Committee (1st Day)
Relevant document: 15th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee
My Lords, if there is a Division in the Chamber while we are sitting, the Committee will adjourn as soon as the Division Bells are rung and resume after 10 minutes.
1: Before Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
“EU Community Licence arrangements
(1) It is an objective of the Government, in negotiating a withdrawal agreement from the EU, to seek continued UK participation in the EU’s Community Licence arrangements.(2) If the continued participation referred to in subsection (1) is achieved after the passing of this Act, no Minister of the Crown may make regulations under sections 1 to 5 or 23(2) of this Act.”
My Lords, you will have to bear with me; it is a while since I have had to do this.
I welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Sugg, to Grand Committee and hope that she enjoys it as much as we will. Amendment 1, in my name and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, is very simple. Its aim is to ensure that the Government have as a negotiating objective continuing participation in the EU Community licence arrangements. Those arrangements have served the UK well. One might argue that they have created a frictionless regime for borders, are easy to understand and largely ensure safe passage of UK goods across the EU27 and from the EU into the UK.
The Minister should welcome the amendment because it is surely what the Government want to secure in their negotiations. To put it into the Bill would give the freight industry the sort of confidence that it requires and demonstrate beyond doubt that the Government are very much on the industry’s side. If anyone needed reminding of the importance of freight to our economy, they need go no further than read last night’s Hansard. I have had the benefit of reading it, and my noble friend Lord Berkeley, among others, was passionate in his arguments on behalf of the freight industry generally, but for our economy in particular, when he moved amendments on freight-related issues. In particular, his Amendment 104 to Clause 7 of the withdrawal Bill caught my eye. It has similar objectives to this amendment in the sense that any new procedures that we put in place should avoid increasing delays to freight transport. The only surefire way to achieve that is to continue the current scheme.
The volume of traffic between the UK and the EU is enormous. In 2016, as my noble friend Lord Berkeley reminded us, 67 million tonnes of unitised freight were imported or exported, of which 14 million tonnes were temperature-controlled. There are 3,000 trucks a day carrying temperature-controlled loads. In one year alone, 55 million UK customs declarations had to be made, and my noble friend says that this is likely to multiply fivefold after Brexit.
We want at all costs to avoid the queues we have seen when Operation Stack has had to kick in. That would kill our export trade and decimate our ability to move materials into the UK for industry and farming purposes. Seeking to emulate what we already have must be an objective of the Bill, and that is what my amendment achieves.
I look forward to the happy prospect of the Minister not just welcoming my amendment but agreeing to busily import it and incorporate it into the Bill. I cannot believe that the Government would want to create any doubt in anyone’s mind about their intention to be successful in their negotiations and to secure the self-same benefits for the road freight sector that we currently enjoy. I am sure that the FTA and RHA would welcome that certainty. I am confident that our farming industry would want it and that manufacturers, the pharmaceutical sector and, importantly, the construction industry would want it too.
It might be for the convenience of the Committee if I say just a few words about some of the other amendments in my name in this group. The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and I have put our names to sunset provisions simply because, if the Government are successful, not only do the main provisions of the Bill cease to have relevance but we both feel that the clauses should cease to have a place on the statute book. These amendments are supported by the Delegated Powers Committee and the Constitution Committee; I draw colleagues’ attention to the Constitution Committee’s report that has just been published. I also support the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, in the group. I beg to move.
My Lords, I signed Amendment 1 because it drew attention to the fact that, yet again, we have an example of the Government trying desperately to devise a way to maintain a position that we already have. They are fighting to keep the benefits that we currently enjoy as members of the EU. Although the Government have been quite innovative in their approach—in so far as there is any detail—the situation will clearly not be anything like as good as what hauliers currently enjoy.
The formulation in the amendment is similar to that used in the Nuclear Safeguards Bill, for example, in which we urge the Government to pursue Euratom membership. The Minister will be familiar with my Private Member’s Bill on the open skies agreement; it is the same formulation. We have a perfectly good arrangement in the EU at the moment, which we will leave for something less satisfactory. This group of amendments ensures that the powers granted under the haulage permits Bill are not applicable if we stay within the EU’s Community licence regime—in other words, if we successfully negotiate to remain in some kind of positive relationship within the EU.
I draw attention to the very harsh words of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee on the Bill. They reflect the sort of thing that we have heard quite regularly recently, but they are rather stronger than we are used to:
“The Bill is wholly skeletal, more of a mission statement than legislation”.
The committee also points out that:
“16 of the 24 clauses contain delegated powers, all of them subject only to the negative procedure”.
We have not even got draft regulations in order to see what the Government are aiming at.
It is clear that the Bill was written in a panic at the very last minute. It is the first instance I have come across of the Government legislating while saying that they do not want to and admitting that they do not know how the system will work. That is not how British democracy should work. It is yet another example of the destructive impact of Brexit. Having admitted that they did not want to have to legislate in this way, the Government should have included in the Bill some sunset clauses or the use of only the affirmative procedure. As it stands, the Bill is not worthy of a democracy.
My Lords, I support the noble Lord and the noble Baroness in their amendment. Noble Lords will have to forgive me if I sound even less coherent than usual today. I am suffering from what everybody else would call a cold, but, being a man, I believe it is something far more serious. Nevertheless, I am still here.
I would have thought, as my noble friend implied, that the Government would be in favour of the proposed new clause. As the noble Baroness said, this is rather last-minute legislation. In a way, it is understandable, because we still do not know how far negotiations have gone where these matters are concerned. I promised myself not to make a Second Reading speech and will not, but I found it surprising during the Brexit discussion to find so many road hauliers in favour of Brexit because they were not happy with the status quo as it then was. Now, of course, they are a lot less happy at the prospect of a status quo no longer existing. The main concern, at least of those whom I spoke to, was about cabotage; there is little mention—in fact, I do not think there is any—of cabotage in the Bill, and it would be interesting to hear from the Minister whether any discussions which have taken place with the rest of the EU have concentrated on this aspect of the road haulage industry.
My noble friend and the noble Baroness mentioned the number of lorry movements from the United Kingdom to the rest of the EU; there are a hell of a lot coming the other way—I understand about three times as many. We have expressed concern about the likelihood of Kent being a lorry park if no arrangements are made in light of this amendment, but if three times as many lorries are coming into the United Kingdom as leaving, it would be possible to imagine northern France also becoming a lorry park. That is not to say that I share the optimism of those who say that there will be an agreement because these matters cause even more dislocation to our European partners than they do the United Kingdom. Again, it is difficult to tease from the Government where exactly we are in the negotiations. We await the Minister’s response to this amendment. My view is that it might be something that the Government are happy to support. If she says that, at least we will have started the Committee off on a happy note, even if it is not repeated—although I hope it will be—during our deliberations. I support my noble friend and the noble Baroness and hope that the Minister can give a sympathetic response.
My Lords, I, too, support all the amendments in the group, and am grateful for the kind words said about me by my noble friend Lord Bassam of Brighton and our debate last night.
The noble Baroness may be right that there are many things wrong with this Bill, but it is a great deal better than nothing. It affects only drivers’ permits and trailers. Last night in the discussion on Amendment 104, we discussed many other issues relating to cross-channel and cross-frontier freight and all the customs issues that went with them. As I think I said last night, it would be good if we had had a separate Bill for that so that we might have gone into the detail, but here we are. We had a very good Second Reading debate. My worry, which is contained in Amendment 7 in my name, is that when we discussed at Second Reading Clause 2, which is to do with the number and allocation of permits, it seemed to become quite confusing. One noble Lord—I cannot remember who—warned against the “random selection” in Clause 2(2) because it was greatly open to abuse. Perhaps that should be removed.
I have had a certain amount of trouble getting some amendments accepted. I wanted to put forward an amendment on cabotage and was told that it was outside the scope, but perhaps we can look at that again.
My noble friend Lord Snape has said that the proportion of UK drivers crossing into southern Ireland is about 25%, which is the same figure that I have. My Amendment 14B, which we will come to later, is on the issue of how non-UK drivers can get licences. But under certain Brexit scenarios, the number of licences that the UK might have for going into other EU member states—I believe that that includes the Republic of Ireland—will be very small. It would be good if the Minister could give us some idea as to whether and how that could be increased.
My Amendment 7 requires that:
“The Secretary of State must take all reasonable steps to meet the demand for permits from UK hauliers”.
That would be a useful challenge to them to make sure that they did it fairly. There is more to come on that, and perhaps the Minister will come back with some other ideas at Report. As it stands, the industry will be fed up if it cannot even reach its 25%, never mind if that goes down to 5% or 10%. We are seeing even more foreign lorries coming in, even before we get to the discussion about how big our fuel tanks are and so on, which we will no doubt have. This amendment seeks to put the industry’s mind a little bit at rest.
My Lords, I support Amendments 6 and 11 in this group in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe. I do so in my capacity as chairman of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee.
The first thing I need to say to the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, is that it is a bit unfair to characterise my committee’s report as having “very harsh words”. The noble Lords, Lord Tyler, Lord Thomas of Gresford, Lord Thurlow and Lord Lisvane, and my noble friend Lord Moynihan do not do harsh. Further, if one looks at my committee’s report, one will see that we have made five recommendations, two of which say that it would be nice to have a sifting committee and two of which say that we should have a sunset clause, as proposed in Amendments 6 and 11. The first recommendation suggests that it would have been helpful if the Government had given us some examples of the type of regulations necessary. If those are “harsh words”, I think the noble Baroness is living in cloud-cuckoo-land, if I may say so.
Can I clarify that? Having used the term “harsh”, I then used the precise words that are in the report. Anyone reading these proceedings will be absolutely clear that my definition of “harsh” is based on the words used in the report. It might be in the eyes of the reader rather than the reality of the situation.
I thank the noble Baroness. Our report does say:
“The Bill is wholly skeletal, more of a mission statement than legislation”.
It goes on to say in paragraph 4 that:
“We appreciate that the position remains unclear for a variety of reasons”,
which explains why we think the Bill is skeletal. I hope my noble friend the Minister can give us a few examples of the sort of regulations that may be necessary.
On Amendments 6 and 11, the Government’s helpful Explanatory Memorandum says that:
“The power has been left to delegated legislation rather than included in the Bill because the terms of international road transport agreements are as yet unknown. The provisions put in place, if any provisions are needed at all, will reflect the terms agreed between the UK and the EU or other countries for the carriage of goods”.
The wording in the Explanatory Memorandum is almost identical on Clauses 1 and 3, to which these amendments relate. That is why we simply say in our committee’s report:
“Given that regulations under clause 1”—
and Clause 3—
“might prove to be unnecessary, we recommend that the Bill should contain a sunset provision, extendable if necessary, to remove the regulation-making power in clause 1 if it does in fact prove to be unnecessary”.
I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, on tabling that amendment on behalf of my committee. I had been a bit negligent in putting it down myself, so I am grateful to him and I would be grateful if the Minister, in due course, could respond to the points made.
