Licensing of Operators and International Road Haulage (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 18th March 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Randerson Baroness Randerson Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport) 4:15 pm, 18th March 2019

My Lords, I start with the big question, as I see it: where does this dovetail with ECMT permits? We have already been through those in relation to an SI. They are already established as part of our no-deal preparations, and there has already been feedback on the fact that only 5% of the industry will be covered by them. So is this an either/or, or is it an either/or that kicks in after December this year? Perhaps the Minister could clarify for me exactly where this regulation stands in the whole thing.

In essence, and I say these words carefully, this SI substitutes a community licence applied for in the UK with a UK licence for the community. No wonder the public are beginning to get frustrated with the whole thing. Given that this applies to thousands of hauliers—thousands of small haulage firms, many with one or two vehicles—they could be forgiven for getting confused over this. That innocuous though confusing change of name hides a fundamental potential change in their rights to operate within the EU.

On Northern Ireland, I have very serious concerns about cabotage and cross-trade. Paragraph 6.5 of the Explanatory Memorandum makes several references to future arrangements in Northern Ireland. There is of course a great deal of cross-border haulage between Northern Ireland and the Republic. The situation is very nuanced because goods haulage is very different from passenger transport. What will happen to these arrangements if Northern Ireland is caught in the backstop? Generally these SIs say, “We’re sorting Northern Ireland separately”, but this one incorporates arrangements for Northern Ireland. That led me to wonder how it will operate if Northern Ireland is caught in the backstop. Am I right to assume that in that situation these arrangements would cease to apply?

Rather obliquely, paragraph 6.6 of the Explanatory Memorandum says that the amendments made by the SI also apply to coach and bus services, but paragraph 7.9 says that there is separate provision for international passenger transport. Could I have an explanation of that?

Importantly, regulation 1071/2009 allows member states some discretion to impose additional requirements of operators, and once again the Secretary of State is to get that power. I repeat my usual questions. What about transparency? On whose advice would the Secretary of State exercise this power? How would it be done? Would there be a role for Parliament? Would there be a negative or an affirmative process? I know I ask this every time, but I assume that the answer is different on each occasion.

Applications for Community licences currently go to the traffic commissioners. Will they maintain that role for UK licences in future? If so, what about resources? I am well aware that the traffic commissioners have a very broad responsibility and their organisations are usually extremely thinly staffed. There is the usual hope that the EU will continue to recognise our rights as usual, but there are EU proposals on this and, as I understand it, they do not give us full cabotage rights. They also extend only to the end of this year.

The Explanatory Memorandum says that it is hoped that this SI will be superseded by full legislation by the end of the year. As time goes on, the end of this year looks remarkably soon for there to be even more legislation on this. To clarify, is this EU offer for nine months after we leave for a rolling nine months following Brexit, which will kick in only when we leave, or has it offered this up to the end of this year and that is it?

Once again, there has been no consultation. That is especially serious in this case, because thousands of hauliers who make their living in international haulage will not be able to rely on a Community licence in future. This is not a minor change; it is fundamental. Again, SMEs are not especially taken into account.

Finally, if you currently have a Community licence, will you have to reapply for it? Suppose you have a Community licence that is valid to this end of this calendar year: are there any events or potential Brexit scenarios, foreseen or unforeseen, that could lead to hauliers having to reapply for their licence within that timeframe? Everyone expects that they will reapply for their licence at the end of the period covered, but is there anything that could happen that would interrupt that licence? Or are hauliers right, and can be confident to assume, that if they have a valid licence until the end of this year, for example, they can carry on working until then? I would be grateful for clarification on that.