Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Trade Bill - Committee (3rd Day) (continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:30 pm on 30th January 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Randerson Baroness Randerson Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport) 9:30 pm, 30th January 2019

My Lords, I start by craving the indulgence of the Committee and offering an apology for the fact that I missed the start of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord McNichol. I was racing back from Cardiff, but noble Lords will know that that involves the Great Western Railway. The train was only a few minutes late but that was the time I needed in order to hear the beginning of the noble Lord’s speech.

I have three amendments in this group, all designed to ensure that we try to keep the transport system running as normally and smoothly as possible after Brexit. I will start with Amendment 41, which relates to road haulage. We have heard the story many times about the dangers to our road haulage system. Indeed, last week the leaked Border Force document estimated that there could be a decline of up to 87% for three to six months after a no-deal Brexit if some arrangements were not put in place. We have had the preparation for the ECMT certificates that would have to come into place if we had no deal: roughly 1,200 certificates for a haulage industry that involves 30,000-plus hauliers. Clearly, this is totally inadequate. We have had the fiasco of the ferry-less ferry services to try to smooth the process.

We have talked many times in this House about Dover, but I want to say a word about Holyhead, the second-largest roll-on roll-off ferry port in Britain. Some 500 lorries per night go through Holyhead—that is three miles of queues, and the route to the port is through the town. In other words, any kind of queuing system caused by a no-deal Brexit would make it impossible for the town to function. I have had meetings with representatives of the Road Haulage Association, who have alarmed me with some information about the way in which the modern haulage industry works. They pointed out to me that an Amazon lorry can have 8,000 individual shipments on it, which—if we do not have arrangements in place—could lead to an individual customs declaration in each of those 8,000 cases. Each customs declaration has 36 different fields that have to be completed. They estimated that it would take 170 staff one day’s worth of work to deal with one lorry. We all know that Amazon will adapt, but it cannot adapt in two months.

There are numerous other cases and examples of the disruption that no deal would bring, so in this amendment I seek to ensure, in relation to road haulage, that we do not have no deal and keep the arrangements as close as possible to what we have now. We should bear in mind—I was told this by a representative of the freight industry—that it is in what it describes as a huge hole. They said, “The moment we do not apply the rules, we lose control of the border”. So it is no good for our Government to say that we will not do the checks and will take it on trust. The point the freight industry is making is that the moment we start taking things on trust, without the checks, we will have serious problems.

In Amendment 57 we move on to aviation. Many noble Lords will recall that last week the airlines came in for criticism because they had been selling tickets without drawing attention to the fact that, if there is no deal and we leave on 29 March without any arrangements, they felt that those tickets might not necessarily be honoured. That was the criticism and yet the Government have claimed that the aviation situation is arranged and organised.

The airlines have been remarkably silent. Of course, we are aware that they have signed non-disclosure agreements with the Government. I am fully aware that if you look closely at the terms and conditions for tickets sold for travel after 29 March you will find the required wording to ensure that passengers have been warned in legal terms about the situation. However, there has not been the publicity that one would like.

The EU has declared that although planes could and would continue to fly after a no-deal Brexit, it would be a limited permission for a limited period. That permission would extend only to the historic level of flights; in other words, no additional routes or services would be allowed. According to IATA, if we leave with no deal 5 million tickets would be cancelled this year. None of this is good for our aviation industry or our holiday plans—and certainly not good for our business community when a large percentage of business flights are included in those 5 million tickets. My amendment seeks to ensure that aviation will continue in the current manner.

On Amendment 58, I felt unable to add my name to Amendment 40 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord McNicol, because it was too narrow. It is okay as far as it goes but we need more. It refers to bilateral arrangements but we need reciprocal access across rail services, not necessarily only on a bilateral basis. The Government said that they want in the future to make bilateral arrangements with Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium and France—our immediate neighbours. However, rail services currently stretch further than that. I realise that the issue of passenger services relates mainly to Eurostar and the Channel Tunnel, but Eurostar is planning to extend its services beyond those neighbouring countries and into Germany, for example. Freight transport has the North Sea to Mediterranean core network. That freight corridor goes well beyond our immediate neighbours.

In addition, we have to bear in mind that regulatory divergence is bad for manufacturers of trains, the equipment that goes into them and the rails on which they travel. We have a very big industry in that respect and it is extremely worried that our standards are not going to remain in tight alignment.

I believe that these three amendments should be considered seriously as a way of, at a minimum, continuing as far as possible with business as usual, avoiding the perils that we might fall into if we have a free-for-all in the future.