International road transport permits

Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:25 am on 22nd May 2018.

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Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Infrastructure and Energy) 9:25 am, 22nd May 2018

I beg to move amendment 12, in clause 1, page 2, line 2, at end insert—

‘(3A) The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a report outlining the nature of the regulations proposed to be made under this section and an assessment of the impact of those regulations on the road haulage industry.

(3B) The Secretary of State shall make no regulation under this section during a period of no less than six months from the date of his laying before Parliament the report required in subsection (3A).’

This amendment would require the Secretary of State to lay a report outlining the nature of the proposed regulations and assess its impact on the road haulage industry, at least six months before the regulations are made.

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Labour/Co-operative, Swansea West

With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 3— Report on negotiations for a relevant international agreement—

‘(1) The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a report on progress made on any negotiations to secure a relevant international agreement.

(2) The report must be laid before Parliament within the period of three months beginning with the day on which this section comes into force, and within the period of each six months thereafter.

(3) In this section “relevant international agreement” has the same meaning as in section 1(4).’

This new clause would require the Secretary of State to outline the progress made in the negotiations to secure a relevant international agreement.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Infrastructure and Energy)

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. I will not be too long; I just want to make some brief comments. Amendment 12 and new clause 3 both call for the Government to submit reports. When the Bill was going through the House of Lords, the Government did, surprisingly, agree to report on accidents, and I thought that as the Government had now shown a willingness to do reporting, I would try their patience and see whether we could put additional reporting requirements into the Bill.

Overall, this is enabling legislation, which will allow the Government to bring forward regulations—secondary legislation—so we still do not know what the end outcome will be with regard to the Bill and subsequent regulations. On Second Reading, I concluded that the Government were saying, “We don’t know whether part 1 of the Bill will be required. We don’t know, if it is required, what the secondary legislation will look like. We don’t know what the fees will be. We don’t know what the application process will be and whether there will be limits on the permits available.”

Amendment 12 is therefore designed to firm up on that. We want the Government, as they develop the regulations, to submit a report outlining what the impact of the regulations will be, how they will apply to the haulage industry and what they mean for it. That is very important. The haulage industry as a whole is looking for continuity of the arrangements that are in place now—the community licence system—but if for some reason the Government cannot get a suitable agreement with their European counterparts, that might lead to a number of bilateral arrangements; it might lead to a whole scenario of additional requirements for permits. That could have an impact in terms of cost and time. We want to know what it means for the haulage industry, so we want the Government to set out clearly, once they know what the regulations look like, what the impact will be on the haulage industry. I think that is a fair ask of the Minister.

I am sure that the Government will not entertain new clause 3 because it asks for updates on the international negotiation process. We know that the Government like to play their cards close to their chest. We keep hearing how no one enters negotiations saying clearly what they want, and that they should play it close to their chest and keep negotiating effectively in a closed room. But that is not good enough. We want transparency. I think it is fair to ask the Government to come back and report on how the negotiations are progressing and what that means.

The other day, the Secretary of State for Transport commented that trade unions never state what their asks are before entering into negotiations, but I would argue differently: trade unions often do set out exactly what they are looking for. There is nothing wrong in stating what is being sought in negotiations and then advising and updating Parliament on how the negotiations are going, so I am interested in what the Minister has to say about the additional reporting requirements.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport)

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies.

Labour Members believe that the Bill is important legislation, because it signifies many important aspects of the final agreement that is reached with the EU and the wider international community. Without it, and should negotiations result in no deal being struck, haulage movements and therefore our economy would seriously be damaged. Haulage is a servant of our economy, and getting this right is vital for its future. That is why we support the Bill and want to participate in the debate to improve it, should it ever be required. In fact, we argue that on some aspects of the Bill, regulations should be laid before the House come what may, as the Bill makes provision for improving and monitoring trailer safety. I thank the Minister for his part in this and, not least, I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol South.

