A solemn start

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When MPs reconvened this month, the Budget was expected to be the big news, but sadly, that turned out not to be the case, reports Pauline Gaunt OBE, in ITT Hub’s unique industry summary

THIS MONTH IN PARLIAMENT – OCTOBER 2021

It was a reflective and sad House of Commons that reconvened on 18 November when the House paid tribute to Sir David Amess MP, who had been murdered whilst conducting a constituency surgery on 15 October. 

Two days later on 20 October the House paid tribute to former Cabinet Minister James Brokenshire MP who died of cancer on 7 October, aged 53.  By-elections will be held in due course in the Southend West and Old Bexley & Sidcup constituencies.

The Budget

The main political event of the month was of course the delivery of The Budget coupled with the results of the Spending Review, which determined how much each spending Department would receive. 

The contents of the Budget are supposed to be secret until such time as the Chancellor announces the measures to the Commons. 

So seriously was this rule taken that in 1947 Chancellor Hugh Dalton had to resign after telling a journalist some of the tax changes in the Budget as he walked to the House of Commons.   Whilst this convention has largely been honoured over the years, it is starting to get watered down with successive Governments briefing in advance of the Budget statement. 

In the few days before this year’s Budget it seemed that just about every news bulletin contained some details of what was to come. This did not escape the eagle eye of Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who expressed his concern in the Commons about the importance of the Government honouring the Ministerial Code which requires all major announcements to be made in the first instance to Parliament. 

The Opposition was granted the opportunity to question the Treasury on why the advance briefing took place, with the Speaker once again reiterating his concern. 

It was left to the Chief Secretary, Simon Clarke, to justify the advance briefings, saying that it was important to trail certain measures so as to communicate with the public.  Hmmm.  Nice try!

By convention the Chair of Ways & Means rather than the Speaker presides over the House during the Budget statement.  Just before calling the Chancellor to deliver the Budget Dame Eleanor Laing echoed the Speaker’s concern about advanced briefings. 

Another convention – Parliamentary procedure is full of them! – is that whilst the Chancellor announces the Budget it is the Leader of the Opposition who responds. 

However this year  it was left to Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves to respond on behalf of the Opposition as Kier Starmer tested positive with Covid-19.  Rachel Reeves had just 45 minutes to prepare, something she described as a “nerve-wracking experience”.

Among the transport measures announced was London-style settlements for Greater Manchester, Tees Valley, Liverpool City Region, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, West Midlands and the West of England. 

To help address HGV driver shortages was the introduction of temporary visas, changes to cabotage requirements and investment in lorry parks.  The HGV levy was suspended for a further year and VED was frozen for HGVs.

You can read the Chancellor’s statement to the House here: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/autumn-budget-and-spending-review-2021-speech

There will now follow five days of debate on various measures contained in the Budget documentation.  The full set of Budget documents can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/autumn-budget-and-spending-review-2021-documents

In the Chambers

Away from the Budget there were plenty of other transport issues debated across both the Commons and the Lords.

At Business Questions on 21 October Wera Hobhouse drew attention to the shortage of bus drivers in Bath partly due to drivers being “poached” by haulage companies.  The Leader of House said there were shortages across Europe, and noted that due to action of the local council, driving in Bath was extremely difficult with buses not being given sufficient road space.  https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-10-21/debates/EE050A86-C6B5-47BF-9092-459EE5AFCE34/BusinessOfTheHouse

Ian Mearns pointed out difficulties with testing of HGV drivers as a result of delays by DVLA.  The Leader of the House agreed to take the issue up with DVLA: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-10-21/debates/EE050A86-C6B5-47BF-9092-459EE5AFCE34/BusinessOfTheHouse

On 19 October the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy made a statement on its Net Zero Strategy and the Heat & Buildings Strategy.  During the debate Minister of State Greg Hands (standing in for Secretary of State Kwasi Kwarteng who was on paternity leave) reminded the House that there was much in the Net Zero Strategy to encourage the use of electric vehicles.  https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-10-19/debates/0012200A-2603-4AD9-B768-5C0E38631200/NetZeroStrategyAndHeatAndBuildingsStrategy

Also on 19 October there was a debate on support for small businesses.  During the exchanges Alex Davies-Jones gave the example of Ferris Coach Holidays and Edwards Coaches which had not benefitted from any tailored support for their sectors during the pandemic.  https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2021-10-19/debates/CE0CCFD2-E248-4FC6-BED6-1D5E59D82A1A/SupportingSmallBusiness

A Statutory Instrument was debated and approved by both Houses, which updated the provisions currently in place with regard to HGV movements in Kent, including Operation Stack and Operation Brock.  Inevitably the exchanges led to comments about driver shortages.  You can read the exchanges in the Commons here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2021-10-20/debates/c20f52c9-7379-4f5f-acf6-ae3c33f73be0/DraftHeavyCommercialVehiclesInKent(No1)(Amendment)Order2021HeavyCommercialVehiclesInKent(No2)(Amendment)Order2021. The debate in the Lords is here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2021-10-19/debates/1C29B211-6B72-4B12-8204-3AE46E411CA3/HeavyCommercialVehiclesInKent(No1)(Amendment)Order2021

At questions to the Northern Ireland Secretary on 27 October, Patricia Gibson asked what impact Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol had had on the haulage industry. Secretary of State Brandon Lewis said the impacts were similar across the whole UK.  https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-10-27/debates/3872AC31-5DE4-4A49-A4D5-AF4A8FE74874/LeavingTheEUNorthernIrelandProtocolHaulageIndustry

In the Lords on 26 October Baroness Randerson asked what measures were being put in place to address the shortage of HGV drivers.  Baroness Randerson was concerned that it had taken a crisis for the Government to implement 25 last-minute measures and called for a long-term plan to ensure drivers were attracted to the sector.  Baroness Vere of Norbiton pointed out that as a private industry the Government had no place to intervene on pay.  In response to former Minister, Lord Whitty, Baroness Vere said that work was on going to identify solutions for improved facilities for hauliers: https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2021-10-26/debates/74F30563-3DC9-4EA2-B8DB-E3E820A68ADD/HGVDrivers

Committee corridor

The House of Commons Transport Select Committee has announced an inquiry into the road freight supply chain.  The Committee will look at the impact of the pandemic and EU legislation, driver shortages and the impact on the supply chain.  Written evidence is requested by 19 November 2021.  https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/153/transport-committee/news/158282/new-inquiry-road-freight/

The House of Commons Transport Select Committee held a one off evidence session with the Minister and the Operations Director (North), DVLA.  You can read the transcript here: https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevidence/2895/pdf/

On paper

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

Caroline Lucas asked about delays to HGV testing: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2021-09-21/52456

Feryal Clark asked about measures to encourage investment in electric vehicle and battery technology: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2021-10-15/56201

Holly Mumby-Croft asked about facilities for HGV drivers at service stations: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2021-10-15/57473 and the effect of relaxed drivers’ hours rules: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2021-10-15/56205

Rachael Maskell asked about changes in the demographics of bus users: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2021-10-15/57162 and the impact of bus drivers moving to the HGV sector: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2021-10-15/57164

Charlotte Nicholls asked about HGV lorry platooning: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2021-10-18/58535

Lord Storey asked what the Government would do to encourage women to become HGV drivers: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Lords/2021-09-14/HL2720

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