Drivers’ Hours and Tachographs (Temporary Exceptions) (No. 4) Regulations 2021 - Motion for a Humble Address

– in the House of Lords at 8:03 pm on 6th December 2021.

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Earl Attlee:

Moved by Earl Attlee

That a Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying that the Drivers’ Hours and Tachographs (Temporary Exceptions) (No. 4) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/1207), laid before the House on 29 October, be annulled because they fail to address the underlying cause of the shortage of HGV drivers.

Relevant document: 18th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (special attention drawn to the instrument)

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Conservative

My Lords, in moving that the House annuls the Drivers’ Hours and Tachographs (Temporary Exceptions) (No. 4) Regulations 2021, I make it clear that I do not intend to test the opinion of the House. I remind the House that I have an interest, as I hold a C+E HGV driving licence and am a qualified HGV driving instructor, albeit somewhat out of date.

The House will be fully aware that we have faced a very serious shortage of HGV drivers, which has led in turn to petrol stations running out of fuel. There are obvious shortages of certain lines in our supermarkets and elsewhere, but these have been carefully managed by the industry to minimise the inconvenience to consumers. The good news is that, thanks to the efforts of my noble friend the Minister, the Commercial Motor magazine reports that the shortage is no longer deemed to be critical. Apparently, ONS statistics reveal that the number of HGV delivery drivers has increased from 233,000 in Q2 to 261,000 in Q3. It is reported that there are an extra 22,000 drivers aged between 45 and 65. There has also been an increase of 4,000 drivers over the age of 65 and past normal retirement age. We should congratulate my noble friend the Minister, who had the sense to write to every single HGV driver in the land—including me—asking them to come back to HGV driving.

In addition to the very slight relaxation to drivers’ hours provided by this and several other similar regulations, my noble friend has also altered some driving test requirements to free up more examiners for HGV testing. We have already debated these changes. I have no technical problem with the changes to drivers’ hours. My Motion refers to the serious underlying causes of the shortage, to which I will draw your Lordships attention. That is why I have tabled my Motion.

The first problem is now well known and concerns the lack of decent facilities for HGV drivers. This is part of what I said some time ago:

“This amendment concerns the provision of suitable rest facilities for drivers of commercial vehicles so that they can comply with the law and industry can attract and retain suitable drivers. The road transport and the bus industries are currently experiencing a shortage of drivers. Part of the cause may be the poor image and working conditions of the industry. In the past there were many establishments, collectively known as transport cafés, distributed along the trunk road network. Nowadays few survive and most have been turned into Little Chefs or Happy Eaters. Unfortunately, heavy commercial vehicle drivers are not welcome because their vehicles are large and their spend is modest in comparison with that of most car drivers.”—[Official Report, 26/7/00; col. 524.]

I went on to talk about the need for a shower at the end of a day’s driving. I made that speech 21 years ago in your Lordships’ House, so the problem is not a new one. By chance, I recently saw a cartoon in the November 1987 edition of Truck & Driver magazine. The caption was, “Well try finding a cafe round here that’s not been turned into a Little Chef”. It is a planning problem that has been around for a very long time.

In order to be granted a vocational driving licence, the applicant needs to pass a medical examination. This is vital to protect the public from the consequences of a driver being taken ill while driving. Noble Lords will recall the tragedy in Glasgow a few years ago, when six pedestrians were killed. Even before Covid-19 struck, GPs—including mine—have been very reluctant to undertake these medical examinations. For my penultimate examination, I had to go from my home near Petersfield to Maidstone in Kent to get an examination. It is obviously far from ideal for the examination to be undertaken by anyone other than the applicant’s GP, because he or she has the patient’s notes going back, often to birth. This was a factor in the Glasgow tragedy, and the tragedy was entirely avoidable if the GP had been involved.