My Lords, regarding Amendment 1 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, I do not think we should tie the hands of government. If we set something in stone in primary legislation, it will be to our disadvantage and our opponents’ advantage. However, I very much hope that the negotiations will result in the absolute minimum of friction, for the reasons so well explained by all noble Lords who have spoken so far. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, observed that there are no draft regulations in sight and that this is a framework Bill. That is not surprising, because we do not know what the negotiated agreement will look like. However, the Committee will be aware that if the Bill is passed, it will strengthen the Government’s negotiating hand.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, raises an important point in his Amendment 7. I would like to see no restrictions on permits—more or less free issue—with one exception, which I am sure he will agree with. Is there any scope for denying permits to non-compliant operators if they are in trouble with the traffic commissioners or the Vehicle Inspectorate? I do not expect an answer from my noble friend the Minister this afternoon but perhaps she could write to me in due course. As I say, I am for no quantity restrictions but I do not think we should put this into the Bill because it would tie the hands of Ministers when they are negotiating Brexit.
I understand the noble Earl’s comment in suggesting that Amendment 7 may not be a good thing to put into the Bill. But he will remember that when this was debated at Second Reading, there was much discussion of the allocation of permits. Does he not agree that there needs to be some wording to ensure that the allocation, if it has to happen—I share his views that it should not and that there should be enough for everyone—should be seen to be fair? Perhaps he has some other ideas to replace my proposed new clause in Amendment 7.
I assure the Committee that I will not be tabling amendments but I was alarmed by some of the history of permits that we looked at during Second Reading. That is something I do not want to see because it constrains the market and competition. I would much rather see permits issued more or less freely, with that one exception: that we could see it as an opportunity to make things more difficult for non-compliant operators.
My Lords, I might be the only person in the Room who has run on one of these permits, which was some 50 years ago. I have some permit documentation, going back 30 years, in front of me now. I want to talk about what happened then and what we should avoid happening in the future.
We were carrying our own goods, exporting them and importing components. When we were exporting goods, we had to run on either non-quota or quota—non-quota was a defined group of products that we carried if we were going to an exhibition. For example, I remember going to a clock exhibition in Switzerland, and we had to get a non-quota to carry to Basle there. If we showed at the Paris Porte de Versailles in France, again we would run on non-quota permits but if we were running goods of our own manufacture, we would have to carry a permit. The undersupply of permits was a real problem.
The Minister sent us out a letter during the week in which she talked about electronic management of these systems. To some extent, that might work but I will come to a problem that might arise. The problem in the late 1960s and 1970s, when I was involved in this business, was that there were a lot of forgeries out there. Many truckers who could not get permits would forge them and, when they got to customs frontiers in Europe, bribe customs officers to get passage into another country. As I said at Second Reading, I saw this happen myself. I remember that the customs officer would almost wink and people would drop notes in an old jar standing on the counter. People knew what was going on and it was widespread. I never got involved in it myself, but I observed it. People used to get quite angry about the attitude of some customs officers. They would ask you to open the back of your truck to see what you were carrying, as if they were checking against the bills of lading—the document which indicated what goods you were carrying—as if they were to be given a tip for the pleasure of having your truck opened. It was examined, not properly but in a very curious way, with nods and winks. That went on a lot and I am worried about it.
That was one of the abuses. The next one—it was not even an abuse, as people just turned a blind eye to it—was the selling of permits. Some companies had more permits than they needed whereas others were starved of them. Someone told me on the phone the other day that the going rate, even in the 1980s, was something like £250 for a permit, depending on where you were. When they were carrying expensive goods that was a minor cost to pay, because it was transferred on to the people whose goods they were. If there is electronic control, the chances of abuse in that form are very remote.
We come back to the number of permits. If there is a shortage—and the French, the Dutch and the Belgians may argue for one—it will mean that when you load your truck in the UK you will have to drop your load at Antwerp, Amsterdam, Ostend, Zeebrugge, Calais or wherever. A French lorry will come and pick it up and get the business. At the moment, many British hauliers are able to carry right across Europe. If we do not have the permits to run in Europe, the Europeans will get the trade and all our lorries will be doing is running them across the channel, dropping them, then taking the tractor unit home. In the real world, there could be many problems. I know that this is a skeletal Bill and it may not even happen, but if it does there is going to be a lot of trouble and people are going to be angry.
I do not doubt the situation outlined by my noble friend, but will it not be to the advantage of British hauliers, to a certain extent, if the system applies the other way around? If there are three times more lorries coming to the UK than going from the UK to Europe, will the British road haulage industry not benefit enormously? Judging by what he said, loads coming from the EU will have to be dropped in Dover or wherever.
I do not know. That may well be, but I want a straightforward system. I want the number of permits to be sufficient to meet the demand and not have to fiddle around with whether we reciprocate or not. I want to avoid all that.
Finally, I turn to what the permits are. In the old days, we had quota and non-quota permits. If we get ourselves into trouble in this area of negotiation, we should try and widen the description of non-quota. Earlier in my contribution, I referred to non-quota covering exhibition goods—which is what we ran. Because the rules are set so tightly if we have to go down this route, we might well be able to widen the description of non-quota to cover what would otherwise come under quota. I do not know if the Minister is with me on that. That is because the regime for non-quota permits is different from the quota regime. On the quota regime there will be a lot more restriction, because non-quota permits are not as frequently used so, if we widen the non-quota permit arrangements, some of that trade may well be transferred over to non-quota. I am sorry if I have not made that altogether clear, but I am sure that in time it will ring correct.
My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. I will speak to Amendments 6 and 11. However, before I do, maybe I will be allowed to allay the shock of the noble Lord, Lord Snape, who looks at me aghast at the fact that I am not at Cheltenham today, supporting, as I always do, matters sporting. There is a related sporting issue that is relevant here. Thoroughbred racing and breeding is a truly international industry, with significant routes in Europe, and a key element of the success of Cheltenham, and indeed the whole of the thoroughbred, racing and breeding industry, is the current tripartite agreement—the TPA—between the UK, France and Ireland, which facilitates 25,000 movements annually between the three countries for racing, breeding and sales purposes. It is very important that that is kept in place and that we look, for example, at electronic passports in the future to protect that industry.
I never doubted for a moment, knowing the noble Lord as long as I have, that if it came to a choice between duty and Cheltenham, duty would obviously be first choice.
I pass swiftly on from the observation of the noble Lord, Lord Snape, but I am sad that I am not in Cheltenham today—and, indeed, that I will not be there tomorrow, because I will be speaking on matters sporting, and racing issues in particular, in the Brexit debate on the relevant amendment.
I support the comments that have been made by my chairman of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in the context of Amendments 6 and 11. Bills that grant wide powers to Ministers on the basis of no clear policy are difficult to scrutinise, as the Constitution Committee highlighted, and therefore present a fundamental challenge to the balance of power between Parliament and the Executive. Much of the detail of how these regimes are to be put in place is left to secondary legislation. In the absence of policy detail or the illustrative regulations—examples that my noble friend mentioned earlier—it is not at all clear to me how these powers will be used or whether they will be used. That is what led to what I believe—I speak in a personal capacity—was a constructive comment when we said that it was,
“more of a mission statement than legislation”.
I therefore hope that where there are exceptional circumstances, which in this case require the creation of criminal offences by regulations, they should normally be subject to the affirmative procedure. What can support that specifically in the context of Amendments 6 and 11 is the inclusion of sunset clauses, which would mitigate the constitutional concerns raised by the broad powers in the Bill and the uncertainty about how they might be used. That is an important constitutional issue; it is interesting that that was covered in some detail both by the Constitution Committee and the committee on which I have the privilege to sit, both of which were at one. I ask the Minister to take those into account seriously as we progress through the Bill, to make sure that there is an appropriate balance between the Executive and the legislature so that we have the opportunity in the future to have a rather more detailed look, both through sunset clauses and the affirmative procedure, at some of the key aspects of the Bill.
Supposing that the Government lay some negative instruments to deal with the outcome of the negotiations, and that they are extremely disadvantageous to our road haulage industry, it would be open to the road haulage industry to get on to noble Lords like myself and the noble Lords, Lord Berkeley, Lord Snape and Lord Campbell-Savours, who could pray against the negative instrument in the first 40 days and say no to it.
My Lords, I want to correct the record on something. I said that we ran on quota permits but we ran on non-quota permits. I just checked my notes.
My Lords, I did not read Hansard for last night’s debate; I was there. There is no doubt about the extent of the concern expressed by Committee Members last night about permits and trade and the impact on society. I therefore support Amendment 1. Having been a negotiator, I was alerted to the concern of the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, so I looked at what it said—that:
“It is an objective of the Government, in negotiating a withdrawal agreement from the EU, to seek continued UK participation in the EU’s Community Licence arrangements”.
I have to say, as negotiating briefs go, I have rarely seen one less prescriptive. It simply expresses a direction of travel and, broadly speaking, I support it. Similarly, I support Amendment 7, which once again gives more guidance than anything seriously prescriptive from a negotiator’s point of view.
I am grateful to read the report of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. I think we have an amendment for every recommendation but I will check that before the next sitting. It would be easier if we had correspondence and the Government gave in in advance. We have here what one might call a contingency Bill—that is, a Bill to create an Act of Parliament against a contingency. All the committee is saying is that it is wrong to leave powers lying about. That relates specifically to Clauses 1 and 3. On Clause 1, the report states:
“Given that regulations under clause 1 might prove to be unnecessary, we recommend that the Bill should contain a sunset provision, extendable if necessary, to remove the regulation-making power in clause 1 if it does in fact prove to be unnecessary”.
In almost identical terms, Amendment 11 refers to Clause 3. In examining Clause 2, we could not see any reason why the same logic should not apply, so we have also proposed Amendment 10, which refers to Clause 2.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions. The proposed amendments would enshrine in the Bill an objective in negotiating the EU withdrawal agreement and, should a certain agreement be reached, Clauses 1 to 3 would cease to have an effect.
I will speak first to the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, which seeks continued recognition of Community licences issued by the UK in the negotiations. As I outlined on Second Reading, the Government’s objective is to maintain the existing liberalised access for UK hauliers. Road haulage is at the heart of the £110 billion of trade that takes place between the UK and the EU every year. We are confident of success in the negotiations, as the continued movement of goods is in the interests of both the UK and the EU.
As noble Lords have pointed out, access is currently secured through participation in the Community licence arrangements. Outside the EU, only EEA members are currently party to the Community licence system. Although continued participation in the Community licence arrangements could be one outcome, the best way to secure mutual recognition and continued access for our hauliers will be through negotiations. I am afraid I must disappoint the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, in saying that we do not feel it would be right, or beneficial to our negotiations, to place any negotiation objectives in the legislation. As my noble friend Lord Attlee said, that would tie our hands.
The Government will take all reasonable steps to see that there are no restrictions on the movement of goods. This can take many forms, including the Community licence, mutual recognition of the operator licence or a permit-based agreement. Many international agreements that are permit-based do not restrict the numbers of permits exchanged; indeed, some of our existing agreements do not require permits at all, including our agreement with Turkey. As I said, our aim is to continue the liberalised access we enjoy today.
Will the Minister pause for a moment? The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, said that Amendment 1 would set the objective in stone. It would not. As the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, said, it simply says that an objective of our negotiations should be essentially to retain what we currently have. What is wrong with trying to do that? How does it tie the Government’s hands? I cannot see that it ties their hands at all. The amendment simply says that that should be an objective. If it is only an objective, what do the Government feel binds them in any way?
