Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Bill [HL] - Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:30 pm on 17th April 2018.

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Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Conservative 4:30 pm, 17th April 2018

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.