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UK Ports: Prevention of Disruption over Christmas Period

Volume 705: debated on Tuesday 7 December 2021

1. What recent steps he has taken with HMRC to help prevent disruption at UK ports during the Christmas 2021 period. (904596)

The Government’s priority is to keep goods moving and avoid delays at the border. To ensure that, we have set up a new Cabinet Committee on logistics to deal with supply chain issues. I recognise that the new customs controls come in on 1 January. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is supporting traders and hauliers to adjust to their new obligations following the end of the transition period.

I am glad that the Minister is setting up a Cabinet Committee—that is lovely—but let me tell her what is impacting people on the ground. Daniel Lambert Wines, an importer in my constituency, for example, has gone from taking seven to nine days to import wine from the EU to 12 weeks. That is really not acceptable. The national Food and Drink Federation says that it is causing huge problems for the supply chains when it comes to bringing wine into the UK, and Christmas is one of the biggest periods for purchasing. Can the Minister set out what she will do to start tackling the issues around the delays in importing wine, so that everyone can have a sensible tipple over the Christmas period?

The hon. Member will know that it is important to have committees to work across Government, because the supply chain issues affect all Departments. He will know of some of the actions that we have taken—30 actions to tackle HGV issues to increase efficiency in the supply chain. We have temporarily extended drivers’ hours, relaxed late-night delivery restrictions, and deployed the Ministry of Defence’s driving examiners to increase HGV testing capacity. Yesterday, the policy director of Logistics UK said that she saw a number of signs of improvement.

I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend and HMRC are working very hard to ensure that the changes to the import processes coming in on 1 January run smoothly and do not result in lots of additional friction at the border. However, the Federation of Small Businesses has estimated that just one in four smaller companies is actually prepared for the changes that are about to happen. Is she aware of that particular issue? If she is, what action is she taking in the short time that remains?

My right hon. Friend makes an important point. The Government and HMRC have taken significant action to ensure that hauliers and carriers are ready. HMRC has weekly meetings with strategic operators. It has conducted webinars for well over 1,000 haulage businesses and it sends monthly emails to more than 14,000 hauliers on the next steps. I appreciate that it might be that big businesses are more ready than small businesses, but we have done work there as well. I am very pleased to have met the Federation of Small Businesses about two weeks ago to discuss these issues.