My Lords, the answer to the noble Lord’s question is that I imagine that the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, would have no difficulty at all in convincing the courts that the matter was set in stone.
I am not here to listen to the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, in his absence. I am keen to hear the Minister give her explanation, which is what the Committee needs.
I will try my best, although I may not be as clear as the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. As I said, the existing Community arrangement is currently only for EU members and EEA members. When we leave the EU, we will not be either of those. What is suggested is one option, but there may well be an equally satisfactory option, such as an unlimited permit system or, as I said, mutual recognition of operators’ licences. We want to be able to keep those options open and not to be sent down the road of agreeing to the Community licence. There is no reason why a permit that replaces the Community licence could not provide the same level of access as exists currently. That could well be our negotiation objective.
On the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, I take the opportunity to reassure him that of course the Secretary of State will take all reasonable steps to meet the demand for permits from UK hauliers. We regularly meet industry to understand its requirements and priorities, which will be reflected in our detailed negotiations with the European Union. While the amendment would not tie our hands in the negotiation, I hope that what I have said gives the noble Lord confidence that it is not necessary to include this aim in the Bill.
I would like to press the question of how these will be allocated. Clause 2(2) says:
“The methods that may be specified under subsection (1)(d) include random selection and first come, first served”.
What does “random selection” mean? How can we randomly select? Is it like a lottery? What about “first come, first served”? Is it a postal arrangement? We need more detail. I do not like this sentence being in the Bill and I think that it should be removed. If you go into negotiations with that in the Bill and a civil servant in Europe reads it, I think that I would know what to do in those negotiations.
I understand the noble Lord’s concern. Later, we will discuss Amendment 8, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, which addresses these issues. There is an explanation and, with the noble Lord’s permission, we will address it then.
The amendments on a sunset clause suggest that, should recognition of Community licences be secured as part of our negotiations, Clauses 1 to 3 should cease to have effect. I understand the intention and I agree that we do not wish to create delegated powers if they are not going to be used at any point in the future in relation to EU exit, but I would like to set out why this Bill has a wider application than just to our road haulage access with the EU. It should also apply to the European Conference of Ministers of Transport multilateral permit scheme and our bilateral agreements with non-EU countries.
While these non-EU agreements have, until now, been dealt with under administrative powers, now that we are introducing this Bill we think that it is important that those agreements are brought in scope, so that there is compliance and consistency in the administration, allocation and enforcement of permits with whatever agreement we reach with the European Union. There would be problems with having different legislation covering similar permit schemes. We are keen to ensure that UK hauliers can use one online system to apply and get permits for the EU as well as non-EU countries, as that would reduce burdens on them.
Do I understand the noble Baroness right? Is she seeking to incorporate the ECMT scheme within the parameters of the Community licence? Is that part of the objective of the negotiations?
No, not exactly. If the outcome of the negotiations is a permit-based system, whether unlimited or whatever, yes, we would use this legislation for the allocation of other permits for ECMT and non-EU countries. As I said, that is to simplify the system, have everything in one place under the regulations and allow hauliers to have just one point of access. Beyond the first regulations made under this power, they would need to be updated and amended as our international agreements, whether they be with EU or non-EU countries, change over time. We would need to retain the ability to create regulations under the Bill.
Many noble Lords referred to the report of the DPRRC, which I have read carefully. I thank my noble friend who chairs the committee and my noble friend Lord Moynihan for their considerations, harsh or not, and I am grateful for the clarification. We will address the procedures around secondary legislation throughout the Bill on the second day of Committee. I take this issue really seriously and look forward to discussing it in more detail then.
On Monday, we circulated policy scoping documents which set out more detail on how we propose to develop the regulations which the Bill enables. We are consulting industry on the principle set out in the scoping document, which will inform the development of draft regulations. During the passage of the Bill, we will consult more fully on the regulations.
Another issue raised was cabotage, which I think we will address in a later group of amendments. I understand the importance of this for both UK hauliers in the EU and EU hauliers in the UK. On my noble friend Lord Attlee’s point on the ability to withdraw permits for non-compliance, permits will be allocated only to UK operators with an operator’s licence, so that will ensure that minimum standards of professional competence, financial standing and repute are met. If someone breaks the rules of the operator’s licence, both the licence and the permit can be revoked. The licence will be revoked under provisions in the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Act 1995 and the permit will be revoked under regulations made under Clause 2.
The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, raised the important issue of corruption. IT systems such as the vehicle operator’s licence system and supporting intelligence data will be used to identify any non-compliance for both UK and international vehicles. Our aim is to develop permits that are very difficult to copy, but of course that does not address the issue of bribery, which the noble Lord mentioned. We are speaking to hauliers who were in the previous permit system to learn from their experience in developing a system and are confident of delivering a better system than we had previously through that engagement. I will of course carefully consider the points that the noble Lord raised.
Let us take the Mont Blanc or the Brenner Pass. A truck turns up with a permit which is handed over in the office. Will there be some sort of IT connection between that customs post on the Brenner with a central data point in the United Kingdom, so that it can check whether it is a valid or a forged permit? If so, we do not need particularly sophisticated documentation, because all along the line there will be an IT check on what is seen abroad. Can the Minister give us that assurance?
I understand the noble Lord’s point. Sadly, I cannot speak for what will happen in the EU until we have concluded the negotiations. Within the UK, that is absolutely the idea: there would be a system to check on these permits. The noble Lord makes a very good point: we will seek to minimise corruption in future, but that will be subject to negotiations.
On the issue of fraud, I have come across people involved in the delivery of trucks. There appears to be a way you can avoid being limited in your hours by the tachograph because it does not stay with the person, it stays with the truck. That has probably been the case for 20 or 30 years. What have we learned from that and how will we prevent the same thing happening in future with these licences that my noble friend has spoken about?
Absolutely. I agree with the noble Lord that that has happened in the past. We are working with the DVSA on how to better enforce compliance, on both this and future licensing systems, and we will continue to do so.
My noble friend Lord Moynihan mentioned the tripartite agreement between the UK, France and Ireland. We have been looking at how best to ensure that the racing industry is not affected by this Bill and is protected. However, I will take away what he said and will look at it.
Can I ask another question? I am sorry to keep coming back, but I will try to get all my questions out of the way at the beginning. What about the transfer of permits? Will there be some sort of mechanism to ensure that one haulier cannot sell a permit to another haulier? Perhaps we could have that assurance.
I am afraid that until we know the exact system of the permits, we will not be able to give the noble Lord that assurance. Obviously, we need to avoid there being a false market for these permits. We will look at how permits are allocated and if they are limited in any way, which we hope they will not be, we will certainly consider how to avoid that. Again, the allocation system should make sure that additional permits are not allocated to people who are not using them. It is certainly something we will consider.
I hope I have addressed the need for this legislation, regardless of the agreement reached with the EU. I understand the sentiments of noble Lords in proposing these amendments and welcome the discussion it has enabled. However, as I said, we do not believe that the Community licence system is the only way to proceed and therefore do not think the Bill is an appropriate place to set out that negotiation objective. On that basis, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, it is the tradition in Grand Committee to agree to withdraw amendments, and I shall shortly do so. However, I am disappointed with the Minister’s response. I thought I gave her a rather generous invitation to accept Amendment 1.
There is something I find more puzzling still. Over the weekend I extended my reading to take in the international road freight permits policy scoping document. While it does not give us a lot more information, paragraph 1.6 says that the Bill is intended to support the Government’s aim of continuing the liberal access for commercial transport to the EU. It goes on to say that the importance of keeping essential trade flowing is recognised by the EU and is strongly in the mutual interest of both sides, and the industry is therefore confident that a deal will be secured to ensure that essential trade flows will continue without any restriction on access.
I take the argument that this is an opportunity for the Government to look at other ways in which haulage could be permitted, not just in the EU but more widely. I welcome the observation made by the Minister about the way in which they are going to try to simplify the permit scheme and, it seemed to me, bring schemes together to look for a simple way forward in the future. The beauty of the Community licence approach is that it is very simple. Once the primary point has been satisfied and you get the standard international operator’s licence in place, things flow from that. Therefore, I do not think that it is too big an ask to try to have that as an objective in the negotiations.
I will obviously undertake to read what the Minister has said in her reply, but I think it likely that I shall want to bring back this amendment, or one very similar, at Report. I do not think we have heard enough from her to persuade me otherwise, hard though she has tried this afternoon. Our haulage industry requires a bit more certainty and a sense of the Government’s direction of travel, what they have in mind and what their objective is.
If I have one fundamental objection to the Bill, it is that it is only a framework and is entirely skeletal. That much is very clear, not least from the reports that have been prepared by the Constitution Committee and the DPRRC. It is not a very satisfactory Bill, because we will end up having something skeletal as a contingency—that is what this Bill is. If we have to press the button and make it go live—to make it work and make it govern the way in which haulage operates as an industry—the Government will end up having to colour in a lot of the blanks that the Bill leaves, and will have to take rather urgent action to do that at a time when most of us, not least the industry itself, will be worrying about issues relating to Brexit.
I am grateful to the Minister for her response and to the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, for his help in attempting to clarify things for her. I am grateful for the support I have had this afternoon for Amendment 1, across the Committee. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 1 withdrawn.
Clause 1: International road transport permits
2: Clause 1, page 2, leave out lines 1 and 2
My Lords, Amendments 2, 4 and 5 in my name come from a question I have about Clause 1: why do drivers transporting goods to Northern Ireland get singled out? We know that the Republic is going to remain in the single market and that Northern Ireland is not. I see no difference between the requirements for a permit, or anything else, for drivers going between Northern Ireland and the Republic, between Northern Ireland and the UK—I assume that there is no need for a special licence between Northern Ireland and the UK—and between Northern Ireland and continental Europe. There is an added complexity to the licensing system which is not justified. What is the difference between drivers in Northern Ireland and those in other parts of the UK going to other parts of the European Union? Finding that out is the purpose of these three amendments. I beg to move.
My Lords, Amendment 3 in my name also deals with Northern Ireland. It is a probing amendment, seeking an explanation from the Minister. Following an “international agreement”, Clause 3 allows the creation of regulations prohibiting an operator of a goods vehicle using it in specified circumstances. This creates obvious problems for the Irish border. If an international agreement were able to prohibit the travel of goods between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, this could lead to a diminishing sense of the common identity that has developed in the years following the Good Friday agreement. It also presents a practical problem, as the avoidance of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic would not be possible. We all know that the Prime Minister has repeatedly said that she wishes to avoid a hard border, but you are going to have a problem delivering that if checks are needed on the border. Whether the operator can cross the border or not, it is the checks that are the issue.
The Bill suggests that there is a sensitivity about travel between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Our amendment simply strengthens that reference. We obviously do not want to imply that there should be checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK—quite the contrary. I therefore want to emphasise that the amendment is to investigate how this provision would work and in what circumstances the Government anticipate that they might have to use it. It would obviously be a lot easier for everyone if we kept to the current arrangements.