I first turn my attention to new clause 3, which is immensely sensible in so far as it is right to highlight the intrinsic link between the Bill and the continuing international trade negotiations with both the EU and the wider international community. Smooth passage over our borders is essential for the haulage industry’s survival, and more so for the business that haulage serves.

Labour Members believe that we should remain in the community licence scheme. The scheme currently enables goods to move frictionlessly over national borders with the EU, and I would find it incredibly helpful if the Minister could state whether it is his ambition to remain within it. I appreciate that that is subject to a negotiation process but, as the spokesperson for the Scottish National party, the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun, has said, an indication of intention would not only help us to progress through the Committee sitting today, but inform those to whom the Bill would apply.

Understanding the intent of, and the progress being made in, this area of the deal could also assist in the planning of regulations associated with the Bill, which will need to be laid before the House before the UK leaves the EU, in the light of the timescales before us. Clearly there needs to be transparency, which is something the new clause brings about. We need to understand what happens after a community licence arrangement, or its equivalent, depending on where negotiations end up.

The Bill is a framework Bill and is subject to further regulations, and we appreciate that there could well be reciprocal arrangements, for instance with the EU as a partner on the continent. That, too, could assist, or have consequences for, the UK’s import and export markets.

The second part of the new clause focuses on the time by which reports must be laid in association with the Bill. Time is not on our side, and in the light of the fact that regulations need to be drafted after the Bill has completed its parliamentary process, it is right that we seek the shortest possible timeline for the preparation of the report to be presented. That will then inform any necessary regulations.

Labour is therefore fully supportive of new clause 3, and we trust that it will help with the process of smooth transition to an agreement that will assist the haulage industry.

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Labour/Co-operative, Nottingham North

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the first time, Mr Davies. I rise to speak briefly in favour of the new clause.

The Government are on a high wire here. The process of negotiating ongoing community licence membership on its own would be a difficult piece of work. Similarly, designing our own system on its own would be a difficult piece of work. To do those things at the same time is exceptionally difficult, so what we are considering today is very important. We saw on Second Reading, and I expect we will see over the forthcoming days, a great deal of consensus, support and understanding about the difficulty of the task. Relatively recently, I was involved in a similar Bill Committee about nuclear safeguards; that was very much the spirit in which we had those conversations.

This is enabling legislation—my hon. Friend the Member for York Central characterised it as a framework Bill. That is right and proper given the circumstances. We know that the Government need to have that latitude, given the fluid nature of the negotiations, and whatever arrangements may need to be filled in over time. However, we, as the legislature, need to secure some support and some structure to ensure that we insulate from Executive overreach. We understand that the Government need flexibility but, over time, as things develop, and as the Government know more and conversations start to have more detail, we ought to know a little more about what the nature of the scheme is likely to be, about the regulations on permits, and about what developments occur. I do not think that that is much to ask. The irony is that I dare say the vast majority of us on the Committee do not want the legislation to pass; that is a strange situation. It is important for us to have confidence in the process, so I hope that the new clause might be accepted.

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

It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. I am delighted to rise to speak on the amendment and the new clause. I will start by making a few outline comments about the nature of the Bill, and then I will come to the points that have been raised, including the point made by the hon. Member for Rotherham.

Let me start by explaining clause 1 in slightly more detail. The clause does not make it an automatic requirement to carry a permit. Regulations made using the clause will only require permits where our international agreements mandate it, and they will exempt specific types of journey as covered in international agreements. Regulations made under this part of the Bill will set up a framework, as has been acknowledged by Opposition Members, for a permit scheme that will then apply to any permanent agreements we reach with the EU, as well as to our existing and future agreements with non-EU countries and the European Conference of Ministers of Transport permit scheme. The effect of that is that regulations will be made under clauses 1 to 3 irrespective of what arrangements we make with the EU; the difference will be in the scope of those regulations.

