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Production of permits and inspection of vehicles

Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 22nd May 2018.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to clause 6. As discussed before, there needs to be greater clarity around the inspection regime of permits. I have not been satisfied by the Minister’s response about the inspection regime. It seems strange to have a permit system but no systematic way of examining the permits to ensure that they are compliant with the vehicles they are attributed to, so we need to look at this serious issue. It seems that a slightly random process is applied to hauliers and whether they are hauled off the road and have their permits and documentation examined. If, as the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun said, we are to take control of our borders, it is incumbent on us to have a systematic way of ensuring that vehicles’ documentation is in order. We therefore need greater clarity on how the inspectorate system will work and on whether there will be more resources put into the inspectorate, given that more documentation will have to be manually examined in the absence of digital opportunities. We need to ensure that there is full compliance with the regime.

There is a further concern. The Minister has set out for us today how there will be exemptions to the scheme and how vehicles, drivers and operators could fall through the gaps between exemptions and the lack of a systematic way of examining permits. Will the Minister give more attention to ensuring that our borders are secure and that trade will still be able to flow? People across the country will be surprised if hauliers do not have the correct paperwork on board, and people who voted to leave the European Union will be most disappointed that our borders will not be more secure.

Perhaps the Minister will set out how he anticipates ensuring a comprehensive inspectorate around his permit proposals, and how he will ensure we do not see the holding up of haulage, but at the same time have strong compliance.

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I am slightly struggling with what the hon. Lady wants: on the one hand, she wants a comprehensive system where it seems that everyone gets checked at borders; on the other hand, she wants frictionless trade. Those two things are incompatible.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport)

May I help the Minister? I assure him that I want us to be part of the EU community licensing scheme, which would remove all those challenges.

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

That, of course, does not go to the circumstances contemplated by much of the Bill. The Bill is precisely designed to address issues where we may need a permitting regime. Therefore, what the hon. Lady said does not go the point, I am afraid.

Let us be perfectly clear: the Bill does not contain new powers. Examiners from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency already have powers to stop vehicles in other enforcement legislation. Community licensing is already enforced in roadside vehicle checks. At the same time, many other regulations are checked, including drivers’ hours regulations and vehicle roadworthiness. We intend to enforce permits in the same way as community licences. We have not created any new powers to stop vehicles. Vehicles are stopped at present; in that sense, our borders remain secure. Our hauliers are subject, as the hon. Lady knows, to a set of enforcement powers that ensure that regulations on moving goods are properly complied with. All this clause does is give similar powers for a future permit scheme, to ensure that it is properly used and enforced.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport)

Does the Minister not recognise that we are moving into a completely new scenario? Most of our haulage traffic crosses between the European Union and the UK, which will be a different jurisdiction after 29 March next year. Therefore, we are talking about a very different set of scenarios from the one we currently operate in, which will make more demands on the system. Currently, as part of that same community, we do not have to carry out those checks because there is recognition across those borders.

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I think the hon. Lady misunderstands; there is a community licence scheme in place. When hauliers are pulled over at present, their community compliance is checked in the same way that their drivers’ hours regulations are checked. If she does not understand that, she may just not understand how our system actually works.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport)

I do understand how the system works, but we are talking about a different set of scenarios because we will have a border, whatever its nature may be. That is why we are dealing with a different set of circumstances. If we are outside the community licensing scheme, clearly, the way that the permit will operate, hence the necessity for this Bill, will mean that we will not be part of that wider community that currently exists. It is not just about making sure there is compliance; there is more need and demand to ensure that there is compliance with a new permit scheme.

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The current scheme operates in the way I have described. What is contemplated under the Bill as regards the powers to enforce will track the current scheme. That is to say, the Bill does not contain new powers. In that sense, there will be a high degree of carry-over, quite independent of the arrangement that we strike with the European Union, which, as the hon. Lady knows, we expect to be one of liberalised trade. The point is that community licensing is already enforced and it will continue to be under the new regime in the same way it is already enforced. There are no new powers.

All we ask of the Committee is to recognise that these powers are required to implement the purpose of the Bill, the principles of which were agreed on Second Reading, and that they are properly fit for the task and reflect what we are doing in relation to the community licence. They are thoroughly sensible powers for proper enforcement of a permits regime.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 6 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 7 and 8 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 9