What would ‘Supermac’ have thought?

It’s the ‘end of term’ for the Houses of Parliament in what has been one of the most unusual sessions since the Second World War, reports Pauline Gaunt OBE, in ITT Hub’s unique industry summary


And breathe…..

Both Houses of Parliament have now risen for the long summer recess, and I’m sure MPs, Peers, staff on the Parliamentary estate and civil servants involved in key policy areas will heave a sigh of relief.  From my time working closely with Ministers and Parliament the session from Easter to the Summer Recess was hard going particularly the closer you got to the end of July as Ministers scrabbled to get their announcements out before the “end of term”. 

The summer term is shorter now given the change in fixture for the Prorogation and State Opening but the same rush to get announcements out will, I am sure, have been as manic as ever.  And of course the business of Government goes on at the same time as Ministers having to make hugely difficult decisions over the Covid restrictions.

To this end, it was left to vaccinations Minister, Nadhim Zahawi to make the statement to the Commons on 19 July – so called Freedom Day – about the relaxation of restrictions given that both the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Health & Social Care were both self-isolating.

The Prime Minister had to attend the final PMQs of the term via video link from Chequers, something that Harold McMillan could never have imagined in his wildest dreams when he introduced the first session of PMQs, on a trial basis, on 18 July 1961.

So when Parliament reconvenes on 6 September will the big screens be gone and will the Chambers be back to full capacity as the Speaker hoped?  We shall see.

In the Chambers

During the regular weekly Business Statement, Ian Mearns called on the Government to make a statement on the shortage of HGV drivers and the difficulties it was causing with the supply chain: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-07-08/debates/6C9C50BE-EA9B-4BB1-8596-A7D021229260/BusinessOfTheHouse

Indeed, the shortage of HGV drivers was raised a number of times in both Houses during July. During Home Office questions on 12 July, Jamie Wallis made the same point that Owens Group in his constituency was experiencing difficulties due to lack of drivers and called for HGV drivers to be added to the shortage occupation list: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-07-12/debates/69B15A62-44F9-4A9A-8475-9D2CB0788FF0/TopicalQuestions

At questions to DEFRA Ministers on 22 July Patricia Gibson said that shortages of warehouse workers due to the “pingdemic” was exacerbated by lack of HGV drivers: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-07-22/debates/AD44ACF8-B25A-4E0B-BCD9-D38819F052D7/TopicalQuestions

Over in the Lords on 7 July Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (this is Ann McIntosh who was the MP for York for many years and who always had a keen interest on transport, and who served for many years on the Transport Select Committee) asked what the Government was doing to redress the situation regarding lack of drivers. She too asked for HGV drivers to be added to the UK skills shortage list and also called for measures to encourage more women drivers. Former Transport Secretary, Lord (Patrick) McLoughlin asked for the driver CPC regulations to be temporarily lifted to help with the situation. The full exchanges can be found here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2021-07-07/debates/7BB87261-D842-4092-BDFB-1C5979EFE85D/LorryDrivers

On 14 July the Secretary of State for Transport announced the Government’s proposals for transport decarbonisation.  This set out the timetable for phasing out certain types of engines with a move to greater use of electric and low emission vehicles. During the debate Selaine Saxby was concerned that rural areas would get left behind regarding local bus services.  Former transport Minister, John Spellar, urged the Government to do more to ensure that the new greener vehicles would be made in the UK.  You can read the full debate here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-07-14/debates/C6B2F5D7-FF00-4E3F-AEC6-1C188C6F7B4A/TransportDecarbonisation

The statement was repeated in the Lords on 19 July when the plan received support and Peers hoped the Government would meet its targets, and many supported the use of hydrogen: https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2021-07-19/debates/429C39D0-DA50-4388-8EF7-0F297A1F4A8E/TransportDecarbonisation

Back to the Commons and the regular end of term adjournment debate took place on 22 July and whilst this usually jolly and sometimes lighthearted event rarely makes the headlines, Dawn Butler was asked to leave the Chamber for the rest of the sitting for her use of unParliamentary language.  In terms of transport-related comments, Laura Farris made the case for a bus route between Newbury and Oxford with stopping places at various business parks and other important employment locations. You can read the exchanges here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-07-22/debates/C6DDD184-A106-47DB-8CCA-38A5B0128352/SummerAdjournment

Committee corridor

The House of Commons Select Committee on the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs carried out a long and wide ranging inquiry into air quality and published its report in February.  However the Committee felt the Government’s response to its inquiry was inadequate and is carrying out a follow up inquiry: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/1349/air-quality-follow-up/

The House of Commons Transport Select Committee took evidence on 21 July on the work of DVLA, questioning unions, DVLA’s Chief Executive and Minister for Roads, Buses & Places, Baroness Vere or Norbiton.  You can read the transcript here:  https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevidence/2613/pdf/

On paper

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

Rupa Huq asked for working hours regulations to be relaxed for HGV drivers: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2021-06-30/25104

Jamie Stone asked about bus services in the Highlands of Scotland: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2021-07-07/29129

Luke Evans asked about rest stops for HGV drivers: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2021-07-05/27336

Barry Sheerman asked about tax-incentives for haulage companies to encourage the transition to zero emission vehicles: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2021-07-07/28947

Alison Thewlis asked about the challenges facing PCV drivers: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2021-07-14/33254

Giles Watling asked a series of questions about cabotage: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2021-07-16/34586

Daisy Cooper asked about AV provision on local bus services: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2021-07-15/34069

Lord Blunkett asked about DVLA waiting times: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Lords/2021-07-01/HL1626


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