Last night, in the debate in the Chamber on the EU withdrawal Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Robathan, referred to the remnants of what used to be in place on the Irish/Northern Irish border, and to the fact that those facilities are not used any more. I am well aware from my visits to the island of Ireland that people travel across the border frequently and take doing so for granted. In many cases they do not notice which of the two they are in, any more than I do when I travel from Gwent to South Glamorgan in Wales. There is a proud notice to say immediately where you have arrived, but until you get to a shop or something and try to use some currency there are not many signs of difference. People do that on a daily basis and the trade has followed that lead from the people of the island of Ireland. It is therefore important that we get clarity from the Government on exactly how they anticipate that this would work, while maintaining the absence of a hard border.
My Lords, like my noble friend Lord Berkeley, I am confused about the continual references to Northern Ireland in the Bill before the Committee. Bearing in mind the years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, is there some specific reason why the Government are—“harping on” would be the wrong phrase to use—continually mentioning Northern Ireland in the Bill?
We need to seek some clarity from the Minister about the permits as well. What information does she envisage appearing on the permit? Will the permit be in the name of the driver, the vehicle or the company? Will it be for a specific journey or a period of time? Again, following my noble friend’s amendment, why are there specific references to Northern Ireland? It is and will remain part of the United Kingdom; I do not envy those in the negotiations that will take place between the Government and the Democratic Unionist Party but, for the moment, we have to say that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. Whatever amendments we pass to the Bill will therefore apply equally in all parts of the United Kingdom. Perhaps the Minister can help us where the permit system is concerned. Will there be a difference in the permits for Northern Ireland, and exactly what information do the Government envisage setting out on those permits before they are issued?
My Lords, in speaking to the amendments in this group, I admit that to a fair degree I am not sure what the Bill says about Northern Ireland. I am not entirely sure what it will say about Northern Ireland, with or without these amendments. One thing I know about Northern Ireland is that before you say anything about it, you have to consult a lot of people to make sure you get it right. Accordingly, all I will say is that our position is to support the Good Friday agreement. We will examine what has been said so far and what the Minister says before determining our position on this group.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, for tabling these amendments and allowing a discussion on the important issue of haulage between Northern Ireland and Ireland. I take this opportunity to reiterate that this Bill does not create a permit regime or hard border on the island of Ireland. Clarity about this issue is of great importance, given the Government’s commitment to having no physical infrastructure or related checks and controls. We must preserve north-south co-operation, of which transport is a priority area for the North/South Ministerial Council, established under the Good Friday agreement.
The regulations brought forward under the Bill may prohibit a goods vehicle from undertaking an international journey to a country outside the UK, unless they have a permit, where an international agreement has been concluded requiring permits to be carried. In relation to Ireland, we have included an additional requirement that the Secretary of State must certify that the Government of Ireland have consented to the use of permits on journeys on the island of Ireland before this comes into force. This has been included to recognise and respect the long history of co-operation with regards to transport on the island of Ireland; the Government believe it is an important addition to the Bill.
Clause 1 is drafted to make it explicitly clear that regulations requiring permits for journeys on the island of Ireland will not be introduced without that clear agreement; we have singled it out because of the importance of ensuring that there is no hard border.
Just to clarify, if the agreement reached with either the EU or the Government in Ireland was such that they consented to a permit regime being introduced for haulage through Ireland, does that not envisage a situation where there might be a hard border?
The clause as drafted ensures that there has to be a direct agreement between the UK Government and the Government of Ireland before any such scheme is introduced. It aims to avoid exactly that.
Does not the question of requiring the Government of Ireland to consent to the use of permits apply to the whole European Union? In other words, are we allowed to use these permits unless the EU accepts them as a valid document? Does that not apply equally to the rest of the EU, not just Ireland?
The permits would need to be recognised by the EU to be used. As I said, this is an extra clause to ensure that we can also have a separate agreement between the Government of Ireland and the Government of the United Kingdom before anything is put in place.
Picking up on my noble friend Lord Berkeley’s point, does that mean that there has already been some negotiation between our Government and the EU on the possibility, or prospect, of a permit scheme having to be put in place? Are the negotiators aware that this contingency legislation has been drafted and do they see it as a practical way forward, with all other considerations put aside?
As noble Lords will be aware, there have been many conversations between the EU and the UK on Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland. Obviously, that was addressed in the December agreement. I am afraid that I am unable to tell the noble Lord, Lord Bassam—despite consulting widely, as the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, said—whether this specific piece of legislation has been discussed with the EU in detail. I will find that out and write to him. The example we have given in Clause 1 is an attempt to provide clarity on how the prohibition of using a goods vehicle without a permit in regulations may be limited, so it does not apply to journeys on the island of Ireland. It is designed to show that there is flexibility to agree something different on the island of Ireland, which is why we believe it is important to include an illustrative example.
Moving on to the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, the Bill allows for a range of outcomes while also meeting our commitments on north/south co-operation as set out in the joint report. We do not think that the amendment as it stands will allow us that same flexibility. As we have not yet agreed the arrangements for haulage for when we leave the EU, we want to keep that flexibility to ensure that any agreement can be implemented. The Bill does not give the UK Government the power to restrict the number of trucks crossing the Irish border; it gives us the power only to implement any new cross-border arrangements that are agreed directly with the Republic of Ireland. As I say, both the UK and Irish Governments have made clear their commitment to avoiding a hard border and preserving cross-border co-operation in any scenario. There is no question of either Government agreeing to such restrictions on cross-border haulage.
On the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Snape, on permits and what they will show, obviously we are consulting carefully on that, but we expect it to be the name of the company—as opposed to the truck—its validity and its unique number, which is similar to what we have on the Community licence.
Would that permit be worded in exactly the same way if the journey originates in Northern Ireland?
We expect that the permits would be the same; it is just that the agreement on how the permit system is enacted would be made only if it was subject to a direct and separate agreement between the Government of the UK and the Government of Ireland.
Would a company based in Ireland but travelling through the UK require a permit?
If its journey would then go on to the European Union, yes, it would. However, if it was going just to the UK, that would fall under the agreement.
I understand that these amendments are designed to ensure that there are no new restrictions and to get clarity on the issue of the island of Ireland. We are committed to this goal and believe the current drafting of the Bill has that intention; as the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, highlighted, it has been extensively consulted on. However, I will take noble Lords’ comments on this—
I am sorry about this but on the permits from within Ireland that means a company based in Dublin, for example, would require a UK government permit to travel through the UK to go to the rest of Europe and beyond. Have we consulted with the Irish Government on that issue? It seems an important consultation to undertake. What if they are not happy for us to have a permit scheme which will apply to companies based in Ireland? I do not know how many of those there are; possibly not that many, although I am sure there are a sufficient number to be a burden on their businesses. Have they actively considered that?
Before the Minister responds, I will widen the question a little. My noble friend mentioned the example of a lorry starting in Dublin and going through the UK to the continent, and asked whether it needs a permit. That is why I tabled Amendment 14B, which we shall come on to in due course, to ask whether foreign trucks need a permit to enter the UK. Surely it does not make any difference whether it is delivering from Dublin to the UK or going through the UK to deliver to Paris, as it still needs the same licence. Is my assumption correct?
The noble Lord is correct. We will move on to discuss cabotage, which is an incredibly important issue, whether it be for Republic of Ireland hauliers or UK hauliers. We continue to work with industry to understand its needs. We have spoken to those within the island of Ireland and to a certain extent those in the EU about the Bill. As I said, the exact arrangement on cabotage will be subject to negotiation, so I cannot provide a precise answer at this stage on exactly what that truck from the Republic of Ireland travelling to the UK and on to France will need, because it will depend on the outcome of the negotiations.
As I said, the clause is an attempt to provide clarity on the issue around the island of Ireland. I will take away noble Lords’ comments, consider them carefully and look again at the wording. The reason for this provision is to single out a potential issue and provide reassurance that there will be no hard border in Northern Ireland. Noble Lords may not agree that it does that, so I will take it away and look at it in detail. But for now, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
I am grateful to the Minister for some pretty long and detailed explanations. I can see the political need for something like this. On the other hand, when one sees what has been going on in the last six months, where the Irish Government have clearly allowed the European Commission—probably quite rightly—to do all their negotiations for it as just another member state, that gives cause for reflection. I shall reflect with colleagues and, in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 2 withdrawn.
Amendments 3 to 5 not moved.
Clause 1 agreed.
Amendment 6 not moved.
Clause 2: Number and allocation of permits etc
Amendment 7 not moved.
8: Clause 2, page 2, line 43, leave out subsection (2)
My Lords, I move Amendment 8 simply because I believe two things. First, we cannot contemplate a situation where there are not enough permits. If we have a permit system, we must negotiate a position where there are sufficient. That is the principal reason for my moving the amendment: to emphasise that point, to allow people to speak to it and for some of the passion of last night to come through on the back of it.
If there is a limit, it is unthinkable that it should be a matter of random allocation or “first come, first served”. How do you build the future of your business, which is to a degree capital intensive, while depending on employing staff to line up at some government office with sleeping bags to sleep overnight to be first in the queue as if it is Wimbledon, or plan your investments on the basis of how their names might come out of some hat? First, we should not contemplate a limit on the number of permits; secondly, I cannot believe that these words were put in a Bill, as it cannot be a serious suggestion to this extraordinarily important industry that it would be required to behave like that to carry on trading. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support the initial comments of the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe. It would be a disaster if we had to regulate the issue of permits in the way provided for, but I hope that the Minister can reassure us that we will take all necessary steps to avoid such a situation. However, I think that it is a sensible provision in a Bill as a backstop, while recognising that it would be terrible in the way if we found ourselves in such a situation as the noble Lord described.
My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe on this. Pretty much every year, I try to get tickets to go to Glastonbury. You go on the website at 9 am and are still there at 10.30 am, and you suddenly discover that your youngest daughter has got tickets but you have not. There is something clearly wrong about a system that does that in my family, let alone anywhere else. The notion that we might have some random process—first come, first served or whatever—is clearly something that we should not allow ourselves to sign up to.
I want to hear on the record some reassuring words from the Minister. This may be a vague Bill, a schematic Bill, a framework Bill and all the rest, but this matter needs some clarification.
My Lords, “first come, first served” implies immediately a limited number of permits, a shortage of permits and problems in the industry. I want to read the general conditions from one such permit issued nearly 35 years ago, which civil servants may find useful during the negotiations. It is quite short, but raises a number of issues. Under “General Conditions”, it states:
“This authorisation, together with the journey record mentioned below, must be carried on the vehicle and be produced at the request of any authorised inspecting officer. It authorises only the number of journeys indicated. It is not valid for national transport. It is not transferable. The carrier is required to comply, in the territory of each Member State, with the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of that State, and in particular with those concerning transport and traffic. This authorisation must be returned to the issuing agency within fifteen days of date of expiry. Before each transport operation, the holder of this authorisation is required to prepare any journey record provided for in bilateral agreements. Such journey record must be returned at the same time as this authorisation”.
So it is a fairly complicated process for the hauliers.
