An unprecedented event

While in UK transport terms it’s been relatively quiet in Parliament – although there’s still been some business – the Spring Statement, Ukraine and P&O have kept MPs occupied, reports Pauline Gaunt OBE, in ITT Hub’s unique industry summary

THIS MONTH IN PARLIAMENT – MARCH 2022

There have been many occasions on which Presidents, Prime Ministers, even Monarchs have addressed both Houses of Parliament, usually from the steps of the ancient and awe inspiring Westminster Hall, or perhaps the Robing Room, or even the Royal Gallery. 

But on 8 March, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed MPs and Peers via video link. The sitting was formally suspended to allow MPs and as many Peers who could get access to the galleries to hear the President address Parliament about the situation in the Ukraine (pictured).

Whilst the situation in Ukraine dominated proceedings during March other notable events included the Chancellor’s Spring Statement and the job losses at P&O.

But away from the actual building, another extraordinary event took place, namely the ban for life from the Parliamentary estate of former Speaker John Bercow.  The Speaker of the House of Commons is the most senior “commoner” in the land so a former post-holder to be banned from the building for life, his temper and bullying style being to blame, is eye wateringly humiliating for him.  But if the media reports of his lucrative speaking engagements are to be believed, he probably isn’t too worried.

If you look hard enough, there is usually something in Hansard that brings a smile to the face.  I had to laugh at the exchange in the Lords on 14 March when Lord Young of Norwood rose to speak during a debate about Genetically Modified Organisms only to be ‘called out’ by the duty Whip, Lady Bloomfield, who said he should not speak seeing as he had been asleep during the Minister’s comments.

Whilst Lord Young protested, it was pointed out that the Doorkeeper had been despatched to go and wake him up.  Well it was gone 10pm, clearly past the Noble Lord’s usual bedtime!

In the Chambers

In the House of Lords on 1 March Lord Berkeley asked whether Covid-19 funding for local bus services would be extended.  The Government had announced that day that the first tranche of funding had been announced. https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2022-03-01/debates/802FDDB3-EED9-4628-9D7C-75D6F11AE383/BusServicesCovid-19EmergencyFunding

At Business Questions on 3 March, a number of MPs drew attention to continuing delays at DVLA in issuing driving licences:  https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2022-03-10/debates/48E1540E-D3D7-4064-A7D4-DB75FB7CFA1A/BusinessOfTheHouse Similar points were made at PMQs on 23 March:   https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2022-03-23/debates/8B11C5F0-031D-42D1-A0DA-B9C3362A015C/Engagements

Baroness Randerson asked on 8 March about the adequacy of funding available for Bus Improvement Plans.  Responding Baroness Vere of Norbiton listed the funding available. https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2022-03-08/debates/C1706162-13C2-4966-9DE7-BF9F94506732/BusImprovementPlans

Charlotte Nichols had a debate in Westminster Hall on 9 March about plans to improve bus services in North West England.  Talking mainly about her constituency of Warrington, she drew attention to lack of patronage during the pandemic, and service cuts which left communities isolated. She was proud of the investment in hydrogen buses in her constituency and was hoping there would be Government funding available.  Margaret Greenwood looked forward to the day when buses in Liverpool were brought back into public control via franchising.  Minister Trudy Harrison applauded bus services in London and hoped that other areas would soon have similar levels of service.  She was keen to see public confidence in buses returning.  https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2022-03-09/debates/7805961D-E04E-4F72-80BD-8D3D5D8FA122/BusServiceImprovementPlansNorth-WestEngland

On the same afternoon Elliot Colburn had a debate about smart road pricing, referring to the Transport Select Committee report on the subject. A number of participants in the debate called for greater use of public transport, and buses in particular.  https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2022-03-09/debates/11E1BD78-BF88-411D-9B75-1359C03CC270/SmartRoadPricing

The Goods Vehicle (Licensing of Operators) (Amendment) Regulations 2022 were considered in the House of Lords on 9 March.  These were necessary as a result of the EU-UK Trade Cooperation Agreement, and brought some light goods vehicles within the scope of the Regulations. Despite comments to the contrary the Minister did not believe these Regulations would impose additional burdens on operators. https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2022-03-09/debates/2B04AF10-57DB-4E32-9BB4-EDBABF380549/GoodsVehicles(LicensingOfOperators)(Amendment)Regulations2022

