Operation Stack/Lorry Parking in Kent

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:13 pm on 25th October 2017.

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Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Minister of State (Department for Transport) 4:13 pm, 25th October 2017

What a pleasure it is to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Chope, and to engage once again with my hon. Friend Damian Collins on these matters! I congratulate him on securing this debate.

My hon. Friend has shown immense perseverance in the pursuit of this subject; as he implied at the beginning, he and I have discussed it during my various stints at the Department. He has been courageous. I think it was C. S. Lewis who said that courage was not merely one of the virtues, but the greatest of the virtues: my hon. Friend has been not only courageous but patient, because this has been a long business.

Let me say a word or two at the outset about lorry parking more generally. As my hon. Friend knows well, I have taken a direct personal interest in the issue of heavy goods vehicles and their parking, as well as in the circumstances in which many lorry drivers find themselves when they park. Too often, lorry drivers face inadequate parking provision—not only the number of spaces available, but the conditions that they have to endure. I am absolutely determined that that should not perpetuate.

It is perfectly reasonable that truckers should be able to stop and rest—they are obliged to, by the way—in reasonable comfort. We will never get more women to drive HGVs while there are no facilities for them at many truck stops. We will never get more people to consider a career in logistics while they face inadequate security at truck stops. We will never get satisfactory working conditions for people while they do not have somewhere to rest, recoup and enjoy decent food before going about their lawful business. I am absolutely determined to ensure that all those things happen.

There are two pertinent pieces of work, the first of which is our work on motorway service areas. As the House knows, I have convened a working party to look at that matter generally. Lorry parking is a key part of its study, from which we will report in connection with the matters mentioned by my hon. Friend. Secondly, I have convened a couple of roundtables with the industry, working with the companies involved, the trade unions and others to ensure that we get better provision throughout the country, not just in Kent.

The problems highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe pervade in Kent. As we know from previous debates on the subject, including here in Westminster Hall, there are problems in other parts of the country too. For example, there is inadequate lorry parking provision in the midlands: we have heard contributions from hon. Members about the problems they face there when great new logistic parks are built without adequate lorry parking. That planning issue needs to be addressed, and I am happy to commit to holding further discussions with the Department for Communities and Local Government about whether the existing planning rules and assumptions are sufficient.

Those are my more general points; I will come to the specifics in a moment.