A fresh start


As expected HRH the Prince of Wales, ably accompanied by the Duchess of Cornwall and Duke of Cambridge, opened the latest Session of Parliament on 10 May, standing in for Her Majesty as her Platinum Jubilee approaches.  It must be a very real assumption that Her Majesty will not be seen opening Parliament again.  Quite sad really, but at 96 hardly surprising.

There was one reference to transport in the Speech, as follows: “Her Majesty’s Government will improve transport across the United Kingdom, delivering safer, cleaner services and enabling more innovations. Legislation will be introduced to modernise rail services and improve reliability for passengers.”

The legislation referred to is, of course, that necessary to establish Great British Railways, although in my experience it is likely that a few other measures will also be brought into the legislation.  You can read the full Queen’s Speech here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2022-05-10/debates/A6EE38E8-B966-4C57-A44A-5B90B87D871A/QueenSSpeech

Among the many things occupying political minds during May were of course Ukraine and the long awaited report by senior civil servant, Sue Gray, into the goings on in Downing Street and assorted other Government offices at a time when the country was living with restrictions on our daily lives due to covid-19.  Is Sue’s report the end of the matter?  Well, who knows.  At the time of writing there are suggestions that an increasing number of Conservative MPs have approached Sir Graham Brady MP, chair of the all powerful 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs, calling for the Prime Minister’s head on a platter. 

But let’s hope that a four day weekend to celebrate the 70 year reign of Her Majesty will overshadow political squabbling for a few days.

In the Chambers

During questions to the Levelling Up Secretary on 16 May, Helen Morgan was concerned that access to employment was difficult for those without a car in rural areas.  In response the Minister urged her to enter into dialogue with the local authority to see what could be done to enhance bus services:https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2022-05-16/debates/6BBCD0C3-87CA-4DCE-925C-854E651D4B5F/AccessToEmploymentRuralAreas

For several days after the opening of Parliament, both the Commons and Lords hold debates on various aspects of the Queen’s Speech.

In the Lords, there was a wide ranging debate on the Queen’s Speech on 11 May.  Baroness Blake of Leeds hoped that the forthcoming transport bill would contain provision to improve local bus services. Lord Shipley was concerned that some areas had been unsuccessful in bidding for greater support resulting in no Government financial support.  On freight, Viscount Waverley said that all too often delays to the planning system hindered the freight sector in delivering goods. https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2022-05-11/debates/7185EB58-3987-46EA-97A2-8884332BF759/QueenSSpeech

In the Commons on 18 May the topic was economic growth.  During the debate there were several references to the forthcoming transport bill with many MPs calling for greater integration, additional support to maintain bus services, and a greater focus on green travel.  The full debate is here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2022-05-18/debates/27E5BBC2-C573-45B8-891B-F1CFF1C3E977/AchievingEconomicGrowth

Lord Clement-Jones asked a question in the Lords on 18 May about specialist touring haulage companies and dual registration, and hoped at the very least for an exemption from cabotage rules.  https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2022-05-18/debates/B7C78C68-EA17-4AFC-9F76-3ADDF7007473/TouringHauliersArtsOrganisations

On 19 May in the Commons, Transport Ministers were on the front bench to answer question on various transport topics.  A number of MPs asked what was being done to improve local transport services.  Many MPs referred to their local authority bids for support for bus services, some successful, some not.  A number of MPs called for London-style bus provision with increasing concerns that services would not improve unless greater Government intervention and support was forthcoming.  https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2022-05-19/debates/E3ACD332-F001-4DCB-BE37-C054E75A7205/LocalTransport; and https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2022-05-19/debates/48FC7C5E-EAB7-470F-85FE-714DE257AD31/BusServices

Also on 19 May the Commons held a general debate on transport.  In a wide ranging opening speech, Minister of State Andrew Stephenson mentioned the money being made available to support bus services subject to successful bids by local authorities. For Labour, Sam Tarry said that support for bus services was poor while others blamed the need to divert money to shore up TfL.  Increased fares was also a topic raised by many contributors. Electric vehicles were also mentioned and some doubted operators appetite to invest in new fleets when the use of diesel still attracted subsidy from Government. Former Minister Andrew Jones said it was a shame that the Government had not done more to encourage people back onto transport subject post covid-19 restrictions. He spoke highly of the new investment in buses in his Harrogate constituency. Ian Paisley spoke about Wrightbus and the pioneering work on new technology.  The full debate can be viewed here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2022-05-19/debates/05B5972B-3C4C-45F7-A9F0-049215D89F1D/Transport

On 23 May there was a debate in Westminster Hall about the impact of greater taxation on motor fuel.  Many contributors said that hauliers were facing huge problems with increased costs and could not always pass these onto customers. https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2022-05-23/debates/2262D058-1473-4F28-9CE1-712000724203/TaxesOnMotorFuel

Committee Corridor

The House of Commons Transport Select Committee held its first evidence session on its inquiry “National Bus Strategy: One Year On”. Evidence was heard from local authorities and Transport Focus.  Further evidence sessions are expected to be held.


On paper

Among the many dozens of written answers published each day, the following may be of interest:

Helen Morgan asked about the impact on hauliers of rising fuel prices: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2022-05-12/1387

Fay Jones asked about access to DVLA services: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2022-05-16/2650

Emma Hardy asked about the implication of the reduction of capacity for coaches on Eurotunnel services: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2022-05-12/1302


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