At Transport questions on 17 March, Navendu Mishra drew attention to the continuing lack of bus drivers and the impact on services: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2022-03-17/debates/88A3F385-7763-4598-B036-D7F2D4973677/BusDriverShortages

Luke Pollard said that Plymouth City Council was due to remove a third of all shelters at bus stops which had safety implications for passengers: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2022-03-17/debates/25499E23-E0BC-46B8-AA8C-D093ED3057E7/BusStopSafety

Chi Onwurah called for improvements to the quality and affordability of bus services in Newcastle: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2022-03-17/debates/1E241FAD-5654-402D-A67E-8F1B64FF8B56/LevellingUpBusServicesInNewcastle

Virendra Sharma said that TfL needed greater funding if large numbers of bus services were to be protected. John Spellar called for greater investment into hydrogen technology.

https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2022-03-17/debates/234E7A1B-C61F-4C7F-8E8B-B0042B9E60B1/TopicalQuestions

During a Westminster Hall debate on 23 March about improvements to the A5, a number of MPs said the route needed upgrading to cater better for HGVs, which made up a third of the vehicles using the road: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2022-03-23/debates/66C33712-C1BC-497B-ACC6-332F3FE8191A/A5InTheMidlandsImprovements

On 24 March at Digital, Culture Media & Sport questions, Kerry McCarthy asked what the Government could do to ensure the availability of specialist event hauliers to support domestic music tours during 2022: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2022-03-24/debates/02AE771B-6A11-4707-ABAF-A569BD7E0202/MusicToursSpecialEventHauliers

At Business Questions that day, Matt Western drew attention to the suspension of the tram network operated by West Midlands Metro and called for a debate: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2022-03-24/debates/4E976BCD-BE44-44CC-A920-FC9C6A6011A5/BusinessOfTheHouse

The adjournment debate that afternoon was by Adam Holloway who was making the case for a Lower Thames River Crossing to ease congestion at Dartford: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2022-03-24/debates/F4FABF6F-9380-4CF7-8504-F7626A06919D/LowerThamesCrossing

On 31 March there was a Westminster Hall debate by Clive Betts about funding for urban transport.  He drew attention to the problems faced by operators with declining patronage and rising costs, and noted that Government support per head in Sheffield was far less than in London. He also called for the bus franchising process to be speeded up.  Other MPs made similar points about support for operators to shore up services.  https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2022-03-31/debates/B28141D1-3E51-4315-9E74-E4F6609F053D/UrbanTransportFutureFunding

Committee Corridor

The House of Commons Transport Select Committee has announced an inquiry into the National Bus Strategy: One Year On. https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/153/transport-committee/news/161501/new-inquiry-national-bus-strategy-one-year-on/

As a result of continuing delays at DVLA in issuing driving licences, the Chair of the House of Commons Transport Select Committee wrote to the Chief Executive of DVLA posing seven questions to try to identify how DVLA was addressing the problems.  https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/153/transport-committee/news/161666/transport-committee-chair-drills-into-detail-on-dvla-delays/

On paper

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

Charlotte Nichols asked about HGV delays at Dover Port: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2022-03-07/135684

Drew Hendry asked about HGV driver training and progress with the review: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2022-03-10/138072

Louise Haigh called for a publicity campaign to restore public confidence in public transport: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2022-03-15/140506

Mary Kelly Foy asked about awareness of bus and taxi drivers in the carriage of assistance animals: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2022-03-16/141306

Fleur Anderson asked about the reopening of Hammersmith Bridge: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2022-03-17/142094

Lord McNichol of West Kilbride asked about the nuclear energy roadmap: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Lords/2022-03-07/HL6677

Baroness Randerson asked about the impact of fuel prices on public transport services: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Lords/2022-03-07/HL6677

Baroness Randerson asked about funding under the Bus Back Better scheme; http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Lords/2022-03-08/HL6743

Gavin Newlands asked about orders via the Zero Emission Buses Regional Area scheme: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2022-03-08/136581

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