A further issue can arise if the HGV driver experiences a medical problem. For instance, a few years ago, I needed to undergo an angiogram procedure. As a result of that procedure, my consultant cardiologist was able to assure me that I was fit and safe to drive an HGV. But the DVLA’s medical panel then took several months to reinstate my HGV entitlement. Apart from interfering with my leisure activities, it had no adverse effect on me. However, it may cause a commercial driver either to retrain or return to another trade. It is exceptionally unfair and there seems to be little that an ordinary HGV driver can do about it. Of course, I did not exercise any influence because, first, it would be improper, and also I wanted to see how it would work out for an ordinary HGV driver. I am told that the advice among drivers is not to tell the DVLA about medical conditions and just not to drive an HGV against the doctor’s advice. The poor performance of the medical panel is my noble friend’s ministerial responsibility.

A further difficulty concerns the investigation of serious road traffic collisions. These are extremely distressing for all concerned but, so far as I can see, the police are very slow to exonerate a driver when he or she appears to be blameless. This can result in unfair dismissal and difficulty in securing employment and motor insurance—yet another disincentive to being a professional HGV driver.

A commercial driver, in addition to having an HGV licence, must have a driver certificate of professional competence. Maintaining it requires 35 days of training every five years. I do not have a DCPC as I am exempt, and nor do another 70,000 group C+E drivers and yet another 70,000 group C licence holders. We do not have a shortage of HGV drivers at all, but a shortage of HGV drivers with a DCPC. The problem is that the training provided is not well regarded in the industry and many drivers let their DCPC run down and stop driving commercially. This has a serious adverse effect on part-time and occasional driving because it is not worth having a DCPC for that purpose.

We have left the EU. My noble friend the Minister could easily temporarily relax the requirement for a DCPC while she considers what is to replace it. That would still, in time, give her the corps of professional drivers that she rightly worked so hard to achieve, while the shortage of HGV drivers would be diminished in the short term.

I have banged on for many years about the licensing of goods vehicle operators. The system is still far from effective at eliminating rogue operators from the industry. These operators abuse drivers, force them to flagrantly breach drivers’ hours and give the industry a bad name.

HGV drivers are often despised, despite performing what we now recognise as a vital role in our economy. They are persecuted by traffic wardens when seeking to make a delivery and hounded by the DVSA over relatively trivial infringements of the drivers’ hours rules, while rogue operators are allowed to continue operating. They must frequently make very early starts to get our supplies delivered when and where we want them, which is simply not attractive to people coming into the industry. They also often have to defecate and urinate in the open due to lack of facilities. The staff at regional distribution centres have for decades been allowed to treat them badly for turning up a few minutes adrift from the planned schedule. The work is so unattractive that there are very few female HGV drivers.

My noble friend the Minister has correctly pointed out that many of the reasons why HGV driving is unattractive are down to the industry, and to an extent she is right. However, the two leading trade associations are not doing a first-class job for the industry as far as I can see, and some matters are not for the industry but for central government. I look forward to the Minister’s response. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Randerson Baroness Randerson Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport)

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for ensuring that we have this important and very interesting debate. The reports of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee have been very wide-ranging in the points that they have raised relating to the series of legislation that has come through on drivers’ hours.

The first relaxation of hours was in December 2020 until 31 March 2021 and went from 90 hours per fortnight to 99, and from nine to 11 hours per day for a maximum of two days a week. I say to noble Lords: 11 hours a day of driving? The Minister is looking at me as if I have got the information wrong. I hope she will put me right later on.

On 12 July the relaxation was then extended until 4 October, but the committee— I refer to its 12th report, not its 18th, which I will come to in a minute—noted that similar regulations were debated in March. It noted that the DVSA samples showed

“fairly high levels of non-compliance with the drivers’ hours regime”, and that the Department for Transport did not have records of which of those cases, where there was non-compliance, had actually applied to use the extended hours officially and which cases were just ignoring the limitations. In practice, the Government have sanctioned longer hours. One action is bound, I believe, to knock on to the other. By sanctioning longer hours, it is almost a nod and a wink to those rogue operators the noble Earl mentioned—although I do not suggest that was the Government’s intention. It is not just a question of longer daily driving hours; it is a complex weekly pattern of rest periods for at least 24 hours.

