Select Committee on Trade and Industry Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witnesses (Questions 320 - 332)



  320. You would move animals yourselves.
  (Mr Hanley) We move animals ourselves if we take summer grass keep, which is we take extra land on during the summer to get our animals away from the farm; we tend to do that ourselves. Markets, abattoirs, etcetera are all done by the haulage industry.

  321. What kind of mileage are we talking about in a year which is not haulage contractors' work?
  (Mr Hanley) That is a big question. Probably on one vehicle alone last year it would have been about 12,000 miles.

  322. The reasons I was interested in that is because you have £11,600 as costs in your budget for fuel for the road vehicles and the agricultural contractor.
  (Mr Hanley) Yes; that is the total cost of everything we have incurred in the last just over 12 months.

  323. Is that fuel cost?
  (Mr Hanley) Yes.

  324. That is some mileage.
  (Mr Hanley) It is a lot of mileage. We move a lot of cattle.


  325. What do you want from the pre-budget report?
  (Mr Hanley) We are asking for a cut in fuel tax right across the board for everyone in this country. We do not want any essential user rebate or anything. We feel, and this is travelling the country, the people who are using the mail bag, the people who are using the telephone are all saying it is putting immense pressure on them. When we went to Government following the demonstrations we asked the Government for 26.2 pence a litre to give us parity with Europe. That was a figure for negotiation. You will be perfectly aware yourself if you put your house on the market you do not put your house on the market at £35,000 and when someone comes along say it is going to go up to £100,000. We put in there what we require to have a level playing field. We felt then it was up to the Government to come back to us and negotiate and talk and tell us what they could afford to pay and let us work out a stepping stone system of how we get eventually to parity with Europe or some mechanism which makes us able to be competitive. That is all we were asking for. Unfortunately, despite the very long letter which you have from Lord Macdonald, with whom we had an excellent dialogue, and we had an excellent dialogue with Nick Brown, since that day unfortunately they appear to want to talk to the associations but nobody seems to want to roll their sleeves up and come down to meet the grassroots people, the people who are the primary producers, the general public who are hurting and hurting badly. A question was raised earlier about why the protest took place. I will tell you why it took place: because people just feel they are not being listened to. They cannot go on any longer. You have mentioned bankruptcies today: there is one major thing I think everybody in this room should be aware of, and look at it in my industry and talk to the Samaritans, and that is the loss of life. The loss of life by suicide. We have had six people in my area in the last six months who have either shot themselves, under the age of 40, or hanged themselves because they can see no future in their business. Very, very sadly, I understand yesterday that a young man, the son of an NFU member, also took his life because he could see no future. At the end of the day it is time we all sat down and asked what exactly is going wrong. You asked about bankruptcy: all I will say to you is that you have seen nothing yet. I have been with hauliers, large numbers of hauliers over the last three months. I have been to their houses, I have met their families. Not only are they going to lose their lorries, they are going to lose their homes, they are going to be repossessed, they are going to be out on the street looking for a job. We say retraining. Retraining takes time. How do you retrain a 58-year old into computer skills? Who is going to employ a 58-year old with computer skills? The list goes on and on. I do not think we have seen anything yet in terms of bankruptcy and people losing their homes. You brought up the issue of textiles and the miners. When the miners went they did receive payments for rehousing etcetera and redundancy payments. We are being told, the-self-employed farmers, hauliers and other businesses, "Sorry, boys, you might have to go". You use the words "restructure", "too much overcapacity", fine, but I think someone has an obligation to those people because at the end of the day they are like myself and you, they are British citizens.

Mr Chope

  326. Would you accept nomination as a people's peer?
  (Mr Hanley) I do not think it is for me to answer that question here today.


  327. It certainly is not within the gift of this Committee.
  (Mr Hanley) I have just come along and I know John has and I know Paul has. We are not associations. What you have heard today is from in there not up there.

  328. You have suggested that you would perhaps wish to start the protests again within 60 days if you do not get what you want.
  (Mr Hanley) Yes.

