost touch with parts of the industry in the interim. Nevertheless, it has been represented to me that the trailer market and the use of trailers is actually quite a complex subject—although a more pejorative word is sometimes used. For example, trailers are shared, hired out, or picked up by a driver for one operator and delivered to another, used for part of the journey and then used by another operator. What I am querying in the text is that the reference to the operator or keeper does not seem to include the part of the trailer market that is effectively hiring out. They are either hiring out for money or hiring out in kind by swapping one trailer for another or for a whole range of different services for trailers. It is a complicated area but it is important that those who hire out vehicles have the same obligations on registration, safety and the offences created by the Bill as do operators who always use their own trailers or operate on simpler, less complicated arrangements.
This is a significant part of the market without which the whole system would not operate, or at least it would be hugely more costly and inconvenient to operate without it. Therefore, those who hire out trailers, on whatever terms, are an important part of the efficiency of the sector. But they, likewise, have responsibilities. The Bill should reflect that they have the same responsibilities for registration and related matters as other operators within the sector. I beg to move.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, raises an important issue which did not have much discussion in Committee. It is a complex issue partly because it is possible to stick a registration plate on a trailer but not really know which trailer it is for. It appears to be the same trailer, but it could be a different one, depending on what is pulling it. We need a system to specify who is responsible and who is operating in a rental market for trailers. We should remember that rental trailers range from trailers used to cart excess household rubbish to the tip through to camping trailers for holidays and up to large commercial trailers. It is a big market. We must also take account of the important issue that, at the commercial level of the industry, drivers swap trailers regularly. In order to be fair to the drivers, there needs to be a simple way for them to check that the trailer is properly registered and safe. That is a key issue that we did not address at all in Committee.
My Lords, I take it that the intention of the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, is to deal with the commercial HGV trailer market. He said that the issue is complex, and it is certainly that. There is a wide variety of renting, leasing and finance arrangements and they will all have different registration arrangements, so he is right that it is complex. However, it is no more complex than the situation for tractor units or rigid vehicles, which also have complex leasing and rental arrangements. Equally, the situation is no more complicated for a trailer than it is for a goods vehicle. I therefore cannot see why we need to have special consideration in this legislation in the way that the noble Lord suggests.
The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, suggested that operators would not know which trailer is which. However, we already have the ministry plate which is attached to the trailer along with the goods vehicle test disc. Moreover, there is a chassis number on the trailer and the manufacturer’s plate.
For clarity, I was referring to the casual observer rather than the industry insider, or indeed the police or any law enforcement agency that sought to check.
Yes, my Lords. As I understand it, there will also be a conventional number plate on the trailer. Once it is registered under this legislation, it will have a number plate in the same way as a rigid vehicle.
The noble Baroness touched on smaller trailers for private use. My comments are particularly aimed at the commercial sector.
My Lords, the amendments proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, rightly draw attention to the important issue of rented trailers. I will explain how the introduction of a registration scheme could affect rental companies and operators, and I take the opportunity to underline that this is an issue we continue to consider and have engaged with stakeholders on previously. Furthermore, I can confirm that nothing in the regulations will prevent hauliers continuing to rent trailers either domestically or internationally. From our ongoing engagement with industry, we recognise that trailer rental is an important issue for many hauliers. Trailer rental provides hauliers with the valuable flexibility they need at short notice to deal with unforeseen spikes in demand or to cover the maintenance of their fleet. Such flexibility is therefore vital to the industry to continue to operate efficiently and I welcome the opportunity to speak further on the matter.
Trailer registration will be slightly different from that of motor vehicle registration as there will be no requirement for units used solely domestically to be registered, whereas for a motor vehicle this is not the case. We continue to seek to engage broadly around how this will be managed with the rental industry, the haulage companies and those who rent the vehicles.
As with motor vehicle rental the “keeper” of a registered trailer will remain the rental company; this keepership does not transfer for the period for which a trailer is rented out. Accordingly, the keeper of a trailer will be responsible for the registration of that trailer. Rental companies will have certain obligations as keepers, such as ensuring that the trailer’s details in the register are correct, but these will be within their control and proportionate. Where a user intends to use a trailer for an international journey, either to or through a country that has ratified the 1968 convention, they are responsible for ensuring that the trailer is appropriately registered. I agree entirely with the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, that we need to make sure that the system is simple for people to use to ensure this. Rental trailer users will have additional obligations, such as ensuring that they are displaying the registration plate, as mentioned by my noble friend Lord Attlee. We believe that that is fair and proportionate, given that commercial operators will already be familiar with the registration scheme.