The areas of concern are as follows. First, complexity itself is a problem in the observance of these regulations and, secondly, the Government give them as the reason for this relaxation so that they can maintain critical supply chains. But this relaxation applies to the industry as a whole. In so far as the department has undertaken consultation, the answers on whether the relaxation was welcomed were very divided: 47% were supportive and 43% were opposed. It is worth pointing out that the major haulage organisations have, over a period of time, expressed grave concerns at this method of managing, or attempting to alleviate, the crisis of a lack of drivers. They point out that this is a significant worsening of the employment conditions for drivers at a time when the Government have lighted upon poor employment condition as a reason why we have a driver shortage in the first place.

I notice from the Explanatory Memorandum on the current set of regulations that the word “Brexit” is not allowed to be used, but Brexit has complicated an already serious situation. The problem is that the Government cannot alleviate the situation by encouraging in new drivers from Europe, because the extending of drivers’ hours is seen as a worsening of conditions.

Getting to the nub of this, there is of course an inevitable impact on road safety. “Don’t drive tired” is a slogan for a reason. The secondary legislation committee points out that evidence from previous periods of relaxation has not been referenced or utilised. Normal drivers’ hours are based on accident statistics so they should not be ignored. Seriously, there are a lot of crashes involving lorries, so there is no lack of evidence.

Finally, the 18th report extends this measure again until 10 January. Temporary is becoming permanent, and it is not acceptable. People are learning to accept this; 27% of drivers stopped in roadside tests are now in breach of the normal hours, and there is no evidence that those people have applied for any kind of alleviation of their hours. The Explanatory Memorandum says:

“The Department has not been made aware of any increase in accidents”.

This is the Department for Transport, for goodness’ sake; it is in charge of collecting the statistics, it is not for them to be “made aware” by some outside body.

We need a more constructive approach to improving standards and quality of employment for HGV drivers, and I recommend that the Minister looks at the relais routiers in France. That might not be a popular idea with the current Government, but it is a well-established system that provides good facilities, and I would welcome reassurance from the Minister that, now that the number of HGV drivers is beginning to pick up somewhat, we will not see this measure come back again.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport) 8:15 pm, 6th December 2021

These regulations, made at the end of October, further extend the relaxation limits to HGV drivers’ hours until 10 January next year, at which point this temporary exemption will have been in place continuously for six months, since 12 July this year. The instrument extends the normal daily limit of nine hours’ driving a day to 10 hours, up to four times a week, with an overarching limit of 56 hours’ driving in a week and 90 hours in a fortnight—or, as an alternative, introduces an amended weekly rest pattern that allows an additional day of driving in a fortnight, provided that an equivalent period of rest is taken before the end of the third week. This exception increases the maximum permitted driving time in a fortnight to 99 hours from the standard 90 hours.

In its 18th report of the current Session, published on 11 November, the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, as the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, said, repeated its concerns

“that cumulative tiredness in HGV drivers may constitute a road safety hazard”.

It said:

“The responses to the consultation exercise quoted in the Explanatory Memorandum ... also take that view and add that these Regulations make HGV drivers’ working conditions worse, which is having a negative effect on recruitment”.

Continuing, the committee said—again I repeat something that the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, said:

“Our concern is bolstered by figures … that indicate that a significant proportion (27%) of the drivers stopped in roadside checks are breaching the Drivers’ Hours legislation. We have repeatedly asked the Department for Transport to provide evidence that would allay our concerns, but the responses have indicated that the Department does not have information either way”.

The department has said that it has

“not been made aware of any increase in accidents involving HGVs since the temporary exceptions to the drivers’ hours rules were first introduced in July 2021”.

That, not surprisingly, says the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, is “not sufficient to allay” its concerns.