We stated during proceedings on the Bill in the other place that we intend to have a permit system in place and up and running by the end of the year. That will deliver our existing permit arrangements and give businesses the certainty that we can deliver on whatever arrangements are put in place for haulage after we have left the EU. Any delay in putting that system in place will cause more uncertainty and therefore additional cost to the industry.

We will introduce regulations shortly after Royal Assent so that the system can be up and running. A requirement to lay a report and wait a further six months before laying regulations before the House would prevent us from putting in place our planned systems to support hauliers in preparing for Brexit. Hon. Members will be aware that the consultation on the Bill was launched just last week, on 16 May. That consultation is part of the UK’s preparation for its future relationship with the EU.

Our overall aim in negotiations is to maintain and develop the existing liberalised access for commercial haulage. The hon. Member for York Central asked whether it was my ambition to stay in the licensing scheme, to which the response is that our ambition is to maintain and develop the existing liberalised access for commercial haulage, as we have said.

The future deal with the EU could, however, require a form of permitting system. The Bill will allow the Government to deliver an administrative system as part of the final deal. We are consulting on how permits will be allocated and what information the hauliers will be able to provide. We want to the system to be as practical and user-friendly for hauliers as possible and we will use the consultation responses to make sure that it is.

Should there be a limit on the number of permits available for haulage travel to EU member states, we want to make sure that the permit system does not adversely affect small operators, and we are confident that our proposed system will not do so. We hope that large and small operators will respond to the consultation so that we have a good understanding of the effect of the permit scheme on different sizes of business.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Infrastructure and Energy)

The Minister stated that he aims to move quite quickly to introduce the regulations that form the secondary part of the Bill. Can he outline how quickly these regulations will be brought forward and how they will compare with the consultation that is ongoing at the moment? We still have the negotiations to come, so it is not clear how quickly regulations can be introduced and what they will look like, because they really will have to cover myriad options.

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

As I have said, the purpose of the Bill is to put in place a framework of permits, which will continue irrespective of any specific outcome with the EU. We aim to put it in place by the end of the year. We are moving with a certain amount of speed, but in no sense hastily. We have already had widespread consultation with the industry and other stakeholders. There has been quite a high degree of cross-party support, and I was pleased that the Labour Party and the SNP did not oppose the Bill on Second Reading. We have been happy to take late-tabled Opposition amendments to respect the desire to get everything in place.

That goes to the point raised by the hon. Member for Rotherham: there is no sense of undue haste, but we seek to put the framework in place. That means that regulations will need to be laid later this year, following the consultation that is in progress. This is a careful process of putting in place regulations that we will be able to use for the longer term.

The consultation includes draft regulations so that respondents can see what we propose. In addition, we have provided policy scoping documents that outline how we intend to operate a permit scheme, and they are available in the House Library. Those documents and the response to the consultation will set out the details of what the regulations laid before the House will achieve, and what their impact will be. A further report on what future regulations will cover would provide no further benefit to Members.

I am sure that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun will welcome the fact that in the other place, the Government added clause 9 to the Bill to honour an undertaking given by my noble colleague, Baroness Sugg. The clause will provide Parliament with a report for any relevant year on the impacts of a limited permit arrangement with the EU, should that be the outcome.

Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Labour, Rotherham

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way and for the spirit in which he is approaching the Bill. I am grateful for the new clauses that have been introduced—he is clearly listening. However, I find it odd that we are doing all this before the consultation is closed. If the responses to the consultation show that there is real opposition to some of the things that we are now putting in the Bill, what provisions has he made to deal with that? What opportunity do we have to get the best regulations and legislation?

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

This is a framework Bill, and the consultation is on detailed aspects of the regulations—in particular, the criteria for granting permits. The consultation will inform the structuring and shaping of the regulations as they are introduced. We do not anticipate that any aspect of the consultation will remove the desire, which is widely shared across the industry, for more clarity and certainty and for a unified framework, which is what the Bill is intended to generate.

