Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Bill [HL] - Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 17th April 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Sugg Baroness Sugg Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 4:00 pm, 17th April 2018

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.