Therefore, I invite the Government to say in their response what evidence they have that the relaxation of limits to HGV drivers’ hours provided for in these regulations, which have been in effect for nearly five months, does not increase cumulative tiredness to an extent that constitutes a road safety hazard. On how many occasions has the relaxation in hours provided for in these regulations actually been used, and by how many different firms? Why does the Department for Transport not have figures on the proportion of drivers stopped in roadside checks who breached drivers’ hours legislation in force at the time they were stopped? I would have thought that that was a fairly important piece of information, which one would have thought the Department for Transport would have.

The Department for Transport provided the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee with 28 short, medium and long-term interventions it had put in place to alleviate the existing HGV driver shortage. One can of course take the government line that this shows how active and focused they are in seeking to address the driver shortage—a shortage that they have known about for years but have nevertheless still been caught on the hop by—or one can take the view that the Government do not know what steps will address the driver shortage issue. That would be consistent with their inability to provide the information and meaningful assurances sought by the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, and would suggest that the 28 interventions simply reflect an approach more akin to thrashing around in all directions hoping that a course of action will finally turn up trumps.

The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee says in its report on the list of 28 interventions that

“while this list shows the various strands of the Department’s current activity, we still lack a strategic statement of the programme’s objectives, milestones and costs, against which its effectiveness and value for money can be assessed.”

Can the Government now provide that strategic statement, either in their response today or subsequently, and indicate the cost of each of the 28—or perhaps now more—interventions and the specific impact each one is expected to have on the existing HGV driver shortage, bearing in mind that the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, has argued that these specific regulations on drivers’ hours will not address the underlying causes of the shortage?

On one specific intervention, namely increasing cabotage for foreign hauliers in the UK, which extends through to the end of April next year, can the Government say today how that meets the Prime Minister’s previously stated desire to see significantly higher pay for UK drivers? Allowing foreign transport operators to make unlimited journeys in the UK for two weeks before returning home can only mean UK drivers facing more competition for work, which will depress rather than increase levels of pay, as previously desired by the Prime Minister.

The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee commented that no formal impact assessment had been prepared and that the Explanatory Memorandum provided no information on how many additional HGV journeys might be added by this instrument or what the take-up by foreign operators might be. Continuing, the committee said:

“We therefore have no means to assess whether the number of operators involved will constitute a threat to the UK workforce, or to measure whether the legislation is likely to be effective.”

Can the Government in their response give some figures to indicate what the impact has been to date of this relaxation in restrictions on cabotage?

It appears that the underlying causes of the driver shortage—and I will not go through all the reasons mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee—relate to pay and conditions, including the provision of decent facilities for drivers away from the cab of their vehicle. The job, and the standing it has at present, does not appear attractive, particularly to younger people. The workforce is overwhelmingly older white males and is certainly not diverse, which means that the actual potential recruitment pool is less than it might be. I understand that pay is now rising, turnover is falling, provisional licences are increasing and further improvements are anticipated in the new year—albeit there is still a shortage which will not be properly addressed until next year.

I am sure the Government will have some hard information to give on the current driver shortage situation today in their response and the extent to which it is the Government’s 28—or is it 32?—measures that have or have not delivered, and the extent to which they agree with the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, on the underlying causes of the shortage of HGV drivers, which these regulations on relaxation of limits to hours, the noble Earl has powerfully argued, fail to address.

Photo of Viscount Stansgate Viscount Stansgate Labour

My Lords, before the Minister gets up to reply, could she tell the House whether it is the Government’s intention to renew these regulations next year, and, if so, why and on what basis?

Photo of Baroness Vere of Norbiton Baroness Vere of Norbiton Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 8:30 pm, 6th December 2021

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate today, particularly the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, who has extensive knowledge of and expertise in this area. We are very grateful for his input. I will address the drivers’ hours issue first, as fully as I can, and then go on to discuss some of the other issues that have been raised.

Let me start by saying that we are absolutely committed to ensuring the welfare of drivers and protecting all road users, and we recognise that the long-standing drivers’ hours rules that are in place are critical to achieving these objectives. We have therefore deployed these relaxations with the utmost care. Safety is the key consideration, and there are four pillars to our thinking. First, safety must be considered with regard to the extent of the relaxations made. Secondly, we must protect drivers against any cumulative fatigue. Thirdly, it must be clear to the industry about when and how it should use these relaxations; we have published clear guidance on this. The last pillar is about the use of these relaxations.

