Delivery Charges (Scotland)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:05 pm on 20th December 2017.

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Photo of Drew Hendry Drew Hendry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 5:05 pm, 20th December 2017

That is a good example—one of many—of what affects people across the whole of Scotland, particularly in the highlands and islands. Rural shoppers are one of the largest markets for online shopping, so it is particularly unfair that they are penalised. The lack of transparency that people face is deeply unjust.

There is an alarming lack of understanding of Scotland’s geography. When I introduced a ten-minute rule Bill in early 2016, I described one of the mysteries of my constituency in the highlands—not whether the Loch Ness monster exists, but why Inverness is somehow not on the UK mainland. It is outrageous that that myth is still being perpetrated by delivery companies.

The SNP has led a campaign for fair delivery charges. We are delighted that there is now such cross-party agreement that something has to be done. I welcome the fact that we seem to have the momentum together to get a response from the UK Government about what will be done, but that has to be something meaningful.

I mentioned Richard Lochhead, but I will also talk about the exemplary work of Citizens Advice Scotland, as other hon. Members have. I pay tribute to the work it did with the trading standards department at the Highland Council. I was honoured to be leading the council when it did some groundbreaking work on challenging unfair practices. Its officers deserve a lot of praise for their work. I also commend all the constituents who have highlighted the issue. There are far too many to mention individually, but I would have loved to have time to run through some examples.

Richard Lochhead’s work has highlighted thousands of cases of injustice. Anybody who has read it will have seen that it costs Scots consumers £36 million more than the rest of the UK. That is not good enough, and something has to be done to change things once and for all. In September 2015, when we were tackling the issue together, Gavin Robinson secured an Adjournment debate on it, as a result of which we had a roundtable. He is absolutely right: let us not hear about any more roundtables that do not achieve anything. We need solid action to get this sorted out for consumers once and for all. Let us see something being done.

As I said, I would have loved to go through some examples, but time is extraordinarily limited, so I will conclude. I welcome the cross-party approach. I hope that the hon. Member for Moray will have a word with his council group. If consumers have a Christmas wish, it is for the UK Government to use their power to deliver. Let us hear from the Minister about how the UK Government will make this the last Christmas in which sharp practice, dodgy geography, false claims and unfairness are visited on shoppers in the highlands and throughout Scotland and other rural areas.