The first set of regulations under part 1 of the Bill will set up a framework for a permit scheme. Parliament will be able to debate that, following the amendment we made to clause 23 in the other place. The Government recognise that we are still developing a policy, and it is only right that those regulations should be the subject of debate in both Houses.

I turn to the point made by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun. It would be neither practical nor desirable to ensure that no regulations were made until six months from the date on which such a report was laid before Parliament. I note the comment from the hon. Member for York Central that the Bill should be put on to the statute book in the shortest possible time. She is right about that; it should be done without haste, with cross-party agreement and in a measured way. Therefore, we should not be delayed by a further six months, which would be the implication of that change.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Conservative, Scarborough and Whitby

Does the Minister agree that the new clause fails to recognise the very nature of negotiations? There is often a logjam, and then agreement comes about at some point. A report produced within that timescale may not be of much use to people who want to follow the commentary about what is going on.

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 9:45 am, 22nd May 2018

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. Of course, this legislation is designed to survive, as it were, whatever the outcome, which may be one of many different kinds. We confidently expect a liberalised access arrangement, as he knows, but it is wise to be prepared. For that reason, this is a belt-and-braces piece of legislation, but we cannot delay it further if we want to get it on to the statute book. Both parties recognise the importance of doing so.

If we secured a liberal agreement between the UK and the EU as part of a future relationship, as we expect to do, we would not be able to put the regulations in place until we had reported on the impacts, which would be minimal in this case. We would then have to wait a further six months until we could make the regulations, subject to parliamentary timescales. As a consequence of this requirement, a huge cost would be imposed on hauliers and they would not be able to take account of a deal that gave them the required access. I cannot believe that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun intends to impose those costs on UK hauliers, including on Scottish hauliers.

Delaying the making of the regulations would delay the implementation of the agreements, and that would have a huge detrimental impact on hauliers and on our freight trade. Any delay in implementing agreements might mean that hauliers could not access and use the correct permit for their journey, which would affect their ability to take on contracts. The Bill and subsequent powers will also cover our existing non-EU-based agreements, and the amendment would encompass those agreements. If we were to strike new agreements with non-EU countries, the amendment would require us to report on them and postpone the issuing of any of those permits for six months after the report.

I hope that explanation provides the hon. Gentleman with clarity about how we propose to ensure that the regulations made under the Bill are subject to appropriate scrutiny. We will report on the effects on the UK haulage industry of any EU-related permit scheme, should there be one, where there is a limit on the number of permits available for hauliers travelling to EU member states. In that spirit, I hope he feels that he can withdraw the amendment.

New clause 3 would require the Secretary of State to report every six months, beginning three months after the Bill comes into force, on progress in negotiations to secure international agreements on the transport of goods by road to, in or through other countries. The requirement is extremely broad; it covers any relevant agreement with any other country or organisation, at any stage in the negotiations. It would catch the smallest technical amendment to an existing agreement, and it could introduce a requirement to report on negotiations when they are at a particularly delicate point and when we are unable to report the substance of our negotiating position—along the lines hinted at by my right hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby.

The danger is that reports made under the new clause could be a mixture of the bland and the trivial. The approach of regularly setting out in public the detail of our negotiating lines, tactics and prospects of success appears to be an almost certain way to undermine our negotiation and the prospect of securing a good deal for road transport users—something that we very much believe is in prospect.

I hope that I have been clear about the Government’s objective throughout. We want and actively expect to maintain the existing liberalised access for UK hauliers. A mutually beneficial road freight agreement with the EU will support the objective of frictionless trade. We are confident that our future relationship with the EU on road freight, as part of a wider continuing relationship on trade, will be in both sides’ mutual interest. While we are negotiating with the EU, however, it is not helpful to provide Parliament with speculation about the prospects for success in the negotiations.