First, on the extent of the relaxations, I apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson: I thought she was talking about the current SI—not the one before last—when she said 11 hours, because it is now 10 hours, as I am sure she knows. I was shaking my head when she said 11 hours because I thought we were talking about the current relaxation, not the one that expired many months ago.

The drivers’ hours relaxations are very limited; I think noble Lords will agree on that. No requirements of the rules, whether it be breaks during the day, daily and weekly rest periods, or weekly and fortnightly driving limits, have been removed. The rules have been relaxed in a limited and controlled way.

I will not go into the details of the relaxations, because noble Lords have mentioned them, so I assume that they are aware of them. But, of course, these two relaxations are underpinned by the requirements of the Road Transport (Working Time) Regulations 2005, which also limit drivers’ working hours to an average of 48 hours a week over a 17 to 26-week reference period. These regulations also limit drivers to a maximum of 60 hours in any given week, provided that the average is still 48 hours. These working time regulations provide the protection against cumulative fatigue, which is the second pillar we considered when putting the 2021 regulations into place.

The third pillar is the published guidance. We are absolutely clear about when and how these relaxations can be used. There has to be evidence of a detriment to the wider community, there must be a significant risk of a threat to human and/or animal welfare, and there must be confirmation from the haulier’s customers that these risks actually exist. Only then can the operator use the relaxation. Operators using the relaxation, or proposing to use it, must notify the department. The operator must also notify the department later on about whether it has used the relaxation or not. Of course, this assists with transparency, and we can check compliance.

Some noble Lords may feel that that is not enough and that perhaps we need more evidence of who is actually using these relaxations. As of July last year, there were 68,982 HGV operator licence holders in Great Britain, which rounds up to 69,000. In October, 141 operators submitted notification forms. So, that is 141 out of 69,000. Only 111 of those submitted forms to follow up with the department, and just 80—out of 69,000—actually used the relaxations. We are not hearing from industry that they are not using the relaxations because they are too complicated, or whatever. It is because the safeguards are in place and we have set those out in guidance, and we are absolutely clear on the circumstances in which these relaxations can be used. Therefore, I am content that they are being used in circumstances when it is really necessary to meet those criteria that we set out in guidance. So, let us face it, we are talking about very few drivers.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, was concerned about this impression that the Government want to worsen conditions. I am not getting that from the industry. I think it recognises this very limited use of drivers’ hours extensions. We have acted really carefully, again within the guidance, to make it clear that transport managers should make sure that risk assessments have been carried out if they plan to use these relaxations at all. They must monitor and review where the relaxations are used; it must also be done in agreement with the workforce.

I believe there are sufficient safeguards. I hear from HGV drivers quite a lot, and I am not hearing anybody, as yet, say to me that they are being forced to work extended hours owing to these relaxations. Maybe I will get a flurry of emails tomorrow—something tells me I probably will not.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked about the evidence of incidents. I think the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, was aghast that the Department for Transport does not have up-to-date, real-time information about incidents on the roads. That is because the data is collected by the police and not the department. The data from one year goes through a series of checks and is usually delivered annually from the police to the department midway through the following year. We are not hearing from the police that there is a flurry of serious incidents with HGV drivers. That is a good thing. None of us wants to see incidents on our roads, and I believe that the protections are in place to ensure that they do not happen.

We must come to the very important issue of enforcements and the oft-quoted figure of 27% in the SLSC report. I think it is terrible too; I cannot agree with your Lordships more. It would be an astonishingly bad figure if it were representative of the sector as a whole—which it is not. I had the privilege of visiting the DVSA on Friday. I chatted to a group of enforcement people, who showed me some of the really bad stuff that goes on out there: drivers’ hours, wheel nuts—we have some very strange configurations of wheel nuts—and all sorts of things which are really bad. I was shocked; I congratulated them on their work and encouraged them to continue with great vigour. Then they showed me their pièce de résistance, which they have had for about 18 months.

