Despite a ‘short-month’ due to MPs’ ‘half-term’, transport has figured large in Parliament as a former Transport Minister introduces a Bill, a select committee grills industry figures and there are questions galore, reports Pauline Gaunt OBE
THIS MONTH IN PARLIAMENT – FEBRUARY 2021
Once again the Government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic continued to dominate proceedings in both Houses of Parliament during February, as we rapidly approach the one-year anniversary since the first national lockdown was imposed.
This time last year we were hearing reports of infections and deaths spreading from China, but no one could have predicted the human, societal and economic impacts that would be experienced.
One highlight of the month in Parliament was the Prime Minister’s announcement of a road map out of Covid, culminating in what will hopefully be an end to restrictions on 21 June.
On a lighter note, The Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, told MPs on 24 February that the House of Commons Commission had agreed that MPs should look to buy a gift for Her Majesty the Queen on the 70th anniversary of her accession to the throne, due to take place in 2022.
This follows the tradition of other notable anniversaries. MPs were encouraged to make a donation towards the gift, which The Speaker stressed would be from their own pockets and not rechargeable as an expense!
As ever, February was a short month for Parliament with both Houses enjoying a ‘half-term’ break for a week.
In the Chambers
Former Transport Minister, Theresa Villiers, introduced a Bill into the House of Commons on 3 February aiming to improve air quality.
In practice the Bill has no chance of reaching the statute book but introducing a Bill in this way gives an MP a platform to lobby and campaign for their measure.
The aim of her Bill would be to accelerate the Government’s efforts to reduce emissions and improve air quality.
In her short address to MPs she noted the Government funds being made available to support the introduction of low emission buses. You can read Ms Villiers remarks here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-02-03/debates/F2A06D14-9F5F-4DB9-B4C7-BBC62F85CF4B/AirQuality
During questions to Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Ministers on 9 February, Shadow Secretary of State and former Labour Leader Ed Miliband called for a more robust plan to help, among other sectors, the haulage sector in dealing with red tape following the UK’s exit from the EU.
You can read the exchange here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-02-09/debates/7788FE46-685E-4DE1-9C52-BC8F0F795A5E/Covid-19SupportForBusinesses
At the same questions session, former Transport Secretary Chris Grayling asked about the UK’s capacity to produce green hydrogen: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2021-02-09/debates/B394376A-549A-460E-AB50-C3A7BC0F89F8/GreenHydrogen
Over in the Lords on 1 February, Baroness Randerson asked an oral question about the impact of the end of the transition period following the UK’s exit from the EU on the logistics industry.
She said that increased red tape was having a detrimental effect on the haulage industry and felt the Government could do more to ease the burden on operators.
Lord Bradshaw asked about freight volumes crossing the Channel to see if there was evidence of freight being diverted to other ports.
Baroness Wheatcroft specifically referenced the Road Haulage Association (RHA) which had said that around 18% of lorries were returning to the UK empty, with that figure rising to 50%.
You can read the full exchanges here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2021-02-01/debates/99DD2776-D0B4-4E2A-81CB-7612D5BAD0C0/UKLogisticsIndustry
Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, gave evidence to the House of Commons Transport Select Committee on 3 February.
The title of the session was ‘Responsibilities of the Secretary of State for Transport’ and was a regular session each Select Committee carries out, the purpose of which is to raise the full range of issues under the Secretary of State’s remit.
The session included a number of references to the haulage and coach sectors. A transcript of the session can be found on the link: https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevidence/1649/pdf/
On 10 February the CPT, Arriva UK Bus and the Campaign for Better Transport gave evidence to the Transport Select Committee as part of the inquiry into Reforming Public Transport after the Pandemic. A transcript of the session can be found here: https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevidence/1705/pdf/
On 23 February the House of Commons Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Select Committee took evidence from a number of witnesses, including the Road Haulage Association and the SMMT, as part of its inquiry into the issues faced following the UK’s departure from the EU and the establishment of a new trading relationship.
The session on 23 February focussed on matters arising in the automotive, manufacturing, aerospace and haulage sectors. You can watch the session here: https://committees.parliament.uk/event/3734/formal-meeting-oral-evidence-session/
On 26 February the House of Commons Transport Select Committee launched an inquiry into the roll-out and safety of smart motorways.
Written evidence is being accepted until 10 April, and any transport operator wishing to make a submission should take the opportunity of having their views examined by the Committee: https://committees.parliament.uk/call-for-evidence/411/the-rollout-and-safety-of-smart-motorways/
Among the many dozens of written answers published each day, the following may be of interest:
Paula Barker asked whether emergency would be paid direct to local authorities or bus operators: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2021-01-27/144874
Hilary Benn asked for figures on the numbers of lorries leaving Dover and Eurotunnel since 1 January: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2021-01-27/144601
Kerry McCarthy asked a number of questions about hauliers and freight movements/working hours post Brexit: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2021-02-02/147760
Holly Mumby Croft asked about facilities for hauliers on long journeys: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2021-02-08/150980
Sam Tarry asked how much funding had been distributed to bus operators for the installation of AV equipment: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2021-02-10/152673
Baroness Randerson asked about capacity of the Channel Tunnel and Dover port to process lorries: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Lords/2021-02-04/HL13013
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