With no current domestic requirement for registration, clearly rental companies themselves should not be held liable for an operator’s independent use of an unregistered trailer abroad when the use of that same trailer on a road in the UK would be completely lawful. We will work with representatives of the rental industry to ensure that they understand the changes made under this Bill and in the subsequent regulations, and the necessary preparations that they must make to continue to rent trailers to be used internationally. This is necessary to ensure that rental companies remain able to service the needs of haulage companies operating both domestically and internationally.
The principle of the responsibility of the user to ensure that the trailer they are using for international journeys is registered will also apply in the case of trailer units being borrowed or informally shared between operators. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, correctly highlighted this as being regular practice in the industry. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, has further proposed amendments to the fees and offences clauses in Part 2 of the Bill. I can confirm that the Bill in its current form contains the necessary powers to accommodate the renting of trailers and their usage in relation to the provisions of the Bill.
We will seek to consult further on trailer rental, which will help to inform our guidance as we make the regulations. We recognise that requiring the registration only of trailers being used internationally may create some practical complexity for rental companies and their customers, so we will work closely with the industry to try to minimise this. The proposals for the scheme have already been discussed with the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association and we will continue to engage with it on the matter in the coming months. That will be an important stage in ensuring that the sector understands the proposals made and may ensure that it adequately prepares for the regime ahead of its implementation.
I hope I have explained the Government’s intentions clearly. I absolutely agree that we need to clarify this further in the regulations; we intend to do so in detail in consultation with the industry. As I said, I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss this matter further but I hope the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, feels able not to press his amendment.
I thank the Minister for her response. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, said that this matter is no different from hiring tractors or any other form of vehicle, but this part of the Bill deals with trailers. At a casual read, it did not appear to cover the hiring, letting or contracting out of trailers. The Minister assures me that it does; I assume her lawyers know what they are talking about. She also assured us that this would be covered explicitly in the consultation. I am therefore prepared to accept that it will be covered, that there is no loophole and that this is not an area that the very commendable tightening up of trailer registration would miss. Not covering this would lead to anomalies. It is slightly odd that “keeper” or “user” includes hirers; nevertheless, if it does, I accept that, as long as it is clarified to the industry and those who enforce the regulations that we have yet to see and that the Minister rightly says will be widely consulted on. Subject to that, I thank the Minister and I will withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 15 withdrawn.
Moved by Lord Tunnicliffe
16: Clause 12, page 8, line 36, at end insert—“(2A) The Secretary of State must collate comprehensive data on the number and nature of trailer-related road accidents in the United Kingdom, and the Secretary of State must include the findings in a report.(2B) Such a report must include a recommendation regarding the necessity or not for the compulsory registration of trailers weighing more than 750kg kept or used on roads, regardless of whether the trailer is being used internationally or only in the United Kingdom, in a register to be kept by the Secretary of State.(2C) The report must be laid before each House of Parliament within the period of one year beginning with the day on which this section comes into force.”
My Lords, I shall also speak to Amendment 17 in my name.
The National Trailer and Towing Association has long campaigned for the periodic inspection and testing of light trailers. One of the main barriers to that is the lack of a trailer registration scheme that covers category O1 and O2 trailers. Noble Lords are aware of the tragic case of Donna and Scott Hussey’s very young son, Freddie, who was killed in 2014 when he was hit by a two-tonne trailer that had come loose from a Land Rover. The family and their MP, Karin Smyth, have been campaigning ever since for better trailer safety to try to prevent further serious injury and deaths. What is needed—and what Amendments 16 and 17 provide for—is the creation of clear evidence based around weights and categories of trailers in relation to their safety and the number and nature of trailer-related road accidents in the UK.
The Government need to take action on this, rather than making vague promises to consider this in the future. There is a strong argument for looking specifically at the safety of trailers in the O2 category, weighing between 750 kilograms and 3.5 tonnes. With a genuine data collection exercise and assessment of evidence, the Government would be in a position to make an informed and responsible decision, befitting Her Majesty’s Government, on whether trailers in that category should be registered and subject to stringent safety testing. The data presented in the Minister’s letter mostly conflates that of trailers below 3.5 tonnes and large—category O3 or O4—trailers above that weight. This is misleading because the data referring to these large trailers is irrelevant to the central issue. We are not questioning the safety of large trailers of this nature because, as has been highlighted, they are already subject to robust safety procedures and checks and subsequently have high pass rates. Those figures, and comparisons with non-GB countries, relate only to large tested vehicles over 3.5 tonnes, not the lower categories of trailer with which we are at present most concerned.
