The Department’s published guidance makes it clear that driver safety and that of other road users must not be compromised, and that the relaxation must only be used where necessary.
I thank the Secretary of State for that answer, and I refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Longer hours behind the wheel is not a solution to the shortage of HGV drivers; it is unsustainable, exploitative and dangerous. So does he agree with Unite the union, which represents many lorry drivers and supply chain workers, that such a crucial piece of our national infrastructure needs its own national council to set decent standards across the industry and, most importantly, to restore collective bargaining to improve and protect pay and conditions?
It is worth understanding, as there is often misunderstanding about this, that drivers are still bound by the working time directive and still have to work an average of a 48-hour working week over a 17 to 26-week period, and that the relaxations do not increase the working time; they are in place to allow extra flexibility. However, I do agree with the hon. Lady about the need on drivers’ conditions—they have been poor over the years, which is one reason why 99% of HGV drivers are men. We need to improve those facilities, to bring many more people into the sector, and I am very keen, as I mentioned before, to see better pay and conditions as well.