The reporting requirement is also perverse in its effects. It would cover any agreement that includes permits—that is the effect of tying the definition of “relevant international agreements” to that in clause 1(4)—but not liberal agreements that do not involve permits, such as our current agreements with Albania and Turkey. Reports under the proposed new clause would not provide Parliament with a useful overall picture of the state of the Government’s work to help the UK haulage industry operate internationally.

The Government have been clear throughout proceedings on the Bill that it is not intended in any way to pre-empt the nature of the agreement between the UK and the EU and the future relationship, and it is not a suitable vehicle for such amendments. When the Bill was in the other place, noble Lords tabled amendments that would have required the Government to report on how the permits regime would affect the efficiency of haulage and their expectations for future arrangements between the EU and the UK. In response to those amendments the Government introduced clause 9, which focuses on the scheme’s actual impact on the haulage industry. By contrast, new clause 3 would require reports on the progress of negotiations on prospective agreements.

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun noted on Second Reading:

“when I try to get amendments through in Committee that require the Government to report on future implementation, they always vote them down”.—[Official Report, 14 May 2018; Vol. 641, c. 70.]

I am sorry to disappoint him today, but I do not believe that his amendment will provide Parliament with useful information. For that reason, I hope he will withdraw it.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Infrastructure and Energy)

I have listened to the Minster’s arguments on amendment 12, which he thinks would be burdensome. I understand some of the logic. Equally, I still think there is merit in getting the Government to report on what the regulations would look like and their impact. However, I have listened to the Minister and I am happy to withdraw the amendment, although I am still concerned about how the regulations will align with the end agreement, and how Parliament understands that. New clause 3 reflects the importance of parliamentarians and industry understanding how the negotiations are going. The Minister said that the report would pick up bland things and small technical issues, but there is nothing wrong with reporting small technical issues. That would result in a very small report that would not need too much debate or scrutiny in Parliament.

We heard the classic excuse that the negotiations might be sensitive. If they are too sensitive, that can be reported, but it would still be good for Parliament to be kept updated on the negotiations. Given that the Government are willing to incorporate clause 9—on the future impact of the regulations—it seems logical that there is merit in reporting on how negotiations are going, because that will have the biggest impact on what the permit system looks like and the outcome for the road haulage network.

Having said that, I will not press the amendment to a vote. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Labour/Co-operative, Swansea West

It might be helpful if I mention at the outset that the Committee may debate the provisions of each clause during a stand part debate, even if no amendments have been tabled to that clause. As we proceed it will be helpful if Members who wish to debate any clause in any stand part debate could indicate that clearly to the Chair, either privately in advance or when we reach the relevant clause.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport)

I appreciate being called to speak to clause 1, Mr Davies. I seek clarity on how the Minister thinks the haulage permit system will work.

Haulage is part of the EU community licensing scheme, as we have already heard. I am disappointed that the Minister’s ambition is not to remain within the scheme, because we know not only that it is incredibly successful, but that it means there is smooth, frictionless movement of goods over our borders. The EU recognition of the licences means that lorries, for example, can pass smoothly from one nation to the next. Without permits being issued, lorries will not be able to cross borders after we leave the EU.

I want to express my concerns by talking through various scenarios, and I trust the Minister will be able to answer. I want to take the example of a lorry that originates in Spain and travels to the Republic of Ireland. It would not be required to have a specific permit, as it is still within the EU. If, however, the lorry then heads north and travels to Northern Ireland, it will have passed from the EU jurisdiction to that of the UK. Here the lorry would fall under this Bill and would need to carry permit documentation to prove that it was eligible to be in Northern Ireland. Will the Minister clarify whether there will be permit checks at this border or in Northern Ireland? Would the lorry even need a separate permit to be in Northern Ireland? Given that the Government have said there will be no hard border within the island of Ireland, that suggests that no permit is required. Or is it? I am seeking clarity from the Minister.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Conservative, Scarborough and Whitby

Is it not the case that that truck would already have to pay the HGV levy to travel on the roads of Northern Ireland? Therefore the UK authorities would already have be notified, namely through that charge of £10 a day.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport)

The right hon. Gentleman raises the important point that we are talking about the permit and the ability to move north and south across Ireland, which will be different if we are not within the community licensing scheme. Will the Minister clarify what the position would be if another vehicle is travelling from its origin in the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland—would permits be required for that too? If permits are needed in either of those examples, that would create a border within the island of Ireland.