Crucially, any analysis of the Department for Transport data on the safety of trailers below 3.5 tonnes shows some major gaps in reported data. This makes it impossible to describe the best attempt of Ministers to argue on the Government’s behalf that we have a representative assessment of how safe or unsafe domestic users of trailers are on our roads.
The statistics presented in the letter on incidents involving light trailers do not represent all such incidents, but only those reported and recorded by police. Road traffic incidents reported to the police include only those involving a personal injury and that occur on public roads. The DfT therefore clearly states in its annual report on road casualties:
“These figures … do not represent the full range of all accidents or casualties”,
in Great Britain, and goes on to include details of other sources of statistics with vastly higher recorded accidents and road traffic injuries.
We would also like to draw a distinction between the current method of capturing data on trailer safety after an injury has occurred in an incident, and the DfT’s failure to lead any kind of initiative to collect data on the roadworthiness of smaller trailers using stop-and-search-type testing to prevent such accidents occurring in the first place. This has been highlighted by Avon and Somerset Police as an urgent priority. It argues that its own evidence of checks shows the unsafe condition of the majority of domestic trailers, which, despite being overwhelming, is still ignored.
The evidence presented by the National Trailer and Towing Association and others shows the shocking safety standards of many untested trailers under 3.5 tonnes. According to it, a large proportion of such trailers would fail any roadworthiness test. When the Secretary of State undertakes a data-collection exercise and collates comprehensive data on the number and nature of trailer-related road accidents in the United Kingdom, it is vital that this includes data gathered specifically on the safety of trailers in the O2 category.
The logic of the concept that trailers should be registered and tested seems at first sight overwhelming: 750 kilograms of trailer traveling at 70 mph out of control can do as much damage as a small car travelling at 70 mph. Clearly, the solution is that they should be registered and inspected. The Minister will tell us that this is unnecessarily bureaucratic, too complex and disproportionate. Indeed, that was exactly the position that I took in 1960, when I was told that I had to have an MOT test for my car, which, being seven years older than me, seemed to have shown through time that it would manage. We are a long way on from then, and we now accept the MOT test as part of our lives. In fact, MOT testing is one area where our requirements are significantly ahead of the EU’s. We are going to tighten the MOT test at, I think, the end of this month, which will have a significant impact on many car owners. We are willing to be quite brave in imposing this testing regime on vehicles, particularly private motor vehicles, and to some extent we have been rewarded in recent years through a reduction in the number of tragedies.
This is about people dying, and it is about Freddie. But, as I said, the Minister will argue that it is disproportionate. That is why our two amendments are so stunningly reasonable. I will go through them briefly. Amendment 16 would require the Secretary of State to do three things: to collate data, to then take a view of registration and say when they should be presented in a report. The key words are in proposed new subsection (2B): “or not”. The amendment would require the Secretary of State to collate data and make a decision based on them whether to register trailers. Amendment 17 is similar. It would require the report to decide whether it is necessary “or not”—this is at the discretion of the Secretary of State—to introduce a mandatory safety standards testing scheme. The last part of the amendment would enable and empower the Secretary of State to make regulations to introduce such a scheme.
While we believe that registration and examination will be a key improvement in safety and would have saved this little boy’s life and those of other people who die in events relating to trailers, we accept the charge of proportionality. Somebody must take an analytical approach to it and make a judgment on whether this would be grossly disproportionate to the benefits gained. That is why both amendments would allow the Secretary of State to make decisions based on evidence. We are insisting not on registration or a testing scheme in the amendments, but that the Secretary of State goes through an orderly, analytical process and comes to a decision. I beg to move.
My Lords, I spoke at length in Committee on this matter. I do not intend to do so today. This is a very good compromise arrangement. The Government would ultimately take the decision. We would simply establish a framework on which basis a Government can take the decision. I hope the Government will accept the amendment.
My Lords, safety has to be taken extremely seriously in this context. Along with the Minister and, I suspect, most of the people here, I rather wish that there had been no need for this legislation, but since we have it we might as well use it in this situation to draw attention to, and give the Government the opportunity to draw some conclusions on, the issue of safety.
The National Caravan Council believes that the number of accidents connected to caravans and similar trailers are mainly not due to the design or condition of the caravan or trailer itself. Most are caused by bad driving, bad loading or bad hitching of the trailer. Therefore, there is a huge need for public education on this. I very much hope that the Government will use the opportunity of providing the report suggested in the amendment by looking at the need for widespread public education on this.