They have access to all the ANPR cameras in the country, and they basically track all trucks, which is very cool. As they track all the trucks, they look at which ones to target on the basis of the intelligence they have coming through and what has happened before. In that 27%, there has already been a great big screening of all the trucks wafting around British roads, and they are the ones that have been targeted by the intelligence coming out of the fantastic work the DVSA does—not only the intelligence it gets from industry but the operator compliance risk score, which I am sure noble Lords are well aware of. They can do it in real time; they can see a truck driving up the road, and if it has a little red flag by it, they can send a car out, stop it and enforce it.

The other issue to note, which is regrettable, is that overseas operators make up a large proportion of non-compliance on UK roads. That is very disappointing, and we will need to look at it more closely. Between 12 August and 31 October, the DVSA undertook 111 checks against operators that had notified the department of their intent to use the relaxations; 58 offences for drivers’ hours were identified, of which only 12 related to the relaxed rules—this is the important bit, which certainly goes back to what my noble friend Lord Attlee was saying—and none was sufficiently serious to warrant a fixed penalty. To be honest, if it is five minutes, it is probably not worthy of a fixed penalty.

I reassure my noble friend that the Government are aware that we do not want to victimise HGV drivers for very small infringements, and that it must be sufficiently serious to warrant a fixed penalty. That does not mean we want to give them an easy ride, but we understand that, sometimes, for a few minutes it might be impossible to stop, for whatever reason. In general, though, that enforcement record is pretty good.

I hope I have been able to convince noble Lords of the thinking behind these relaxations. The noble Lord asked whether we would extend them. That is not currently our intention, although of course we are looking at the data very carefully as we head through and past the Christmas period.

Now I can come on to some good news. I am sure that noble Lords will have spotted today that there is some good news coming out of the sector. My 32 different actions, which the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, is so fond of mentioning, are working, which is brilliant. Logistics UK, one of the large representative bodies, has come out today with a report showing that people are returning to the industry, if they had previously left. We also know from DVLA data that it is pumping through 4,200 applications a day—we have thrown an awful lot of resources at that.

We are looking at the lack of facilities, which is something that we take very seriously. We have completed the tender for a report reviewing parking and facilities countrywide. We have a £32.5 million pot of funding that we can use to encourage the private sector to improve facilities and set up new ones. I would like to share with noble Lords that I had a really good ministerial trip on Friday: I went to open the Ashford international truck stop and, my word, it is amazing. It sets a really high standard. I encourage all private companies and operators that have truck stops to go and look at Ashford because those in charge have done a lot of thinking about what drivers need. It is a class site, with 600 HGV parking spaces available. Now we have to think about how we either improve lots of existing sites or find places for new ones, because noble Lords will recognise that there are issues with planning.

I will finish with a couple of other issues. On medical examinations, we have set out plans to widen the pool of registered healthcare professionals who do DVLA medical questionnaires, which should help. We are also working with GPs to make sure that routine medicals are restarted.

We have launched a review to look at ways of streamlining driver CPC. My noble friend said that it would be easy to relax it—I wish it were. We cannot even suspend it, as it would take primary legislation to do so. However, we believe that ongoing professional training is a valid part of an HGV driver’s life so we are looking at reviewing how to make that better. Randomly saying that you must have 35 hours does not seem the best way of making sure that HGV drivers are up to speed with the regulations.

As I said on Friday, if we do not look after them then they will not look after us, so we need to look after them and the Government are doing that. We are working very closely with the industry. Hopefully, next year we will have a hugely impactful year of logistics. We will make sure that people understand that HGV driving is a good career that we want people to come into. The Government are doing everything that we can to improve the situation, but we recognise that, at the end of the day, this is a private sector and we must support this private sector in doing what it does best.

