Parliament re-opened in a different style of ‘pageantry-light’ ceremony due to Covid, as the Queen made her first public appearance since the funeral of HRH Prince Phillip. There was one reference to transport in the Queen’s Speech, but many questions, reports Pauline Gaunt OBE, in ITT Hub’s unique industry summary
THIS MONTH IN PARLIAMENT – MAY 2021
In the Chambers
The new Session of Parliament was opened by Her Majesty the Queen on 11 May, in a markedly different style of ceremony.
Due to social distancing and the discouraging of people gathering in large numbers, gone was much of the pageantry which usually surrounds the State Opening of Parliament. Instead the Queen travelled to Parliament by car instead of carriage and there was no procession along the Mall, Horse Guards or Whitehall.
Accompanied this time by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, Her Majesty cut a somewhat lonely figure as she delivered the Government’s speech without, of course, HRH Prince Phillip by her side with commentators noting that the ornate chair he would have used has been packed away to storage for the first time for decades.
There was one reference to the transport sector in the Speech in the context of improving connectivity by rail and bus: “My Government will strengthen the economic ties across the union, investing in and improving national infrastructure. Proposals will be taken forward to transform connectivity by rail and bus and to extend 5G mobile coverage and gigabit capable broadband.”
You can read the full text of the Queen’s Speech here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2021-05-11/debates/3CEF09CA-31F5-420F-ACE0-64F657AB3395/QueenSSpeech
As is usual after the Queen’s Speech, several days worth of debate in both Houses are given over to set piece debates loosely connected with the contents of the “Gracious Speech”.
During these wide-ranging debates, many MPs and Peers sought further information on the Government’s plans to “transform connectivity by rail and bus” with many, particularly in the Lords, saying that the Government was lacking ambition by not making bold statements or strategies for promoting green transport.
“Another notable event during May was the explosive appearance of former adviser Dominic Cummings before a joint session of the House of Commons Social Care and Science & Technology Select Committees”
Another notable event during May was the explosive appearance of former adviser Dominic Cummings before a joint session of the House of Commons Social Care and Science & Technology Select Committees. His criticism of the Government’s handling of the pandemic in general, and of the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Health & Social Care in particular, will continue to reverberate around Downing Street for a while.
On 20 May, the Department for Transport published the Williams-Shapps Plan For Rail which would see the creation of a new public body, Great British Railways, to own and plan the rail network. In a short debate on the publication of the plan, a number of MPs called for greater integration with rail and bus services. You can read the full debate here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2021-05-20/debates/517FA510-061C-4B92-BD05-0E5B6AA9C502/BritainSRailways
That evening Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central) secured an adjournment debate considering transport infrastructure in the north of England. He looked forward to the proposals in the National Bus Strategy coming to fruition, and several other MPs contributed to the debate including former DfT Minister Andrew Jones. You can read the full debate here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2021-05-20/debates/16C32E4A-0A40-43B9-AA51-69A1119DBB74/NorthOfEnglandTransportInfrastructure
During questions to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on 25 May, Ian Paisley (North Antrim) asked how the forthcoming hydrogen strategy would help support jobs in Northern Ireland: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2021-05-25/debates/DA41337C-8DA8-47A3-830B-5343353FC58A/HydrogenEconomy
On 26 May Ben Everitt (Milton Keynes North) held a debate in Westminster Hall about the merits of driverless cars where he spoke of trials taking place of a driverless bus: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2021-05-26/debates/25ED7054-86FF-47D3-A0C3-D4B3E39902FD/DriverlessCars
On 19 May in the Lords, Baroness Randerson asked an oral question about the Government’s decarbonisation strategy. Responding, Baroness Vere of Norbiton noted the technical difficulties, particularly where HGVs were concerned and referred to the zero-emission freight trial. Lord Tunnicliffe was disappointed that so many buses in London were still diesel powered. You can read the full exchanges here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2021-05-19/debates/6D5D33E0-DB54-4C84-A2FF-EF421367DCCB/TransportDecarbonisationStrategy
The House of Commons Transport Select Committee has started taking oral evidence on the roll out and safety of smart-motorways, and has also taken oral evidence from the Secretary of State for Transport on the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail.
Among the many dozens of written answers published each day, the following may be of interest:
Sarah Olney asked for assurance that contracts for infrastructure projects would be awarded to British companies: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2021-05-13/1152
Huw Merriman asked about ventilation and the spread of Covid-19 on buses: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2021-05-19/3944
Alyn Smith asked about the safety of hauliers at UK borders and the Channel Tunnel terminals: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2021-05-18/3160
Mike Amesbury asked about the interrupted haulage of goods from the EU: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2021-05-17/2434
Kerry McCarthy asked consultation of HGV sideguards: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2021-05-20/4555
Andrew Bridgen asked about the development of electric HGVs: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2021-05-20/4607
Giles Watling asked about hauliers supporting the touring theatre industry: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2021-05-18/3151
Keep up to date with Government and local authority announcements here:
- Department for Transport: Department for Transport – GOV.UK
- Department for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs: Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs – GOV.UK
- Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy: Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy – GOV.UK
- Local Government Association: Home | Local Government Association
Read more: Last month in Parliament – April 2021