If it is not used within 15 days of the date of expiry, it is returned, but that permit has already been allocated to a specific journey—if that is what it says in the terms and conditions. Is that permit then written off? Does it affect the total number or permits that are allocated, or can we simply allocate a substitute permit, having declared that permit to be written off? I am asking this because, if a limited number of permits are allocated, there is going to be some argument about where they are going. I am trying to establish how we calculate the total numbers that are allocated.
I have been thinking about the earlier intervention by my noble friend Lord Snape. He talked about it being of benefit, in certain circumstances, to our haulage industry. There is a problem there, because we want to avoid that. If we are going into these negotiations on the basis that we want enough permits to supply all the demand, the last thing we want to do is starve the Irish of permits. If they need them, they should be given them, because that helps our case in the negotiations with the European Union.
In her reply, will the Minister clarify exactly what these permits will be? The background briefing that her department issued referred to single-journey permits and multiple-journey permits. It referred to the European Conference of Ministers of Transport permit system. Having researched this, I believe that the number of permits available under that system would be absolutely tiny. Where are these permits going to come from? What is going to regulate them? Are we going to dream it up ourselves or base it on the international system? We need a bit of clarity on this.
My Lords, I thank noble Lords again for their contributions to this debate. I assure noble Lords that this provision is not intended to allow these methods to be the only approach used, or for these to be used without the use of other criteria. We are in the process of negotiating with the EU on how UK hauliers will operate in the EU 27 after our withdrawal. As I said, we are confident we will secure an agreement which allows them to operate without restrictions on market access. If we do agree a permit system, “no restrictions” would mean unlimited permits. The exact nature of what will be in the permits will be down to the international agreement with the EU. We do not have details of that yet, but I imagine that it would follow the international information which is included on them. I will take back the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours. I will look in detail in Hansard about what the exact restrictions on that permit are. I am not sure that we would repeat them in a future system.
In including this, we are attempting to be prudent in ensuring that the industry would be able to continue to operate under a range of different outcomes. It may be that, depending on our future partnership agreement, in some circumstances, the demand for permits may exceed the available number. As I said, that is not the aim of negotiations or what we are hoping for, but we have a duty to plan for that, as a contingency.
One of those outcomes could see the permit scheme we agree involving a set quota of permits. The Bill allows us to set criteria to allocate those permits, should we need to. The detail of the criteria will be setout in regulations and guidance. We have set out some examples in the scoping documents. In such a case, criteria such as the economic benefit the permit would bring would be reflected. Of course, a more sensible way of allocating permits would be the best outcome. However, if the use of those criteria—set out in the regulations—was not sufficient to balance demand versus supply, we may need to apply a further method such as random allocation to decide between applicants. For example, if we were able to clearly allocate 90% of applications because of the economic case, we could then use a first come, first served basis or random allocation to allocate the other 10%. As I said, and as noble Lords have made clear, we want to avoid a system with a limited number of permits, but we need the ability to allocate them should we find ourselves in the unfortunate situation of their being limited.
Why does that sentence have to be in the Bill?
I was coming on to that. It might be appropriate and fairer to combine a number of criteria and approaches to different types of permits. For many of our current permit schemes with third-party countries, such as Morocco and Ukraine, the number of permits is significantly greater than the take-up and this is not expected to change. In these circumstances, the optimal approach is first come, first served, which we use at the moment.
It would of course still be possible for the Government to bring forward a proposal to use these specific approaches for the EU by putting them in regulations alongside other criteria and methods. As I said, we discussed that further in the policy scoping note.
I am sorry. The transmission on the audio equipment was very bad when you were answering the question I asked. It was impossible to hear because the audio went wrong, so I repeat my question: if that sentence were not in the Bill, would it make any difference? Why not just remove it?
As I said, we may use that system for current non-EU agreements and agreements with third countries, which we discussed before. That is the system we currently use because we have an excess of permits to demand. That could be on a random basis or on a first come, first served basis.
That did not answer my question.
I am sorry. If we are in one of those desperate situations where there is a shortage of permits compared to what we need, retaining that subsection is extremely damaging because it means that, in most circumstances, we cannot allocate on a needs basis. I should have thought that there are certain things we need to import or export that have a high degree of priority. Having that clause drives a coach and horses through that, does it not?
Before the Minister answers, can I ask her to take this away and discuss it in the department? I think she may get different advice when there has been a full discussion.
I absolutely agree that we will need to put criteria in place in the unfortunate situation of there not being enough permits to go round. Of course we would do that; I hope I explained earlier that this would give us the ability to allocate the remainder of the permits if those criteria could not fairly decide what the allocations should be.
I entirely understand that noble Lords are concerned that the methods of allocation appear somewhat arbitrary when viewed in isolation. The intention is that when we bring forward the regulations—which will have all the criteria set out in the policy scoping notes—the industry will see that there is an objective and equitable approach. The option of including these criteria as part of the approach is an important contingency.
The thing about regulations is that they are unamendable. You either buy the package or you reject the lot. This provision does not terribly help, because it could end up contradicting the regulations. That is why my noble friend is suggesting that the Minister might want to take it away to give it a bit more thought. I am struggling to think of a set of circumstances where these two things will work.
Can I add to that intervention? I can give the Minister another criterion. What about regional considerations, which might well be in our favour?
The reason we put these two methods in the Bill and left other criteria and approaches for the regulations is based on legal advice. Perhaps the Committee would allow me to set it out.
Although there is no specific reference to the exercise of discretion in the Bill, all regulation-making powers and the regulations state that the Secretary of State “may make provision”, which obviously involves the exercise of discretion. Decisions on the allocation of permits will involve an element of discretion in both setting the criteria and applying them to determine which operator gets a permit. Discretion in the Secretary of State’s decision must be in accordance with public law principles, so it must be lawful, rational and procedurally fair, and decisions may be challenged by way of judicial review where they do not comply with those principles.
To be clear that the Secretary of State is able in certain circumstances to allow the use of first come, first served or random allocation, they have been included in the Bill. Where the criteria set out in regulations and guidance are not sufficient to allocate all the permits, the Secretary of State is able to use that discretion to allocate permits on a first come, first served basis. It is best included in the Bill in accordance with public law principles.
I understand the noble Lord’s point. We have had extensive discussion on this. It is based on very clear legal advice that if we were not to include it, we could not use it at any point. Although we do not want to use it for the allocation of permits, because I entirely agree that that would not be fair, I will take it back and discuss it further with the legal team to clarify. I understand why it standing alone in the Bill causes concern.
I am grateful to the Minister. While she is doing that, could she come up with some precedents where the first come, first served principle has been used and, if it is buying tickets for sporting events, or whatever, whether it is appropriate for this?
I certainly will. As I said, we currently use it in certain non-EU agreements, but this is obviously the first time we will be partially using it in an EU-UK agreement. Let us not forget that we are all hopeful that we will not need to include it, but if we do, it is incredibly important that we get it right in order that it is fair. I will take it away, discuss it further and see whether we can get across the same principle and ensure that we are not subject to legal challenge in a way that is more acceptable to noble Lords.
When my noble friend takes it away, can she also have a look at why we do not simply auction the permits? We auction all sorts of things: oil exploration rights, for instance. They are very valuable and they are auctioned. That seems a much more sensible way to allocate a scarce resource rather than first come, first serve, which seems to have all sorts of difficulties alluded to by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, although he shakes his head vigorously.
The noble Earl would prefer to see a lorry load of caviar coming in rather than basic food.
I made it quite clear that I do not think we should go anywhere close to being short on permits. We are talking about disaster if we are short on permits. As we know perfectly well, the Bill’s provision is just a long-stop measure, but I am glad that my noble friend will be taking it away.
Currently, the scoping document does not include a provision to auction. That is a new one on me, and I think there will be various views on it. We are of course discussing what criteria should be used and that is subject to consultation, so I shall be happy to feed in my noble friend’s thoughts.
As I said, I understand the issue. I will take it back to see whether there is anything that we can do. With that, I hope that the noble Lord will be able to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, if the Minister comes back with an agreement where this subsection is needed, she will have failed, and if she fails, the use of these criteria would be unreasonable. The Minister and I have already done spaceports and lasers. She has a commendable record on bringing back compromises; I hope that she does so in this case. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 8 withdrawn.
9: Clause 2, page 3, line 10, at end insert—
“(3A) Before exit day, the Secretary of State must publish a report outlining the content of any agreement with the EU over the allocation of permits for UK registered vehicles to operate in the EU.(3B) In subsection (3A), “exit day” has the same meaning as in section 14 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.”
My Lords, I will also speak to Amendment 14B in my name.
Amendment 9 is quite simple. It would require the Secretary of State to publish a report saying what is in any agreement that has been made on the allocation of permits for UK-registered vehicles to operate in the EU. I do not need to go into it in any more detail than that. We have had a good discussion about that this afternoon, and I am sure that the Minister will welcome this. She will probably say that she is going to do it anyway, and if she is not going to, she jolly well should. However, there is a reciprocal problem that we have not discussed so far—although my noble friend Lord Snape mentioned it—which is about EU lorries coming into the UK. Amendment 14B would allow the Government to make regulations to issue permits for non-UK registered vehicles to come into the UK. This would include vehicles, as I said earlier, from the Republic of Ireland.
Does the Minister agree that there is a need to issue such licences? I hope that she does, because otherwise, EU lorries will roam around the UK freely, doing exactly what they like, presumably doing cabotage for several months before they run out of fuel. It seems unfair, and I am sure that the European Union negotiators will accept that there has to be a reciprocal arrangement. Does the Minister envisage an allocation of permits to each member state, or will there be one lot of permits to cover the whole 26 or so member states—apart from Ukraine and places like that, because they are not within the EU? If the answer is, “No, it is an EU one and that’s fine”, will the Republic of Ireland to be happy with that, and how will it get its allocation—will it be separate or together?
I can see from past experience that the French and Dutch Governments in particular may want more than their fair share, or more than what we may think is their fair share, so there is the question of how we would deal with that.
Lastly—I hardly dare go back to this question of first come, first served—but how will it be done? I cannot say much more than that, but I look forward to hearing what the Minister says. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have a number of amendments in this group. These amendments have been laid to ensure clarity of purpose in the Government’s strategy. Amendment 12 seeks to get the Government to lay a report within a month of the Bill passing on forecasts of how the permits regime will affect the efficiency of haulage and in every year following. Amendment 13 asks that within three months of the Bill passing the Government produce a report setting out their expectations for future arrangements between the EU and the UK with regard to road haulage. Amendment 14 suggests that within three months of the Bill passing a report on the costs of the future international haulage permit scheme be published.
It is essential to business continuity that the industry knows what the Government are up to and what their expectations are, what forecasts are being made and, most importantly, what costs they are likely to incur should the scheme in the Bill need to be implemented. It is fair to say that the impact assessments published were delphic in the extreme on cost estimating. No figures were given, but there were a lot of words to suggest that there is an expectation that companies in the small and medium-sized haulage sector might seriously struggle with the cost when permits are introduced, particularly given that, on the face of it, it is going to be a full cost recovery system.