Let me carry on with my first example. If the lorry from Spain were to cross from Northern Ireland into England, Scotland or Wales, or within the UK, could it do that without a permit? My reading is that it would not. Secondly, if a lorry were to begin its journey in the Republic of Ireland and take the same route north, then across the Irish sea, would it require a permit? I seek clarity on both scenarios.

Will the Minister provide further clarity? My lorry begins its journey in Spain. If it skips Northern Ireland and goes straight to the Republic of Ireland, it would not need a permit; but if it were to travel east, without going to Northern Ireland, would it need a permit, and if so, would that not create a border across the Irish sea? That might sound quite detailed, but it is fundamental to the understanding of the Bill and, for example, the number of permits to be issued, and is therefore informative to today’s discussion.

We need to understand how permits will be issued according to each jurisdiction. With something as important as this, the Minister needs to understand that the industry is already very nervous. The lack of detail on these important issues, which also of course carry a cost implication, is already forcing business decisions that are not in the best interests of the wider economy. Clarity would bring confidence. I hope that this morning the Minister will end the confusion about how these permits will work across these borders.

On a separate but related issue, the Government have not clarified how documentation will be inspected. On Second Reading they indicated that the permit regime will not slow down haulage. However, at the meeting the Minister kindly held before Second Reading, he said that documentation would be in paper format, even though the application for the permit would be online. That appears to be incredibly archaic, particularly when setting up a new permit scheme. Will the Minister be kind enough to explain why there will be a paper format? If we are to see the minimum possible pain at the border, surely the idea would be to have one’s permit held electronically, as it can then be scanned in transit. There would be no need for inspectors to look at all the paperwork. That is especially relevant, given that research by Imperial College says that every two minutes’ delay at the border would create 10 miles of traffic backlog. The Minister has hinted that the driver would also need the paper documentation and would need to produce that when required. It is still unclear if this would be at a port, a service station or exactly where else.

It may be that the Minister envisaged these inspections occurring randomly. If this is so, how would that build confidence in the permit scheme and what would happen if the haulage did not have the right documentation? If we had an electronic scheme, people could zap some form of digital device—so we are being told—and this would not only keep our borders moving but would collate useful data, not least compliance with the Bill. Whatever is agreed this side of the border is also likely to be replicated on the other side, so it is even more important that we have clarity and get it right.

Finally, as we seek to gain certainty for the haulage industry and those it serves through the Bill, may I ask the Minister what will occur if the EU demands or agrees a fundamentally different process? I believe new clause 3 would have aided us in our understanding, enabling us to see over that horizon. Could this lead to further primary legislation being needed at some future date if the EU comes up with a different set of demands for the way the system works? These are fundamental and vital questions over how the Bill will operate and they will inform the rest of today’s debate. There is confusion across the country and, no doubt, across the EU and we all need to understand this as a matter of urgency. I therefore look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 10:00 am, 22nd May 2018

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her comments. She raises several issues, which I am happy to address. The first relates to the different scenarios that hauliers would be operating under and the second to the nature of documentation and, potentially, electronic documentation or its equivalent. There is some lack of clarity that it is important to dispel here—I am not sure whether it exists in the industry. Let us be clear: this is a Bill that applies to UK hauliers. A foreign haulier with a vehicle coming into the UK will be bound by other legislation linked to foreign hauliers, but they will not be affected by the Bill. The effect of that is that in the first scenario the hon. Lady describes, a UK haulier with a load that starts in Spain and goes into the Republic of Ireland and then into Northern Ireland would require a permit if there were an agreement between the two sides—Ireland and the UK. However, there is no such agreement.