I do not know whether any noble Lords have witnessed an accident of this nature. I did, driving behind a caravan on a motorway. A small wobble rapidly becomes magnified until it becomes a huge sweep of the caravan. Eventually, it cuts back on itself. That motorway was closed for six hours and very serious injuries were sustained. It was a frightening experience which brought home to me how important it is that driving with a trailer is done moderately. In that case—there may have been other factors—it was clear to me that the driver with the caravan was going much too fast, hence the need for public education.
The National Caravan Council has made the point that it has its own scheme for registration; I mentioned this also in Committee. A third of trailers and caravans are registered with its scheme. It provided me with an example of its documentation. It has 28 different security features, and it recommends it as far superior to the UK vehicle registration certificate. You may wonder why you need such registration security features. It is because apparently there is a very lively market in stolen trailers and caravans. The council has taken very seriously the issue of ensuring that caravans are exactly what they say they are, because they are frequently not just stolen but given a new personality—if I may put it that way—new features and so on to disguise them.
I therefore urge the Minister to take this amendment seriously, to give it due consideration and to give us an assurance that if the Government look at a trailer registration scheme they will not seek to duplicate what already exists and works well across a large part of the industry. A parallel is in the Corgi gas safety scheme—it is now called Gas Safe, I believe. That was an example from many years ago of the then Government seeking not to control a safety scheme but to work with the industry to introduce one, which became hugely important and successful. I urge that any kind of registration scheme be done in that same spirit of partnership with the industry.
My Lords, I have realised to my horror that I have not repeated the declaration of interest that I made at the earlier proceedings: I own or operate two very large trailers, one of which weighs 27,000 kilograms and the other 17,000 kilograms empty.
I am very concerned about light trailer safety, about which I spoke at greater length in Committee. I had discussions on the matter with my noble friend the Minister in private and was able to go a lot further than I went in public in frightening her a bit—I hope. It is a remaining weakness in our road safety regime and the condition of our vehicles, as the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, alluded to. It is not necessary to have a universal light trailer registration scheme to achieve testing of trailers, but the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, spoke about theft of trailers. She is absolutely on the money: this is a big problem. I suspect that it would be alleviated by general registration of trailers, because, to sell a stolen trailer, one needs an identity. Due to changes made to the write-off provisions for cars, for instance, it is much more difficult to acquire an identity of a written-off vehicle—for reasons with which I shall not bore the House. There may therefore be an argument for registering small trailers for reasons of deterring theft, but it would not be necessary if one wanted a testing regime.
I mentioned that I have had a private discussion with my noble friend the Minister. I have also secured a meeting, planned for
My Lords, I did not intend to speak on this amendment, but I was really rather surprised to hear the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, say that he was in favour of registering trailers against the risk of theft. I rather got the impression that he was not concerned about safety: after all, cars have MOT tests largely to ensure that they operate safely. Given the examples that my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe and the noble Baroness have given of things that have gone wrong with trailers, with some pretty disastrous results, it seems to me there is a very strong argument for having registration to cover safety as well. Whether that covers the same things as the MOT, we can debate, but it seems important. Not all trailers weigh 27 tonnes—I congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, on being able to pull 27 tonnes with something that goes down the road legally—but I think there is a very strong argument from a road safety point of view for having a registration scheme.
I think it was really good that we had the benefit of a pep talk from the noble Countess, Lady Mar, who is on the Woolsack as we speak, because I can correct the noble Lord on a material point: my point was that it is not essential to have a registration scheme if you want to have a testing scheme, even for light freight. Even now we have a testing scheme for HGV trailers but we do not have a registration scheme. It does not mean that I do not think it is important; it is just that it is not necessary to have a registration scheme.
My Lords, I too was not going to intervene in this debate but one additional point occurs to me that the noble Baroness might like to take note of. To make the point I have to declare an interest: I am chair of the Road Safety Foundation and of an organisation called EASST, which deals with projects on road safety—roads and vehicles—in eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and Asia. My point is that Britain has often led the way in road safety. Statistics are difficult to come by, but anecdotally the number of problems with trailers in developing countries with inadequate road systems in central Asia and even in eastern Europe is quite substantial.
We have heard of horrific cases here from my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe, but there are equally horrific anecdotal cases from other countries. Given the respect in which Britain’s road safety expertise is held around the world, a report of the kind that my noble friend’s amendment calls for could well influence global road safety and therefore be a contribution from the DfT to the new global Britain, and could be presented that way to otherwise reluctant colleagues in the House of Commons who might not accept simply another report. It is important that we maintain that lead on road safety and this is one area which, to my knowledge, has not been systematically addressed in the international road safety community.