  329. Let us be practical about this for a moment. The pre-budget statement is an indication of what may be in the budget and it is put down as a set of suggestions. Do I take it that if you do not get 26.2 pence then you are going to start the demonstrations again?
  (Mr Hanley) Not at all. What we have said, and we have openly said it in the media, is that if Mr Brown comes out with a statement with a stepping stone figure that he feels he can afford at the moment and there is room for negotiation and he is prepared to talk and negotiate with people then there is no-one in this country who wants to go out and protest, nobody.

  330. May I just say to you that in my constituency I have a lot of whisky workers and every year the whisky industry goes down asking for a reduction in duty, with varying degrees of success; they sometimes get a freeze. They go down, they make their representations but they never negotiate. I would just warn you here, if I might be so bold . . .
  (Mr Hanley) Yes, you may.

  331. . . . that the idea of negotiating with the Treasury . . . One makes representations and then one waits and one is usually disappointed. The point I am making is that it is a different type of protest from megaphone diplomacy which is required.
  (Mr Hanley) I can tell you we are in a new millennium now and we are seeing people now who have finally had enough of waiting because you cannot ask a man to wait when he cannot afford to buy the shoes for his child. If he loses his home if he loses his employment, what is he to do? I am quite happy for democracy to operate but I am sorry, time has run out. We are so downtrodden now, we are in a corner. I am from the country. If you get a rat in the corner of a room, being chased by a cat, there is only one thing he can do to survive: he has to fight back. Unfortunately we have been forced into that corner because the listeners are not listening or if they are, they are not giving that impression to the people of this country.
  (Mr Pratt) May I just add that this is not just about haulage people, it is not just about farmers, it is about the general public? If you come to my village, I can tell you that there are young chaps who cannot get employment in our area because there is virtually no industrial employment whatsoever. They have to travel as far afield as Cardiff, which is 48 miles, Newport, the M4 corridor. These people are doing trips of anything up to 100 miles round trips per day. What do you think the fuel cost is doing to them? It is crippling them. This is not just about farmers and hauliers, it is about the general public. I think it is the general public who are protesting equally as much as anyone else. I think that point needs to be taken home to Government.
  (Mr Hanley) One very small point which has not been mentioned and that is the environment. I want everyone on this Committee to realise that we actually care about the environment as well. I certainly do and I know the haulage industry does. They do not want to see a bigger hole up there and more water. As one of the members of the FTA said, basically we could get into a situation if we were competitive where we could buy better vehicles, more fuel efficient vehicles. There are lots of things which could have been done since the 1960s by previous governments with regard to global warming. Why all of a sudden has this Government decided that it is all the fault of agriculture and the hauliers? Why do we have to be penalised and why are they prepared to allow lorries to come in from Europe carrying dirtier fuel, engines which are not as efficient as we could have and a load of other things.

  332. We have had quite clear figures this morning which suggest that the number of vehicles which come in from Europe may well be increasing but they are not significant in terms of the road haulage industry in the country. We know that they represent a threat to some businesses but this idea of going on about, continually maintaining that there is a foreign threat on our roads either in terms of safety or in terms of environment, there is no evidence to support your allegations today.
  (Mr Hanley) I will give you some actual figures counted with my own eyes. We have been actively involved with supermarket distribution centres over our own industry. On one night at one distribution centre there were 170 lorries stacked up to deliver into that distribution centre. Ninety-four of those lorries were European. If you travel your part of the world, the M6, I was driving up the M6 the other night. We were with a driver and we were counting the lorries. For every one British lorry we counted we counted three European. I am sorry. Wherever the figures have come from, they do not stack up.

  Chairman: We shall have to agree to disagree on that at this stage but that will not necessarily affect the outcome of our inquiry. Just to reiterate: what we are looking at is the impact of fuel prices in the round. We are not an agricultural committee, we are not going to stray into that area, but we are very grateful to you for the information you have given us today. We recognise the strength of your feelings and our report will be out after next Wednesday when Gordon Brown makes his statement. In the interim, the evidence you have given us, along with the evidence all the other people are providing will be in the Library of the House of Commons, probably as of tomorrow, so that Members of Parliament will be able to see what you have said in the way you have said it rather than just the way it has been reported in the press. We hope you accept that we have taken your evidence in good faith and we shall be passing it on to our colleagues as quickly as is feasible. Thank you very much.

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