Photo of Baroness Randerson Baroness Randerson Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport)

My Lords, I am interested in the Minister’s visit to the DVSA and her comment that a large percentage of the drivers not obeying the rules work for foreign operators. Is that not rather at variance with the Government’s decision to relax the rules on cabotage for foreign operators? Is that not a risky decision?

Photo of Baroness Vere of Norbiton Baroness Vere of Norbiton Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

We must recognise that the vast majority of all haulage operators obey the rules. It is because we have such a good, targeted approach that we are able to target those that do not. A lot of work goes into connecting the dots between different vehicles belonging to the same operators.

Let us turn to cabotage, although I will probably write further on this subject. The cabotage extension is very limited, going from being able to do two journeys under cabotage to a period of two weeks. From what we understand, this is about a tiny percentage of haulage journeys. I will see if I can get any further figures for the noble Baroness. Again, I am not getting huge numbers of hauliers writing to me saying “This is terrible, they’re stealing our business.” Most hauliers have more business than they can possibly cope with. I will write with that information but I do not think you can necessarily relate the two. It is the case that the vast majority of haulage operators and drivers follow the rules.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport) 8:45 pm, 6th December 2021

The noble Baroness made reference to the driver hours relaxation and gave some figures, for which I thank her very much. Is not the real explanation of why those figures are low that, in the consultation, the proposition was opposed by the Road Haulage Association as well as Unite the Union? Clearly they were not going to queue up to use it, because they did not agree with it anyway.

I notice as well that the noble Baroness said that the cabotage extension is limited, so that is two of the 28 items down here where the Minister herself has admitted that they have had a fairly limited impact. I suggest that it is not the Government’s 28 items—or indeed 32, if that is what it is now. The biggest one so far as far as road haulage drivers are concerned has been the increase in pay that has happened. I do not think that this featured too highly in the 28 courses of action to which the Government referred.

Finally, what is the significant proportion of drivers stopped in roadside checks who are breaching the drivers’ hours legislation? I gather that it is not the 27% that was quoted in one survey, so what is the figure? Why was it that the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee repeatedly asked the Department for Transport to provide evidence that would allay its concerns but the responses indicated that the department does not have information either way. Why did not the department provide any information then?

Photo of Baroness Vere of Norbiton Baroness Vere of Norbiton Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I could possibly give an entirely new speech on this but I would probably not be popular if I did—my Whip agrees with me.

The RHA wanted something entirely different—we know that. It always wanted us to open the floodgates and allow EU drivers to come in. Indeed, I am looking at the noble Lord and trying to remember whether any good ideas have come from the Benches opposite as to how we solve the HGV crisis. I believe Keir Starmer wanted to open the doors to 100,000 EU drivers—that was the Labour way of solving this crisis. We have taken a very different stance. As the noble Lord will know, no EU drivers are willing to come flooding in anyway, as I have said many times. We have set out a range of short, medium and long-term actions. Some are very substantial; for example, we removed the HGV levy. That saves hauliers lots of money, and from that money they can pay their staff more. We have also frozen VED. As I have said right from the outset, there is not one thing that will fix this; it is a whole succession of things. Some are short, medium and long term, some are big and others are little; that is why we have 32 actions. I am proud of those 32 actions and I believe that they are fixing the crisis.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Conservative

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate. I am especially grateful to the Minister for explaining how limited the relaxation is to the drivers’ hours. It is very helpful for her to clear up the issue of the 27% infringement rate. I have always been very well aware that when the DVSA stops a commercial vehicle it is normally acting on intelligence, so it is not surprising that it finds a high rate of infringement both on drivers’ hours and vehicle condition. It does not go and stop a Tesco’s lorry, for instance.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, talked about the complexity of the drivers’ hours regulations. They are indeed very complex if you want to go right up to the limit. If you do not need to go right up to the limit, they are quite simple.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, talked about the lack of a strategic statement. The problem the Minister has with facilities is very wide-ranging, and the planning system is a very major obstacle to providing better facilities. I do not think £32 million will go very far; it will not be easy to change the planning system, and this is not even a matter for my noble friend’s department. However, I am extremely grateful for her responses and I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion withdrawn.