The Minister will say that it is too early and that we have not got to the point at which we need to do a lot of this, but at Second Reading she gave some indication of what the range of costs might be for individual permits. We need more information, and there ought to be an obligation on the Government to produce reports setting out forecasts and expectations for future arrangements and costs. Without those things, we will not have certainty in the industry, and the industry definitely needs certainty. From my discussions with the FTA I know that it is concerned not so much about the scheme itself as about how it will work, what the details of implementation will be, the burdens that it will place on its businesses and the likely impact on the haulage industry in the UK generally. These are not unreasonable concerns. We, as responsible legislators, ought to focus on that. I hope that the Government can come up with some answers and will commit to producing reports and assessments of the sort that these amendments describe.
My Lords, I want to concentrate on Amendment 14, which refers to cost. I will refer to documents that I have from 30 years ago, which deal with the costs at that time. What interests me is how the costs are split between various categories. Again, civil servants might find this useful. I have with me a non-quota permit for France and a non-quota permit for Italy. The price I refer to now is an indicator for one country, so obviously if a truck were passing through a number of countries the totals would be multiplied. On a single journey to France, 30 years ago, a permit was £2.80; a multiple-journey permit valid for two journeys was £3.40; a multiple-journey permit valid for three journeys was £5.10; a multiple-journey permit valid for four journeys was £6.80; and a period permit was £50. That is for one country; as I said, those figures have to be multiplied for permits for more than one country.
The office in the United Kingdom that received that money was in Westgate House, on Westgate Road in Newcastle upon Tyne. That is where everything was organised from, and as my origins are in the northern region and as that was my former constituency, I hope that if we go into this business again, which I hope we will not, permits will again be allocated from somewhere in the north of England, and in particular from Newcastle.
I have with me also the detail that is required for a permit. I want to go through it, because it is quite onerous and people should reflect on these matters before we go down this route. The form, which is from more than 30 years ago, asks for: the full name of applicant; address in full; British operator’s licence number, the traffic area in which it was issued and the date of expiry, and for Northern Ireland operators a freight operator’s licence number and the date of expiry; details of vehicle, including make, registration number and MOT plate; the maximum permissible laden weight; the unladen weight; the maximum permissible load; the date for departure from GB; countries to be traversed; date of entry into country, in this case Italy; the town and country where the goods were loaded; the town and country where the goods were unloaded; the nature of the goods to be carried; the weight of the goods to be carried; the estimated total length of journey on the continent; and whether the vehicle will cross the Italian frontier by rail or Kangarou service on the outward or return journey. That is a lot of information.
When we are in these negotiations, we should try to minimise the amount of information that hauliers are required to provide, if possible. I have talked about what would happen with frontiers; I remember occasions when trucks were stopped because a mistake had been made in the permit allocation. Under the current arrangements, that would incur demurrage charges. The former Transport Minister will know all about demurrage charges; I think I remember a debate he was involved in some time ago. Those charges can be very high: the freight operators at Dover talk about a current rate of about £250 a day. So, a hold-up as a result of a mistake on an allocated permit can be very costly. Therefore, there is a need to minimise the amount of information required.
My Lords, I rise to speak specifically to Amendment 12, to which I added my name, but also to the group as a whole, because it covers the cost of all this to the haulage industry: the cost of UK-registered vehicles operating in the EU; the efficiency of haulage after Brexit; future arrangements for the international transport of goods; and the cost impact. I have a slight feeling of Groundhog Day. I will spare your Lordships much of the detail, but I have been through this once in the previous 24 hours, during the EU withdrawal Bill debate, when we covered some of the same territory. For the sake of variety, I will say a few different things because there are plenty of things to say.
A report came out today—hence it was not the topic of my speech last night—by Clifford Chance and Oliver Wyman. It estimates that the costs to business of Brexit in terms of customs arrangements, additional legal and bureaucratic requirements and haulage requirements in relation to customs arrangements for goods in transit will be £32.8 billion. I always measure things in relation to £350 million, for reasons that might be obvious to some noble Lords here; that figure comes out at roughly double £350 million a week. That is a very significant issue and I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, illustrated the situation so well with original documents. I recall that, a year ago, one of the haulage organisations—forgive me, I am delving into my memory and cannot remember which one—sent us a briefing about the costs to the haulage industry. It illustrated them by saying that, depending on the type of goods being carried, driving from the UK to Italy and back could require 64 different pieces of documentation. In this day and age, I am sure that would not be pieces of paper, but people have to fill in the forms online in just the same way. Anyone who spends as much time filling in forms online as I do will know that it is very easy to make one of the mistakes referred to by the noble Lord.
Last night, we talked about delays at the ports. Dover is a particularly stark example because of its geographical configuration and the built-up area around it. That all adds to the cost, and the issue of permits and other documentation is key to getting the lorries through Dover and all the other ports as quickly as possible.
The amendments address the impact of additional border controls and delays, the costs of which go well beyond the haulage industry. When we had Operation Stack—and Dover port is predicting worse queues than Operation Stack as a regular feature—it cost the police and council in Kent £1 million a day. All these other things add up, so it is so important that any permit system is simple, straightforward and as flexible as possible.
I also emphasised last night that we talk all the time about the cost to government, but businesses have to internalise and absorb those costs or pass them on to their customers. In the case of large companies, that might be quite reasonable over a period, but there are SMEs that have only ever exported to EU countries. They will never have dealt with custom systems before, and will not be familiar with the whole process. They will have to set up whole new departments and systems, which will be of significant cost to business and have significant impact on our industry. That applies across the board.
The Clifford Chance report picked out the impact on the car industry because car parts move across borders frequently during their production. The impact will be on car manufacturers not just in this country but in other countries bringing their cars and car parts to us.
I very much hope that the Minister will be able to assure us that the Government are doing some work on this and will soon be able to produce some hard figures. Reports have been published. They may be accurate or inaccurate, but the work has been done. Individual industries are doing that work. It would be very useful if we had some information on what the Government calculate will be the impact.
My Lords, I see merit in some of the amendments. Clearly, we need to know the outcome of the negotiation and what the impact will be. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, mentioned demurrage, which is a good point. If you have a complex system, you can foul up. The problem for a small haulier is getting anyone to pay demurrage. It might be in the contract, but you try getting your customer to pay it for a small haulage business: you will struggle. It may be okay if you have a supertanker and your contract agreed on the Baltic Exchange, but for a little haulage deal? Forget it.
The Committee needs to consider the position of our EU partners. It is not in their interest to have a complex system either. We have the Hams Hall engine plant making BMW engines that have to go to Germany. We know perfectly well that automotive components go backwards and forwards several times, as the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, said. It is in no one’s interest to have a complex system.
I am not sure that is the case. If you are required to give your load to someone else, because you do not have a permit to run in Germany, you lose the business. A German tractor unit will take over your load and take it to its destination.
I agree with the noble Lord that the Government will have to negotiate the UK’s position effectively, but it is in no one’s interest—neither ours nor that of the other EU states—to have a complex system that harks back 50 years. The noble Lord has illustrated the problem very well: if you have a complex system, it will be horrendously expensive, and we do much more cross-channel trade now than we ever used to. I cannot see the driver of having a complex system. We may legally have to have a permit system, but it is up to the Government to negotiate as simple a system as possible, which I am confident they will do.
I wonder whether I can speak again.
It is Committee.
I have just seen something in a non-quota document which might be of interest to Ministers. It is an Italian document stating that a permit is required for the transport of goods by means of an unaccompanied trailer or semi-trailer as well as by means of a motor vehicle with or without trailer or semi-trailer. It says that “articulated vehicle” means a tractor hauling of semi-trailer. If we really get into hard territory, we should be arguing on the gross tonnage of vehicles, because that might be a way of getting more permits. Our vehicles are 24 tonnes, 32 tonnes, 15 tonnes and 10 tonnes—I am not a transport expert; my noble friend Lord Berkeley will correct me. We may get an exemption for lower-tonnage vehicles in the event that we find ourselves in a corner on the allocation.
Of course, the noble Lord is thinking about a complex system. One might need a permit just to run vehicle registration number XYZ in Europe; it might be as simple as that; we simply do not know. The Minister will not give the indication because she is negotiating. It need not be horrendously complicated.
My Lords, this is the reports group of amendments; various reports are suggested. We have two amendments in the group, Amendments 13 and 14, but they all centre on the same issue: how is this critical, potentially catastrophic problem being solved and how much is it costing?
It is important to realise that this is not a second-order hard or soft Brexit debate; it has nothing to do with that. Whether it is a hard Brexit or a soft Brexit, if this problem is not solved, we starve. Last night, it was clear just how concerned the House is about the situation. There is an argument that, because it will cause them pain and cause us pain, the world will be rational. The trouble is that the negotiations are being led not by businessmen or exporters but by politicians. I hate to say it: in history, politicians have not always been rational. Our friends in Europe are feeling very bruised about Brexit. They should probably be cheering because they are getting rid of us, but they are not; they are upset. Their club is being challenged by our departure, so there is every possibility that they will not be rational.
The argument that the pain is the same from anything we get wrong, again, is not valid. If you put a border down the North Sea and down the channel so that nothing can cross it, the EU 27 will survive and we will not. This problem has to be solved. All that we are asking for in this group of amendments is to be told how it is happening. Whether we agree the amendment or not, I hope that the Minister will hear what we are saying, arrange one way or another to keep us informed of developments and convince us that the energy and effort that such an important issue requires are going into solving it.
My Lords, these amendments set out requirements to report on a range of matters related to road haulage, from the allocation of permits to forecasting how a permits regime will affect the efficiency of road haulage, what our future arrangements will be for transporting goods, the cost to the road haulage industry and the permit arrangements for foreign hauliers. As noble Lords have made clear, road haulage is essential to our economy. It is an indispensable enabler of much of the wider economy, too. I appreciate that the Committee’s concerns here are how the permits system may affect the movement of haulage between the United Kingdom and the EU, and any impacts on UK hauliers and the wider economy—the direct financial impacts to industry and the wider economic effect.
The key impact for hauliers alongside the use of permits, as highlighted by many noble Lords, will be any restriction of trade and the possible friction at borders, which is why we are obviously doing what we can to reduce that. I am afraid I cannot give any further information on the wider negotiations currently taking place, and can only repeat that a future partnership is in the interests of both sides.
In implementing this legislation, we will bring forward a straightforward system that minimises any additional burdens or costs for business arising from the scheme. I previously set out that there will be no new transport checks required at borders. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, proposes that we produce a report outlining the content of any agreement on the allocation of permits, if they are required. When our agreement with the EU is settled, we will of course ensure that the haulage industry is properly informed and educated. As he predicted, I can say that we will publish the details of that scheme as soon as it becomes available. I am not convinced of the need to enshrine in the Bill the requirement to lay such reports before Parliament, as the information will be in the public domain.
Within the other amendments, Amendment 12 proposes that one month after the Bill comes into effect, and thereafter on an annual basis,
“the Secretary of State must lay a report before both Houses of Parliament containing a forecast of how the permits regime will affect the efficiency of haulage”,
while the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, has tabled an amendment about reporting within three months of the Bill coming into effect on the arrangement of the allocation of permits. I will address those together.
