The witness withdrew
MR CLARKSON: My Lord, that is the evidence on behalf
of the promoters on clause ten.
CHAIRMAN: Before I invite Mr King to present the
petition, can I give notice that Baroness Gibson does have a question
for today's question time and may have to leave in 20 or 25 minutes.
MR KING: My name is Roger King, chief executive of
the Road Haulage Association. Perhaps I could just sketch in the
background of what our association is all about. We have been
around for nearly 50 years and we represent the hire and reward
sector of the commercial vehicle industry. These are people who
offer a service to their customer, to move goods from A to B.
By and large, they are not vehicles that are owned by other organisations
that use their own internal transport to deliver goods to wherever
they might be.
We have some 8,600 haulier members. That covers around
100,000 heavy goods vehicles on our roads. There is a total of
about 422,000 so we represent just under 25 per cent of the heavy
goods vehicles that we see on our roads today. We call a heavy
goods vehicle anything over 3.5 tonnes. There are very few 4 tonne
vehicles around. The next weight of any relevance is 7.5 tonnes
and if you have grandfather rights - that is, you have a driving
licence which you gained a number of years ago - you can still
drive without a special licence; but if you are a recent driving
licence acquirer you would need a special test to pass a test
for driving that kind of vehicle.
I suppose as a haulage industry we do not attract
a great deal of good publicity. Everyone has their own perception
of a heavy goods vehicle. It is a mobile obstruction on the roads.
They cause hold-ups; they cause congestion and perhaps in the
eyes of most people they cause a lot of accidents relative to
the mileage they do. They are one of the safest forms of transport
on the roads today.
In terms of pollution we believe, with the strict
standards which are required by various European Directives, vehicles
are exceedingly clean. In fact, one of today's Euro 3 air engined
vehicles, which exercises very stringent emission standards laid
down by Brussels, pollutes only a fraction of what its predecessors
used to do as recently as ten years ago.
As we move on to Euro 4 - where, in addition to the
diesel fuel, the introduction of urea is put into the fuel system,
and you may know what that is - the emissions of the vehicles
have reduced to almost negligible amounts. Improvement in fuel
will help eliminate particulate emission.
Technologically the industry is moving forward. It
is generally considered to be one of the most, if not the
most, productive haulage industry in the Western world. You would
not expect to find something competitive in China, Russia or in
the Far East, and that is because it is an intensively competitive
There are, out of those 422,00 vehicles registered
over 3,500 tonnes, over 50,000 operators. They can vary from the
very large ones - Eddie Stobart is a name one might well be familiar
with - to the owner driver. In fact our average member has seven
trucks, and out of our 8,600 members we have something over 1,100
owner drivers in membership. There are around 15,000 owner drivers
operating vehicles in this country.
The public does not really like us and we understand
why. Of course, if it was not for the truck the UK would stop
overnight. We provide all the wherewithal. In this august Palace
of Westminster everything that comes here comes by truck. There
is no rail link that I have ever seen, nor is there likely to
be. The future for the industry obviously is good. The customers
are there and, as far as we can tell, the demand for the services
we provide will go on growing - although it has to be said that
the overall fleet of vehicles on our roads today has declined
from around half a million a few years ago to 422,000. That is
largely because the vehicles have got bigger. It is largely because
they are worked more intensively around the clock, and that means
that they require less maintenance because they have, in many
cases, self-diagnostic equipment on board which tells the driver/operator
exactly what is wrong with the engine, what is wrong with the
braking system, and it can be corrected at the appropriate time.
As an operator there is a whole gamut of enforcement
requirements needed. The principal obstacle to becoming a haulier
is the gaining of an operating licence. For that you go in front
of the Traffic Commissioner and you declare yourself as a person
of good repute. This is something which is cherished by operators,
because if they lose this repute - and if you think about it there
are many ways in which you can lose it - it is something which
is held in high regard within the industry.
You also have to have adequate maintenance facilities
to declare to the Traffic Commissioner. You either do the maintenance
yourself, in which case you have to demonstrate you have got the
facility to do it; or you have to subcontract it to perhaps a
commercial vehicle dealer or service centre. Either way you must
be able to demonstrate that you are maintaining the vehicle properly;
and, of course, records are to be kept - records of driver's hours,
records of vehicle maintenance; and woe betide you if you fall
foul of the Commissioner of the Licensing Authority, because they
have the power to take your licence away. They have the power
to take you out of business. Indeed, there are cases pending where
they are trying to exercise that power now, subject to appeal
by the operator.
It is not an easy industry to be in. It is one which
is very heavily legislated. It is also one, sadly, that gives
a very small return - probably less than 2 per cent is the average
I heard recently as the latest analysis of the industry. It is
not an easy way to make money. Some do very well, but for the
vast majority it is a living that one can say is being eked out
by people who like the industry they are in, but it probably is
not giving them the return they would like, given the heavy burden
of cost they have to undertake.