My Lords, safety is of course very important and warrants due care and consideration whenever we are legislating. Under the proposals in the Bill, around 80,000 commercial trailers, and a negligible number of non-commercial trailers, would fall within the mandatory scope of the scheme. It would not affect the 1.7 million trailer users who solely use their trailer domestically. We believe that this approach balances the need to offer clarity to UK operators and enable them to continue to operate internationally, without placing undue costs and administrative requirements on businesses and non-commercial users.
It may be helpful to explain the existing regimes in place to ensure high standards of safety and roadworthiness of trailers. This includes an annual testing regime for larger trailers and an approvals regime for new trailers. The current annual testing regime applies to almost all trailers weighing over 3.5 tonnes, with very limited exceptions. Certain other categories are also included, such as those weighing over 1,020 kilograms with powered braking systems. This regime covered the testing of almost a quarter of a million trailers in 2016-17. The pass rate at first test last year was 88%. The separate approvals regime is very similar to that which is in place for motor vehicles and covers new trailers ahead of their entry into service. This means that almost all new trailers are approved either by model or on an individual basis ahead of taking to the roads.
The amendment seeks the collating of a report on the number and nature of accidents involving trailers. I confirm to noble Lords that this data is already recorded in the annual Reported Road Casualties in Great Britain report published by the department every September, which I am happy to share with noble Lords; there is also a copy in the Library. It contains extensive details of all vehicles and persons involved in accidents reported to the police that occurred on a public highway, involving at least one motor vehicle and where at least one person was injured. The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, pointed out the limitation that those are the only figures included. The report recorded statistics for more than 136,000 accidents resulting in injuries and has informed the department’s ongoing work on road safety, for which my honourable friend Jesse Norman is the Minister responsible. The number of recorded accidents involving a trailer in 2016 was 4,352, which accounted for 3.2% of the total number of accidents in 2016. The total number of accidents involving trailers has decreased by 21% in the last 10 years—a significant improvement.
The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, spoke of the tragic death of Freddie Hussey. I pay tribute to the campaign of his family and his local MP. Following this incident, the department and its agencies have undertaken significant work as part of our continuing commitment to improve towing safety standards. Highways England has launched the national towing working group, which brings together a range of stakeholders. The DVSA published further guidance regarding safe towing practices.
Noble Lords will appreciate that towing, by the fact of involving two vehicles, is more complex than driving a motor vehicle alone. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, highlighted some of the issues that can be faced. It requires not only the safety of the vehicles involved but knowledge of and education on driving and towing safely. Alongside effective enforcement of existing provisions, the department believes that education is integral to continuing to reduce the number of accidents related to towing.
My honourable friend the Roads Minister has been particularly engaged on the issue of trailer safety and has met Karin Smyth, the local MP for the Hussey family. He will be attending the trailer safety summit later this month alongside a range of industry stakeholders to take stock of the progress that has been made and decide what more can be done. I absolutely echo the sentiment of noble Lords that each death that occurs on the roads is a tragedy and we must do all we can do avoid them, but I hope noble Lords will agree that these figures and the work I have spoken of underline the fact that the trailers on our roads exhibit good standards of safety and our current approach is seeing steady improvements.
We remain of the view that it is not appropriate to include these amendments in the Bill, but the debate they have raised has been valuable. We will continue to review safety regimes on an ongoing basis, but I appreciate the wish of noble Lords for the department to look further at this issue of trailer safety, and I have discussed this in detail with my honourable friend the Roads Minister. We have asked officials to review what further steps could be taken on trailer safety and the reporting measures that are in place.
Although we remain of the view that trailer registration and indeed a trailer safety check are not integral to improving these standards, it is of course appropriate that we continually look for opportunities to consider data collection, review our conclusions on registration and testing, and raise standards of safety on the roads. As such, I am pleased to be able to commit the department to producing a dedicated report on trailer safety. This report will ensure that our existing reporting on trailers accurately covers the complexity involved in accidents involving towing where issues may arise from a vehicle, trailer or indeed the capability of the driver of the towing vehicle. After looking at the reported road casualties document, I agree that we could and should look at the way that we report trailer safety. It can definitely be improved. The report will also consider the role that registration and testing may play in continuing to improve trailer safety standards. We will certainly discuss this with the Caravan Council and other industry representatives.
