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Touring Hauliers: Arts Organisations

Volume 822: debated on Wednesday 18 May 2022


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to their announcement on 6 May regarding “dual registration” for specialist touring hauliers, what assessment they have made of the impact this will have on artists and organisations which tour in their own vehicles and operate under “own account”; and whether they have considered support for smaller hauliers operating which do not have the resources to operate dual registration.

My Lords, specialist touring hauliers operating under “own account” can utilise the dual-registration measure if they have a standard international operator licence, which they must apply for, and a base in Great Britain and another country. Operators will need to make their own decisions on whether they choose to do so based on business need and resources available to them.

My Lords, this is all very much half a loaf. If a comprehensive solution is not found, the damage to the UK music industry and the events support industry will be massive. The Prime Minister has assured us that the Government are working “flat out” on the touring issue. Can the Minister assure the House that her department is urgently working on finding a wider solution, such as an exemption from cabotage for all trucks engaged on cultural events?

Certainly, the department has worked incredibly hard on this and continues to do so. We had a public consultation back in February, and we are deeply engaged with the industry, particularly the specialist haulage industry, which is so important. We know that about one in five hauliers has already set up within the EU, and many more have plans to do so. We recognise that the dual-registration system will not benefit absolutely everybody. However, it is the case under the TCA that many hauliers will be able to make use of their two cross-trades within the bilateral EU-UK movements that they can make. So it does not mean that all touring is off the table. We believe that, at the moment, we have the best possible solution, in light of the current response from the EU.

The Minister will be aware that, alongside cabotage, CITES and carnet regulations are adding further cost and complexity to post-Brexit touring. Last week at the EU-UK Parliamentary Partnership Assembly in Brussels, there was welcome support for my argument that, given that both sides say that they offered a deal that the other rejected, it means that we have common cause—and it is an issue that we could, in fact, resolve quickly, unlike some of the more complicated issues on the table. Does the Minister agree and, if so, will the Government consider a cultural exemption for all three Cs—cabotage, carnets and CITES—as the most practical solution to a problem that we all want to resolve?

The noble Baroness raises some important points, and I shall ensure that my department and the Government make sure that we make the most of the areas where we already have agreement. However, I am afraid that we know that the EU will not accept greater amounts of cabotage.

My Lords, does the Minister acknowledge that there is a precedent in the temporary cabotage exemption negotiated for international hauliers working in the UK to provide support for supply chains while addressing the shortage of HGV drivers? At the very least, an own account exemption could be negotiated, which would be a great help.

Those two things are not the same, in that the cabotage easement that we put in place was for EU hauliers coming to the UK, which meant that they could do unlimited cabotage within the 14 days. The EU did not reciprocate; it did not change its cabotage arrangements at all for UK- registered hauliers, who can do only one cabotage movement within the EU, and one cross-trade.

I am sure that the Minister is aware that those performers most affected are those at the lower and middle part of the industry. How will they be helped by these cabotage provisions, which will be of use only to the biggest specialist hauliers?

The cabotage conditions will, of course, apply to everybody, unless they have an EU base. As for the smaller hauliers and those operating on their own account, as I said previously, they can operate if they have the standard international operator licence. They can also get an ECMT international road haulage permit, which gives an extra cross-trade. So an organisation based in the UK could travel to the EU and do events in three separate countries, all within the current regulations.

My Lords, further to the Minister’s reply to the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, many orchestras have their own vehicles for touring in Europe, specially fitted out at considerable expense to meet their specific needs. As I understand it, these are now virtually unusable as a result of the own account exemption being excluded from the trade and co-operation agreement. Can the Minister enlighten me? She seemed to imply that that was not the case, whereas the orchestras concerned feel that they cannot use their own vehicles for touring in Europe.

They can use their own vehicles for touring in Europe if they have a standard operator licence. They still have to remain within the requirements set out in the TCA, which is either two cross-trades or one cross-trade and one cabotage. However, as I have said previously, they can get an ECMT permit to do three cross-trades. We recognise the challenges for those operating on their own account, because they have to operate within those particular requirements. However, if they are of a significant size, they may wish to set up an organisation in the EU, and then they would have slightly greater, although not unlimited, flexibility—but it might be helpful.

My Lords, it seems to me that the Minister is saying that the Government have done as much as they intend to do. It is equally clear from the industry press that the industry feels that this is a really serious problem for small and medium-sized performers. I do not understand the industry very well, but I would imagine that big bands come from little bands and that the importance of the industry over time is that the small successes are able to grow. Surely this whole situation is sufficiently serious for the department to continue pressure to try to devise a system that works for the smaller operators.

My Lords, I reassure all noble Lords that we have thought long and hard about this. We have engaged with the EU but, when we did so, the exemption for specialist hauliers was rejected. Our door remains open for discussing alternative exemptions. There is a limit to what we can do on a unilateral basis. This was the best idea that came up both from my officials working on this and from our consultation with industry—68% were in favour of this. When it comes to smaller operators and those operating on their own account, the other option would be for them to go into partnership with an EU haulier and thereby provide that continuity across the system.

My Lords, I back up what the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, was saying about a good body of opinion among the MEPs that we met at the Parliamentary Partnership Assembly last week, which was very sympathetic to this problem. It is very much a problem designed to be discussed by the trade-specialised committees of the trade and co-operation agreement. Can the Minister tell us which specialised committee will be tackling it and when that committee will next meet?

My Lords, the Minister suggests that things are getting better, but we are starved of any information about the damage that has been done to this sector over the last two or three years. Would she be so kind as to provide the House with some statistics showing how many of these operators have been able to tour and have got cabotage rights, carnets and so on over the last, say, four years? That would be a great help.

It is a very complex picture. As I mentioned earlier, one in five has already set up with an EU base and a further 6% plan to do so. However, as I also mentioned, it is the case that many tours can already go ahead depending on how many different stops that particular event will have within the EU. If I can find any further details from the industry, I will certainly write to the noble Lord.

My Lords, further to the Minister’s answer to the noble Lord, can she give any encouragement or hope to youth orchestras? It is not just professional orchestras that are finding it difficult to tour. Youth orchestras are vital for the experience gained by the young people—I admit that both my children spent years touring and playing all over Europe and had enormous experience with the Stoneleigh Youth Orchestra—but I fear that these in particular are falling completely by the wayside. Can the Minister offer any hope or encouragement for them?

I am not aware that there is a particular issue here for youth orchestras. Like any orchestra, if a youth orchestra does not have its own vehicles, it can of course contract with an appropriate haulier which is able to operate within the regime that is set up in the UK and in the EU. It will depend on the sort of tour that youth orchestras want to do and how many countries they will be visiting as to the rules and regulations and which licences will need to be held by the haulier with which they choose to contract.

My Lords, is the gist of what the Minister has said today that everything is satisfactory and nothing further needs to be done?

I completely reject that—that is not what I am saying at all. The Government absolutely recognise that the measures that we have put in place help the sector and mean that a large proportion of the UK industry can continue to operate, but we acknowledge that not all specialist operators will be in a position to establish a base overseas. As I have said before, our door remains open; we would wish to discuss this with the EU but so far, unfortunately, it has not wanted to do so.