Having said all that, the future is getting worse.
We are subject to increasing numbers of EU Directives, including
the Working Time Directive which will reduce the working week
to only 48 hours, and no other job can be taken. The average week
that a driver presently runs is 56 hours. It means that either
he will get the same money for 48 hours, or he will get what he
normally gets now for 48 hours which is probably not sufficient
for him to live on because he depends upon the regular overtime.
That is the big challenge we have got to address by 2005.
There are other liabilities bestowed upon the operator,
including criminal negligence where, increasingly, the attitude
of the court in the case of an accident has been to find somebody
to blame. Very often, sadly, that blame can be attached to the
operator. It is very, very hard if you are operating a fleet of
40 vehicles to maintain strict standards of control on every single
aspect of your business. Of course they attempt to do it; of course
they must do it. Their licence is at risk if they do not. Because
you have 40 individuals driving the length and breadth of the
land it is very difficult to keep tabs with the exact attitude
with which they approach the job in terms of driving, in terms
of stowing the load on the vehicle and driving in a safe and secure
manner. It is something the industry has to adapt to and is accepting
the challenge; but it is another major factor for us to address.
Congestion charging is another area which we can
see occurring locally in London with the prospect of a £5
daily charge coming into operation next February. That congestion
charge is something that other cities are intending to introduce
as well. An operator moving from one part of the country to another
faces a whole range of challenges and issues now which are likely
to grow in magnitude as a result of the change in legislative
patterns and, of course, pushed down by central government for
more opportunities for local authorities to exert their own influence
on the transport patterns within their area. An operator may well
find that instead of just understanding the rate for the job per
mile, they will find there are additional charges they have to
take into account as they go into various inner cities in the
not too distant future.
My Lord, you may well be aware of the illegal immigrants
problem that drivers face. It is currently in front of your Lordships
for a third reading. It is something we are extremely agitated
about. It would be wrong for me to start talking about amendments
we would like to see carried. All I will say is this, that road
haulier drivers are acutely aware of security issues. It is the
number one item on our agenda. They know when they come to the
channel ports that they must keep their vehicles locked and secure.
Even so they run foul of the immigration authorities and despite
all the checks illegals are found on board and they face penal
rates of fine which are likely to be doubled under the new immigration
and asylum bill which is something that we strongly object to.
The point I am making is that security is a matter
of major concern for the industry; and it is that which concentrates
minds considerably. It will not surprise you to know, as a result
of all this, as a result of the rising tide of legislation and
the magnitude of the job and the rather poor returns which operators
and drivers get, and bearing in mind the absolute necessity of
the country having this transport infrastructure, getting drivers
to come into the profession as a career is getting increasingly
difficult; it is not so much to do with the hours but to do with
the responsibility and the real responsibilities they have not
just in driving safely but in conducting their vehicle from A
to B in a secure manner as well; dealing with all the everyday
things that a haulier/driver would have to face in terms of congestion
and making sure they stay the right side of the law.
Currently, there are about 50,000-plus drivers short
out of a driving force of around 600,00. In the not too distant
future when the EU Directive comes in some estimates have said
that figure will rise to 140,000 drivers - a figure which the
industry views with horror at the prospect of trying to persuade
people to come in and make the transport industry a career. That
is why we are very conscious of examining all pieces of legislation,
to make sure that the burden on our workforce is not increased
in the way that it has been increasing in the past and, sadly,
is going to be increased in the future. We do not want to see
additional tasks, additional problems confronting our industry.
That is not to say we do not recognise our responsibilities as
an industry - we certainly do. I hope I have been able to give
an outline of the general conduct and attitude of the industry
towards its work.
We have, for instance, long campaigned for enforcement
of the law in terms of getting rid of the so-called cowboy operators,
and they do exist and probably still do exist today. What we now
have is the enforcement policy which enables the authorities,
the Vehicle Inspectorate, to seize vehicles, to take them away,
confiscate them and so on. That is a good step forward and encourages
those that will drive without due care and attention that, with
the maintenance requirement of the vehicle, in whatever shape
or form, if they constantly flout the operating authorities, the
traffic commissioners, the Vehicle Inspectorate, then they can
expect to have their vehicle seized and sold as a consequence.
We do not have any difficulty because we are an industry
that has to be regulated; we appreciate that. Driving heavy goods
vehicles is the ninth most dangerous task, I am told. They are
dangerous things in the wrong hands. They are dangerous if they
are not well maintained and looked after. That is why it is only
fair those operators that do maintain diligent maintenance schedules,
proper driving training, are protected from those that try and
cut corners. That is why we welcome the Vehicle Inspectorate's
role in making sure that enforcement takes place. We recognise
that there will be a growing role for the Vehicle Inspectorate
to police the industry. We are dealing with people we understand.