As my noble friend Lord Attlee said, following our previous session I have arranged for him to meet the Roads Minister to further discuss trailer safety. On behalf of my honourable friend the Minister, I would like to extend this invitation to all noble Lords with an interest in the subject. The contents of this report I have committed to can be discussed there in more detail. I hope noble Lords are reassured by the statistics I have outlined and by the approach that the department is taking more generally. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, for suggesting a report in his amendment and I am pleased to be able to agree to such a report.
As I have throughout debate on the Bill, I have attempted to take on board the views of all noble Lords. I fully agree that the department should consider this issue further but, with my commitment to such a report, I do not think it is necessary to seek to include the amendment in the Bill by dividing the House. With the agreement to a report and the offer of a meeting with my honourable friend the Roads Minister to discuss the contents of such a report, I hope that the noble Lord feels able to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response and her department for the steps already made, but she used the argument which is always used in these circumstances: “Not in this Bill”. The problem is that the Bill is here and this is an opportunity. As the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, pointed out, this is a hole in our legislation, and it is a hole that we believe should be filled.
It is a matter of life or death. I have been involved in the life-or-death industry for many years. In that, you have to worry about not simply the safety; you have to be reasonable and proportionate. That is why these two amendments are framed in this way. They would require the collection of data; the Minister has said that that is going ahead anyway. They would then require the Secretary of State to analyse that data and to make some decisions. Finally, they would enable the Secretary of State to introduce appropriate schemes. It seems that, from what has been said, most of what is in these amendments is acceptable to the Government anyway. The key additional part is the requirement for decision-making and the enabling of that decision-making to result in an appropriate scheme, if that is what the analysis reveals. Accordingly, I am not willing to withdraw this amendment and I beg to test the opinion of the House.
Ayes 215, Noes 212.
Division number 1
Moved by Lord Tunnicliffe
17: Clause 13, page 9, line 14, at end insert—“(2A) The report referred to in section 12(2A) must include a recommendation regarding the necessity or not for a periodic mandatory safety standards testing scheme for all trailers weighing more than 750kg.(2B) Subject to subsection (2A), regulations may make provision for a periodic mandatory safety standards testing scheme which must apply to all trailers weighing more than 750kg kept or used on roads, whether the trailer is being used internationally or only in the United Kingdom, with inspections of such trailers to be undertaken on an annual basis.”
Amendment 17 agreed.
Clause 16: Fees
Amendment 18 not moved.
Clause 17: Offences
Amendment 19 not moved.
Moved by Baroness Sugg
20: Before Clause 20, insert the following new Clause—“Consultation(1) Before making regulations under Part 1 or Part 2, the Secretary of State must consult such persons as the Secretary of State thinks fit.(2) The requirement to consult under subsection (1) may be satisfied by consultation that took place wholly or partly before the passing of this Act.”
My Lords, at Second Reading and in Committee we discussed our intention to consult industry on possible permit arrangements and the trailer registration scheme. Ministers and officials in my department have been engaged with industry throughout the development of the Bill and have held workshops with hauliers and relevant trade associations. We also intend to hold a public consultation on the details of these schemes that will inform the regulations made under this Bill.
Given the importance we place on understanding the impact of regulations on hauliers and trailer users, I now propose to include a requirement to consult in the Bill. The amendment provides that, before making regulations, the Secretary of State must consult such persons as he thinks fit. This wording and this obligation are consistent with other road traffic legislation, such as the Road Traffic Act 1988. I hope that noble Lords will support the inclusion of this clause. I beg to move.
My Lords, I welcome the Government’s amendment. The Minister has made a significant gesture. In my amendment, Amendment 27, which relates to Clause 21, I have specified a number of organisations because I see no harm in having certain key organisations named in the Bill. To choose one organisation at random from the list, the Freight Transport Association has existed since the 19th century. It would do no harm to specify it in the Bill. The amendment allows the Secretary of State complete discretion to add other organisations as he sees fit.
My earlier amendment did not include the trade unions. Having tabled the amendment, I looked at it the next day and thought, “Oh, there’s no reference to the trade unions”. At a meeting this morning, it was pointed out to me that, although my list is perfectly admirable as far as it goes, it does not refer to the National Farmers’ Union or the Farmers Union of Wales, whereas trailers are an important part of farm working. Therefore, it is important that we look very widely at the list of organisations. I gather that the Government have not yet consulted the trade unions—that is what the Minister said in Committee. I believe that she has not yet had the opportunity to meet the National Caravan Council. Given that this Bill is a coat-hanger, it is important that there is very wide government consultation because so many aspects of the Bill are going to be crucial to the haulage industry.