Although I cannot provide detailed forecasts of the impacts on the haulage industry while we are in negotiations as we do not know the final deal, as I have said, we are aiming to continue the existing liberalised access we have today. Again as predicted, this time by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, I do not believe that a requirement in legislation to produce a report containing analysis of how the permits scheme has impacted haulage is appropriate, or indeed even possible, one month or three months after the Act is passed as suggested, as negotiations may still be concluding.
However, I absolutely agree that it is incredibly important that the impact of any EU permit scheme—if that is required, and we are obviously all keen that it will not be—is assessed at an appropriate stage to take into account the application of the agreement itself, the administration of the scheme and the effect it will have on industry. If we need any new permit scheme, it is unlikely to have gone live within the timescales suggested, and we would not be in a position to provide any evaluation of its impacts. As I have said, we will publish details of the scheme as soon as they are available, but I absolutely recognise that there is a need to review the impacts. I will consider how best to do this ahead of Report and come back to noble Lords on that.
The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, made a point about information. Where possible, we aim to use existing information provided as part of the operator’s licence, and of course we will consult on all additional information needed and will aim to minimise that. He helpfully highlighted previous requirements, which certainly seem excessive to me. If we can use the negotiations to simplify the information needed on permits, we should certainly do that. As the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, said, this should be as simple and straightforward as possible.
I turn to the amendments on foreign hauliers. The Bill is not directly concerned with the operation of foreign hauliers in this country, except to the extent that Clauses 10 and 11 allow for derogations from a permitting scheme in emergencies. With the exception of Clauses 10 and 11, the Bill is solely concerned with requirements on UK hauliers operating internationally and provides powers only for the UK Government to issue permits to UK hauliers. But in light of the amendments, and because how EU hauliers are treated in the UK is incredibly important, it is probably helpful to outline the Government’s current thinking on international hauliers operating in the UK.
As noble Lords have pointed out, foreign hauliers play an essential part in freight movements between the UK and the EU. Foreign-registered HGVs carry more than five times as much freight as UK-registered HGVs, hauling 40 million tonnes between Great Britain and the other 27 EU member states. While the UK remains an EU member state, we participate in the Community licence scheme, an EU-wide scheme that permits a haulier licensed in one member state to operate across the Union, including some cross-border and within-border trade in other member states. The arrangements we make with the EU should, of course, be reciprocal. Whether we will require a permit scheme for foreign hauliers, and how it will work, will be subject to negotiations with the EU in the same way as whether UK hauliers will require a permit in the EU.
If future arrangements require permits for UK vehicles to travel to the EU, it follows that EU vehicles would require permits to travel to the UK. If we did require a permit scheme it would be for other member states, rather than the UK, to organise the issuing of their own permits. That would not be something the UK Government did. How they allocate these will be up to them, but we will discuss this with them in detail. I would be interested to hear their thoughts on first come first served and random allocation. That is why the Bill does not address this.
I thank the Minister for her explanation. To be clear, if each member state is to be allocating permits, what about the quantity for each state? Will there be more permits in total than we want and will we be able to limit them? How is it going to work? Will the European Commission do it? I think that would be a pretty good disaster, but it is for it to decide.
I am afraid that the answer to that is that it is all subject to the negotiations. The noble Lord asked earlier whether we were doing this on an EU-wide or bilateral basis. We think that an EU-wide basis is the simplest way. Of course, we want to ensure that enough permits are allocated to countries, for example Northern Ireland and France, which we currently have a lot of dealings with. I go back to the point that we are hoping we will not need a permit system, but if we do it will be unlimited and allocation would therefore not be an issue. If it is limited, which it may be, then if the number of UK permits is limited, how the European Commission allocates them will be down to negotiation.
It is very important that we do not have to negotiate bilaterally because we could be held to ransom by some of the northern European states, whereas others might be more generous. If we cannot get through France, Belgium or Holland, what is the point of them in the states lower down?
The noble Lord is quite right. We think it is best to negotiate this as an EU-wide agreement. Bilateral agreements remain an option should we need them, but we very much hope that we do not.
Is there a precedent in the negotiations with Ukraine, or another country outside the EU? Does Ukraine negotiate bilaterally with every other member state or with the EU, and are the lorries allowed to roam freely within the EU once they have got in?
Our current agreement with Ukraine is negotiated through the EU. I believe that Ukraine has an unlimited number of permits. I will go back and look at specific examples. Most of these negotiations are done with the EU as a bloc, as I say, not bilaterally.
Surely, the position is that if you are carrying your own goods it will come under one quota system and there should be no restriction whatever. If you are carrying other people’s goods, there might be a restriction. We should have that in mind when we negotiate.
I agree, as I do with the noble Lord’s point on using tonnage within the negotiations, which I will pass on.
I will explain to noble Lords how the regulation of foreign hauliers is being handled in legislation. It is currently carried out under the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Act 1995, which requires any operator, whether based in Great Britain or abroad, to carry a Great Britain operator’s licence, failure to do so being an offence subject to a level 5 fine on summary conviction. However, EU hauliers are currently exempt from carrying a GB operator’s licence because they carry a Community licence under EU law.
If EU community licences are no longer recognised when we leave the EU, we will remove the exemption for EU hauliers and regulate their access to the UK in the same way that we regulate access for non-EU hauliers. Obviously, how we do that will be subject to negotiations; again, I make the point that we hope we will not need to do this because of the open access. We will do that by setting out the conditions agreed in the international agreement concluded with each country or with the EU, including whether a permit is required.
The recognition of EU Community licences in Great Britain will be removed using the power to correct deficiencies arising from the UK’s withdrawal from the EU under Clause 7 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which, as noble Lords know, we discussed in detail last night. When that comes into force, it will enable the Government to correct EU retained law and UK legislation where reciprocal arrangements between the UK and EU, such as the recognition of Community licences, no longer exist. The new conditions—if any are agreed in negotiations—placed on EU hauliers, including carrying a permit, may then be put in place by using existing powers under the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Act 1995, if the Government consider that this is required. The same approach will be taken in Northern Ireland legislation.
I am concerned about horseracing. As the Minister will know, horses travel from Ireland to England, into France and back again. Will they be exempt from this kind of operation or is there another scheme to deal with horseracing and all the gear they take to a race and then to bring it back? As my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours just said, they are other people’s property as well as the driver’s own. It does not make any sense to me to get them involved.
This came up at Second Reading, and we have consulted extensively with the horseracing industry to ensure that it does not affect it. Our understanding is that all-in-one horseboxes—as I will call them again—are used rather than trailers, so they would not be affected by this legislation, but we are working with the industry to ensure that this will not affect it.
The reason why I set out how we deal with this in legislation is to make the point that there is a system there for us to do it through the withdrawal Bill and the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Act, which is why we have not addressed it in the Bill, which relates solely to UK hauliers. However, as I say, we are hopeful that we will not need to use it.
Before we leave that, I think the Minister is arguing—obviously, I will have to read the record afterwards—that we do not need these amendments because it is already covered by existing legislation. However, I would be interested to know two things. My noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours talked about the difference between owned goods in a lorry and third-party ones. Is that condition still there, and do we have to take it into account? After the noble Baroness’s intervention earlier, would it be possible to have a total list of all the different permissions that are needed to carry goods out of and into the country? I could put it down as a Written Question, but it is easier to ask it now. It would be quite interesting to have such a list of what permissions one needs. I do not suggest that the Minister answers this now.
I will have to get back to the noble Lord on that in writing, but I will certainly do so before Report.
I will say a quick word on cabotage. The proposed new clause would enable the Secretary of State to allow cabotage for UK goods vehicles in the EU and for EU-registered goods vehicles in the United Kingdom. Cabotage is currently secured through participation in the Community licence arrangements. It may be that, depending on our future partnership agreement, permits would allow for cabotage rights and would therefore be dealt with using existing legislation, as I outlined previously—the goods vehicles licensing Act. I hope that the noble Lord will agree that this amendment is not needed to achieve what he is seeking, as we already have legislative cover on that.
On the point around owned hauliers, I will have to get back to the noble Lord in writing.
I am sorry to keep getting up, but it is not just about your own goods. Under the arrangements that I remember, it was own goods, works of art, fresh fruit and veg and exhibition goods. All that I am arguing is that it might be possible to widen those descriptions in the event that we get ourselves into difficulties.
The noble Lord makes a valid point. I will have to go back and look at that in detail and come back to the Committee in writing.
As was covered earlier when we were discussing the reporting requirements, I agree that we must consider the impacts of leaving the EU on the haulage sector. That should cover both UK and foreign hauliers. We need to come up with a form of reporting on this; I do not believe it needs to be in the Bill, but I will consider that and come back with a proposal ahead of Report. Once again, I welcome the discussion that this amendment has enabled, and I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment at this stage.
I am grateful to the Minister. She has been very patient with the questions from me and other noble Lords. Obviously I shall reflect on what has been said. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 9 withdrawn.
Clause 2 agreed.
Amendment 10 not moved.
Clause 3 agreed.
Amendment 11 not moved.
Clause 4 agreed.
Clause 5: Fees
Debate on whether Clause 5 should stand part of the Bill.
My Lords, this clause refers to the payment of fees for the permits that we have been talking about. Currently, hauliers have to buy a licence to register as hauliers, but they are also able to have on request a Community licence, which will be equivalent to the permit and which is free. However, under the scheme that the Government envisage, Clause 5 gives them the power to levy fees for the permits. I want to know why the Government feel they should charge fees for something that up to now has been provided to the hauliers free of charge.
The hauliers seem to be suffering several times over. Rather than having this easy-to-access, free and on-demand community licence, they now have to apply for a specific permit, pay for it, perhaps even queue for it if we are still talking about first come, first served—and all this when in the end they are going to have a much less convenient system.
My particular concern is for SMEs. Given that, when we discussed this informally, the Minister indicated that the amounts of money would be in the order of £50 or £55—if I recall correctly—clearly for a large haulage company operating vehicles on a daily basis, that will not be a massive amount of money and will be passed on to the customers, as is inevitable. However, this will be a significant additional cost for an SME. Can the Minister explain to us the cause of the Government’s decision to reclaim their costs, when clearly they have not done so up to now, whether they are open to persuasion that charging for this would not be a good idea and the basis on which charges will be levied?
My Lords, the noble Baroness raised some interesting issues, some of which I touched on earlier. When I read the impact assessment, I could see that there was clearly some consideration by the Government about the potential impact on SMEs, as the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, said. The assessment suggests that some SMEs would struggle. Clearly that worries us: we have a vibrant and viable haulage sector that works well and has served our economy well and we do not want to damage it.
I wonder what full-cost recovery really means and I wonder what extra the permit will be paying for. I saw reference in the impact assessment to a suggestion that inspections would be carried out—ones that perhaps do not currently have to be carried out—to make sure that permits are valid and do the job that they are supposed to do in terms of haulage operators being able to move across the EU 27. In particular, there was a suggestion on the trailer registration scheme that some benefits would accrue through an extra inspection regime. That may well be the case—we will have that argument another day and we have amendments that raise some of those issues—but what does full-cost recovery cover? How much is it likely to cost? What will the impact be on SMEs? What sort of inspection regime will take place? Will it mean an expansion in staff? The Minister suggested that the work will be undertaken by the DVLS, is it?