The clause provides an enabling power because current and future international agreements are all different and we need flexibility to require permits only when international agreements so require. It allows for different exceptions. In the case of the island of Ireland, permits would be required for journeys only if there were an agreement between the UK and Irish Governments to have them. It has already been made clear that no permit regime or hard border on the island of Ireland will be created by this Bill. The issue will, therefore, not arise. If they are coming into the UK under a permit scheme from a foreign haulier, that will not apply in the same way.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport)

Is the Minister saying that hauliers in the Republic of Ireland who will then be bringing their load to England, Scotland and Wales will need to carry a permit?

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

If there were a permit scheme in place between the UK and the Republic of Ireland, then a permit would need to be carried. If not, then it would not. There is no such permit scheme in place.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport)

I appreciate the Minister’s response, which clearly shows that there could be a creation of borders that are built. Would he therefore explain how permits will be inspected? That seems to be fundamental for haulage flow and traffic flow.

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

I am not quite sure why there is a lack of clarity. Borders are not the same thing as permits. At the moment we have frictionless trade with the EU, and we have mechanisms for inspecting lorries through the DVSA which are nowhere near the border, and have no impact at all on the flow of traffic or freight across borders. There should be no reason in principle why this should be different.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport)

I will ask again: will the Minister say how that inspection is different? This is about having a right to move haulage across the borders, and therefore it is about understanding how that inspection will take place. It is a different form of inspection to the one referred to by the Minister.

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

It really is not. The hon. Lady might not be clear, so let me say this again. At the moment there will be no transport checks at borders, and we have been perfectly clear about that. This does not change that at all; on the contrary. I could not be clearer. There are going to be no transport checks at borders. Under current arrangements, the community licence is a paper document that hauliers are required to carry in their vehicles and to show to inspectors on request. If we were to move to a paper copy permits arrangement as described, nothing would fundamentally change in that process. There are benefits to digital documents, and we do not disagree with that. The Bill allows scope for a shift to digital documentation in the future. Clause 1 states that the

“permit can be in any form the Secretary of State considers appropriate” but the system put in place is a pragmatic solution that fully follows the current lines of the community licence regime, and should raise no further questions in people’s minds.

Photo of Karin Smyth Karin Smyth Labour, Bristol South

Just to be clear in my mind about what is being said, is it that the current arrangements across the UK and Republic of Ireland remain intact under the assumption that the Republic of Ireland Government will make no changes, and that that is permissible under the agreement with the EU. That is the assumption on which the Government are resting. The issue becomes pertinent if, in the negotiations, the EU makes a different agreement with the Republic of Ireland for the transportation of goods across the island of Ireland. Is that correct?

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

We have no permit schemes in place because we have liberalised transport with the Republic of Ireland. If a permanent scheme were to be put in place as a result of further negotiations or discussions with the EU, we would expect it to be of a liberalised, frictionless kind. Were it not to be of a frictionless kind—and even if it were—there would then be a requirement for some form of permit in paper form carried within a truck with a load from a UK haulier doing business to and from the Republic of Ireland. This would not affect the border arrangements in any way, in the same way that the inspection of current and community documentation does not affect border arrangements at present.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Infrastructure and Energy)

The Minister stated clearly that there would be no transport checks affecting how things are operating at the moment. If there are no transport checks, how will the UK Government get back control of the border in terms of people and goods, which is supposedly the whole advantage of leaving the EU?

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

What we have said that there will be no transport checks at borders. We do check transport. I have been out on patrol with the DVSA, and a very effective job it does too of pulling over truckers and checking whether their documentation is in order on a whole variety of different grounds, including compliance with the community licence. That is the difference, and that is the distinction we wish to draw and that it is important to make.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2