Whatever arrangement with the EU we come to in the end, it is important that all aspects of the haulage industry and of industries that are affected by haulage are consulted on the implications of the Bill. That is particularly the case because the Government now say that the Bill will come into play not just if there is no agreement with the EU but that aspects of the Bill will come into play whatever happens. I urge the Minister to consider the widest possible consultation in future on the Bill.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, for her amendment. We feel that the inclusion of a list of consultees in this clause would not give the Secretary of State sufficient flexibility to decide who needs to be consulted. I take the noble Baroness’s point that we can always add to the list, but as soon as we add organisations to it we are statutorily obliged to consult them. For example, if a highly technical amendment needed to be made or if a change were to be made to permits regulations, we would be obliged to consult trailer stakeholders. As I mentioned earlier, there are good precedents for the wording of the government amendment.
We are consulting widely on the regulations, beyond those organisations included in the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, and I can reassure noble Lords that we will consult all the groups listed in her amendment. We are planning to consult on the regulations before the Bill receives Royal Assent, as we intend to bring forward regulations shortly after the passing of the Bill to give as much time as possible for hauliers to make any necessary preparations for leaving the EU.
On the noble Baroness’s point about the National Caravan Council, I have sadly not had the opportunity to meet it yet, but just this afternoon my honourable friend Jesse Norman, the Roads Minister, is meeting it to follow up on a number of meetings with officials.
On trade unions, the department regularly speaks to the unions, specifically Unite and the United Road Transport Union, on freight issues. We absolutely will involve them in the consultation on new regulations. Noble Lords referred to their helpful contributions on the criteria side of things, which we will also be looking at.
We have had workshops covering permits and trailer registrations and shared the policy scoping documents with stakeholders and, as I said, we intend to consult publicly in the next few months. That will now be a statutory requirement, should this amendment be accepted. We will continue to consult with all these organisations. We are very aware of how these regulations can affect industry, whether it be the haulage industry or the caravan industry, and indeed leisure users. I hope that reassurance allows the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment. I am pleased with the broad support that the government amendment has received, and I beg to move.
Amendment 20 agreed.
Clause 21: Regulations
Moved by Baroness Sugg
21: Clause 21, page 13, line 4, at end insert—“( ) A statutory instrument containing (with or without other provision)—(a) the first regulations under section 1,(b) the first regulations under section 2,(c) the first regulations under section 12, or(d) the first regulations under section 17,may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.”
My Lords, again in response to points raised in Committee, I acknowledged that Parliament indeed needs sufficient time to properly scrutinise legislation and I committed to give further consideration to how best to give that scrutiny.
Amendments 21 and 26 in my name provide for the first regulations made under Clauses 1, 2, 12 or 17 to be subject to the affirmative procedure. The Government agree that it is appropriate for the regulations to be subject to further scrutiny when laid when they set up substantive new provisions. The new provision acknowledges the fact that the Bill does not—and indeed cannot—provide Parliament with details on what the regulations might contain as a result of our exit from the EU, as we have not yet reached agreement on our future partnership with the EU.
By applying the affirmative procedure in the first instance, we can ensure that Parliament has the opportunity to scrutinise the overall approach regarding the powers used under Clauses 1 and 2, which will set out the way in which the permit system and the allocation will work; under Clause 12, which will set out the approach to trailer registration; and under Clause 17 on offences. If and when amendments are made to the regulations, the framework will already be in place and, as such, further changes are likely to be technical in nature. The Government take the view that the negative procedure will provide an appropriate level of parliamentary oversight for such amendments to the original regulations. We expect that the first regulations that are issued will be the ones that provide an overarching framework and will be used for the provision of permits under any future schemes. I beg to move.
My Lords, my amendments would simply ensure that the affirmative procedure is used throughout, and not just in the first instance. I welcome the fact that the Government have moved on the issue of making this an affirmative procedure in the first instance, but I remind noble Lords that the DPRRC recommended the sifting procedure. It also expressed extreme concern about the vagueness of the Bill, to put it in simple terms. There is a strong case for ensuring that the affirmative procedure is used more widely than just in the first instance. This relates particularly to where offences are being created. There is an issue of public confidence that Parliament has had the opportunity to consider what is being done as a result of the Bill.