Acronyms sometimes get the better of me. So, what will it look like? How will it feel? How will it operate? What additional burdens will it place on the businesses affected? Where will the inspections take place? I picked up the point made by the Minister that they will not necessarily be at ports, but ports may be the best place; I do not know. I have seen lorries subject to customs inspections at ports, which works very well for some operations. We need answers to all these questions.
My Lords, I want to ask a very simple question, which is slightly tangential to the amendment, about fuel dipping. Fuel dipping is where the authorities decide, for whatever reason, to test tanks to see how much diesel they are carrying. Of course, these trucks carry a lot of diesel. I do not know where I heard it, but I heard that some countries on the outer periphery of Europe fuel dip in truck tanks so they can charge duty on diesel coming into their country. During the negotiations, we should be aware of any possibility of fuel dipping by member states and make sure that it is excluded and prohibited.
The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, yet again makes an interesting and important point about fuel dipping. It is a burden on the industry. I have to confess that I made a suggestion to do with the problem of foreign trucks coming into the UK with very large tanks of fuel, running around the UK and then leaving with tanks that are practically empty so that the Treasury gets none of the benefit of the fuel. I suggested that every HGV, UK or foreign, should leave the UK with a nearly full tank of fuel, but that suggestion did not find favour because it was thought to be contrary to EU rules. However, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, raises an important point.
The noble Baroness asked why we should charge. I come back to the point that we simply do not know what the negotiations are going to give us. We again hope for a simple system, but if we end up with a more complex system, naturally there will have to be charges—presumably cost recovery only, as it should not be seen as a profit centre. We need to remember that the cost of running a maximum-weight articulated vehicle is quite considerable—I do not know the current figures—so the cost of a permit in the overall cost of the operation will not be that significant. Whether it is an SME or a large operator, the cost per mile of an HGV is very high.
I have what might be a slightly tricky question for the Minister. We are cost recovering, but are we going to use the UK fees that we raise from our own hauliers to cover the cost of inspecting foreign trucks over here to make sure that they have a permit? If there is a 75%/25% split for contingency—where the 25% is the UK operators—25% of operators will be paying a small amount of money in but spending a lot of money on ensuring the compliance of foreign operators. Some people might have something to say about UK operators paying for the policing of foreign operators.
My Lords, the idea is that a lot of foreign trucks are going to be inspected. It does not happen at the moment very much, and if it is going to happen in future, there will have to be a very large increase in the number of inspectors and locations for inspection. The profit margin of most of these operators is very low, so the cost of a permit, which, as the noble Baroness said, may be only £50 to £85, may be quite a lot to some people. I am more concerned that it appears that EU lorries coming into our country will not have to pay anything because they already have a permit from their own country. Are we giving them an £85 advantage just to come here? I assumed that we would be able to charge them to give them a permit, but, as the noble Baroness said earlier, they already have a permit. There is something out of balance here. I do not know what the solution is, but I hope that the Minister can look at this. Perhaps we should have our own permit scheme, or else it should be free for everybody. It does not seem fair at the moment.
My Lords, this clause creates fee-charging powers for administering a permit scheme, which, understandably, is a key concern for the UK haulage industry. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, for giving us the opportunity to discuss the issue in detail.
The regulations under this Bill will apply to all the permit schemes that the UK has. Once we have introduced a robust legal framework for permit schemes it would be both necessary and sensible for the regulations to cover all schemes. They would therefore apply to potential permit arrangements for EU member states, existing and future permit arrangements with non-EU countries, and ECMT permits. This means that fees for permits for different countries can be consistent and consolidated in a single set of regulations.
The Community licence that is used for road haulage in the EU is an entitlement of all international operator’s licence holders. It can be obtained from the DVSA free of charge. However, this service is not offered free of charge: the costs of administering and issuing Community licences are covered by the fees for the operator’s licence. I acknowledge that UK hauliers are not necessarily aware of this, so the cost will be an issue for them. It is a straightforward single document that authorises haulage across the EU for a period of five years. However, if permits are used rather than the option of the Community licence regime, this will be administered separately from the operator licensing regime.
Without specific fees for each permit, the cost of administering the scheme is covered by all hauliers or by the taxpayer, depending on how it is charged. We believe that it is preferable that the costs of a permit scheme are met by those who are using it. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, made a valid point on the differential in charges. Obviously, UK hauliers would need to pay for a permit only to travel into the EU. In the same way, EU hauliers would need to pay for a permit to travel into the UK. That is where the balance is. UK hauliers who will be making solely domestic use of their trucks would not be paying the fee. However, I will take that away and look at it in more detail. In the past, Parliament has granted similar powers to this one for the charging of fees. For example, Section 56 of the Finance Act 1973 allows for fees to be charged for services or issuing documents for any international agreement. Fees are already charged for permits under the existing permit schemes using this section. We are seeking to extend this principle to all permits issued under this Bill.
Our aim is to minimise the costs created for industry as a result of any new permit scheme and to operate it purely on a cost-recovery basis, with no profit. Current permit fees are broadly set to operate on cost recovery. We intend to charge fees for permits that may be required for EU countries in the same way as we do for non-EU countries—on a cost-recovery basis. Not to do so would create an inconsistency that would be difficult to justify: it would mean charging fees for some permits and not others, and we would not be able to recover the costs of administering the scheme and it would therefore fall to the taxpayer.
The Government believe that it is better for fees to be made under Clause 5 instead of making new fees using Section 56 of the Finance Act 1973. There is some uncertainty about the extent of the power to charge fees under Section 56 and, in particular, whether that section would enable us to charge fees for applications to recover the costs of processing those applications. We would be looking to charge for both the application and the issuing of the permit.
Can the Minister clarify something? In their examples of existing permits where there are bilateral agreements, the Government refer to both single-journey and multiple-journey permits. Multiple-journey permits are clearly a lot less bureaucratic, but single-journey permits are a lot less expensive. Do the Government have an image of which way they are going on this or whether they are going to have single and multiple-journey permits if required?
I am flying blind now—I should really know the answer to this question. When a British haulier travels in France now, I presume they pay a fee on the motorway. French motorways are very expensive. When a French haulier arrives in the United Kingdom, do they pay any charges for the use of our roads? I think not. If that is the case then we might like to raise this issue if we have any trouble with the French—particularly with the hauliers—in the course of the negotiations. It might not only be France; it might be that some other countries in Europe like to charge for the use of their motorways, such as the Italians, and I am sure that there are others as well. The Swiss get their share too—whenever I go through Switzerland they take me for a ride for 40 francs for my car alone.
I thank the noble Lord for that intervention. UK hauliers will pay a charge on a toll road in France in the same way as anyone else.
We are looking into the HGV levy and how to use it better. It may be a method of addressing this issue and I will certainly consider that. I think there is still a toll road on the M6, so obviously that has happened in one case in the UK. However, there are not currently plans for the Government to introduce tolling systems.
On the types of permits, which the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, raised, there will be many options, including, but not limited to, single journey, annual bilateral—ECMT have both of those—and annual multilateral. Exactly what permits we have will be subject to negotiations.
Returning to the HGV levy, foreign hauliers currently pay the levy and so make a contribution to the roads, but, as I said, we are looking at that in detail and I shall send noble Lords more information on it.
We have aimed for the clause to be clear on what fees may be charged for, which allows us to consolidate all the regulations on existing permit fees in one place rather than them being split across a number of regulations. This will give greater clarity to operators and hopefully will be simpler to follow and allow better scrutiny for Parliament.
We think we need to charge a small application fee to recover the cost of processing the application—that will be payable by all applicants—and an issuing fee to recover the administrative costs of issuing the permit will then be payable by successful applicants only. There should not be a single fee, either for application or issuing, because unsuccessful applicants would bear some of the cost for issuing permits or vice versa. Hauliers should pay for what they use rather than paying the same costs irrespective of whether or not they have a permit—should they be needed, which we all hope they will not.
We want to introduce separate application and issuing fees. There is a precedent within the haulage sector for charging fees in this way as its operator licensing regime has both the application and issuing fees made in the regulations under the Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Act 1995.
I apologise because at this stage I am not able to provide the Committee with specific figures of what the fees for permits will be. It will depend on the number and types of permits required by hauliers, which journeys are exempt and the cost of administering a permits scheme—if there is a permit scheme, which of course will be subject to the negotiations. We want to keep fees as low as possible and in the region of the existing permit fees. The noble Baroness referred to a few examples. The annual ECMT permit which allows any numbers of journeys costs around £133 and a single journey bilateral permit costs £8. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, pointed out, we need to take into account how that will affect small and medium-sized hauliers.
On the capability for the checking of these permits within the UK, there will obviously be a need, should we have a permit system, for them to be checked. As part of the spending statement today, the DfT has received £75.8 million to deliver its EU exit programme. That will include reconfiguring DVSA and looking at that in detail. Again—I apologise for repeating myself—until we know the outcome of the negotiations we are not going to know by how much the capability of DVSA needs to increase and we will have to wait to see the exact costs.
The DfT is working with the Treasury to determine the appropriate level of fees. This will be included in the regulations to allow scrutiny by Parliament. As I say, we are doing everything we can to keep the cost low. It is a key consideration for UK hauliers and we are working closely with them as these plans develop. We will be working closely with small and medium-sized enterprises as well in order to keep these costs as low as possible. I hope that explanation demonstrates why we have a fees clause in the Bill and exactly what we will be using it for. I hope that the noble Baroness will agree that the clause should stand part of the Bill.
If a truck has to be checked statically in a car park somewhere, that will be quite expensive. The DVLA no longer has the system of excise duty licences on cars; that is checked by number plates. Is there a way of adopting a similar system for trucks—even for foreign ones? I know they have different number plates, but it would be much easier and would give a much more comprehensive range of checks.
What about the HGV levy system and the technology behind it? It uses ANPR to enforce it, so I should have thought that it would work automatically.
The noble Lord and my noble friend make important points. Of course, we want to use IT systems whenever we can both to minimise the burden for hauliers and for Government to check on these things. The permit system may not be allocated to a specific truck; it could be allocated to a haulage company. That may be difficult, but we are exploring it. The current system is that the DVSA outside the port will pull over a truck and check it on the side of the road. That is one of the options that we are exploring. If there is a way to do it that is less expensive and more efficient, we will certainly do that.
That is very interesting. I thought the permit would be allocated to a truck. If it is not, there seems to be more potential for fraud—by photocopying, for a start.
The reason we do not think the permit will be allocated to a specific truck is to allow for flexibility, should there be a limit on the number of permits. It will enable hauliers to move them between trucks, so they are not restricted to only one truck going back and forth to Europe. On fraud, we are designing a system to try to ensure that it will be allocated to a specific company. It may give us the number of trucks that could use the permit. We could check the licence plates and other things. We are working through the issues on that. I hope that that explanation will satisfy the noble Baroness.
I thank the Minister for the amount of detail she has given on this. Certainly, it is sufficient that I will have to look at the record and quite possibly come back with some more questions. I am very grateful for the amount of further information she has given us.
Clause 5 agreed.
Clauses 6 to 11 agreed.
Committee adjourned at 6.13 pm.