Amendment 28 once again reintroduces the concept of a sunset clause, which would cause Sections 1 and 3 of the Bill to expire after three years. The Secretary of State could extend that by affirmative resolution—this was recommended by the DPRRC. I believe that I have allowed a very generous time for the sunset clause. Our argument is that the Government should use the Bill—or at least Sections 1 and 3—to do what it was drafted for and what it was proposed that it should do, which is to be a backstop in relation to a failure to agree with the EU and reach some kind of settlement that is mutually acceptable on all sides. We very much hope that a failure to agree will not happen. We all hope that there will be a positive and strong agreement with the EU in the end. But, in the event of failure, the Government have this Bill, and it should be used for the purposes that it was apparently drafted for. I believe that it remains too wide and therefore that there is a good argument for a sunset clause and for ensuring that any offences created should be subject to the affirmative procedure.
My Lords, in Committee, I argued that we are too keen on debating affirmative orders; I am not convinced it is necessary. With the negative procedure, if we have adverse briefing from industry and lobby groups, we can flag a negative order up for debate and debate it just as thoroughly as an affirmative order. I welcome the government amendment to provide for the affirmative procedure for the first such order as a sensible compromise. There is a danger with going for the affirmative procedure for subsequent orders. Suppose a small problem with secondary legislation is detected but you need an affirmative order to correct it. Officials’ advice will be that it is not worth going for an affirmative order just to correct this small problem, whereas if we were using the negative procedure, it could be corrected and there would be no controversy with outside bodies. I suggest, therefore, that we are cautious about the use of affirmative orders.
As for the noble Baroness’s sunset clause, noble Lords will recall that I have been very active on Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, where we have a sunset problem because the Government chose not to commence a piece of legislation, so I have sympathy for sunset clauses. I think there is a slight defect in the noble Baroness’s amendment and in Committee I suggested considering my alternative amendment. The defect is that the Secretary of State can go for an affirmative order to extend the period but that just extends it once for 15 years, whereas my amendment would have given only a small extension each time. I will share my amendment with the noble Baroness.
I am also in discussion with the Cabinet Office and had a meeting with Cabinet Office officials, attended by my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham, to explore this very issue, because I am at one with the noble Baroness that we should not have legislation hanging around that has not been commenced. Perhaps the noble Baroness will agree with the Minister on the amendment.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for moving from what was an entirely untenable position in the original Bill. I wish she had moved further—I find many of the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, sensible—but I cannot at this stage see a position that moves further but not all the way, for want of a better way of putting it. Therefore, I reluctantly accept the Government’s compromise.
My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords for their contributions to the debate and, as it is the last group today, I am grateful for contributions throughout the passage of the Bill. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, has moved an amendment to provide a sunset clause for some aspects of permanent schemes introduced under the legislation, and the DPRRC report also recommended the insertion of sunset provisions. I agree that the Bill should not provide powers that may never be used, but use of the regulation-making powers set out in the Bill does not depend on the outcome of our negotiations with the EU, as we have discussed. The powers will be used in any event for applications outside the EU context—for applications pursuant to our bilateral agreements with non-EU countries, for example—so a sunset provision would constrain our ability to manage permit applications for those bilateral agreements.
I agree with the noble Baroness’s intention to ensure that unnecessary and unused legislation does not languish on the statute book but, as I said, that would not be the case. The effect of the amendment, even with the Secretary of State’s ability to extend it, would be to commit both government and Parliament to an unnecessary procedure. We would always need to extend the clause, as we would be using the regulations. For that reason, I urge the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.
I tabled the government amendment to apply the affirmative procedure to the first regulations made and those first regulations only. I have taken account of the views of the DPRRC and the Constitution Committee—I am grateful for their work in scrutinising the Bill—and the concerns raised in Committee and agree that there should be further scrutiny of regulations in this case as they are likely to have an impact on the haulage sector. We believe that it is appropriate for the first regulations only; the same scrutiny is not required for subsequent regulations. The noble Baroness mentioned offences in particular. Again, we are following precedent by moving offences to affirmative first. In recent regulations, such as those under the Childcare Act, those offences are only affirmative first, and that is what we followed.
We want to ensure that scrutiny of the regulations in this area is proportionate, and we spent some time in Grand Committee debating the merits of the affirmative and negative procedures. We are using powers that will replicate many aspects of existing schemes such as those under the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act, and those regulations are subject to the negative procedure but, given that these regulations will introduce an entirely new scheme, it is absolutely appropriate that they are affirmative in the first instance.
I hope noble Lords will agree that the government amendments allow proper and proportionate scrutiny, and I commend them.
Amendment 22 (to Amendment 21) withdrawn.
Amendments 23 to 25 (to Amendment 21) not moved.
Amendment 21 agreed.