We are dealing with people who have a technical knowledge, an
intimate knowledge, of what our industry is all about and what
a vehicle is all about. They are not somebody else fitting in
a job and doing something that is not directly related and maybe
has no particular training in the technology of the industry.
The Vehicle Inspectorate, amongst other things, will be looking
at emissions of vehicles, although principally they are looking
at whether the vehicle is safe to drive on the roads, any leaks
in the brake pipes, any undue wear and tear, cuts in the tyres
and so on that can cause that vehicle to be taken off the road
until it has actually been remedied or checked.
That is by way of outline, and all I would say is
this: why are we here today? What is the point of coming to protest
or petition against a particular suggestion or particular proposal
in this Bill that the ability of stopping vehicles on the Queen's
highway is extended beyond what we normally understand of officers
of the law. After all, we have probably conceded, as I have already
said, the Vehicle Inspectorate will have that role. The Vehicle
Inspectorate will operate under the Police Reform Act and, therefore,
they come very closely under police control. They are well versed
in doing this exercise. They have been working with the police
authority for many, many years. By the very nature of the structure
of the Vehicle Inspectorate we do not expect to see a huge increase
in checking up and down the length of the land. It is something
that we have to abide with and comply with if it is the will of
Parliament that that is the case; and we have no real difficulties
in working with the Vehicle Inspectorate - although we did protest
to Government when they said that the police involvement in checking
and stopping vehicles would be withdrawn; we still prefer to see
an officer of the law engaged in this activity.
We come back really to a basic principle, my Lord,
and that is the right and the growth of that right bestowed upon
individuals to obstruct the passage of citizens along the
Queen's highway. It is rather more of an emotive issue. It probably
extends to the rising tide of enforcement that we have to face,
be it through cameras, be it through other various other checks;
and it seems to us that this particular Bill is seeking to extend
a right which we believe is wrong.
We do not believe that individuals, be they council
officials or anyone else, should have the right to stop traffic
on the Queen's highway without an officer of the law, or somebody
who could carry out the work and the style of an officer of the
law, being involved.
The fact that the police cannot or will not get involved
with this particular exercise of emissions checking is not, in
our view, a reason to empower somebody else. We need to think
very carefully about travelling along this particular slope. It
is very unfortunate that the Metropolitan Police have withdrawn
support, but this should not mean extending such powers to other
people. The police have always been involved in checking and that,
to a degree, has been something of a control on the number of
checks that have taken place.
We have heard today, as a result of questioning,
that there seems to be no intention, if permission is given for
council officials to stop vehicles, to radically increase the
number of searches. We have heard that Westminster Council does
two a week. We heard that other authorities in London probably
do one a fortnight. My Lord, is it not impossible to get the police
involved on such a modest amount of emissions checking? It does
not seem to us to be totally insurmountable. Can traffic wardens
not be involved? Can you not find one traffic warden a fortnight
to conduct an emissions check without radically changing the law?
Can Westminster Council not find one traffic warden, properly
trained by the police and working under the Police Commissioner,
to do two checks a week, or two wardens?
I am not convinced at all that the alternative to
this particular piece of legislation is not the most obvious:
to find people who are already there. Unless, of course, and this
is the crux of our argument, you intend to carry out far more
checks on emissions. If you intend to carry out rather more I
could understand it may be difficult to find police officers,
and may be difficult to find those traffic wardens.
It has been suggested that it is difficult for a
local authority person to have permission from the Traffic Commissioner
under the Police Reform Act. That may raise some questions, and
one understands what those questions might be about the validity
of that person stopping vehicles in that way. Surely a proper
traffic warden is empowered to stop vehicles?
I raised the issue with Mr Lester, I think, about
the role of the lollipop lady. He said "That is all we want
to do, all we want the council officials to do is do what the
lollipop ladies do and stop traffic." That is fine, but the
person concerned is going to do more than that; they are going
to direct that traffic to another place off the highway, or adjacent
to the highway, for the purpose of checking. That is not what
a lollipop lady does, and that is where there is a major difference
between what is being asked. It is almost like saying "All
we want is what the lollipop lady does, so why can we not have
that?" It is not the same at all, it is taking authority
over a vehicle travelling on the Queen's highway and saying "You
must go into that layby or half-a-mile down the road there is
a checking point, you must go there". That is directing traffic,
that is what a lollipop lady does, and that is why we have some
problems with that. We believe that the only body, as I say, that
can and should stop a vehicle going about its business on the
Queen's highway are the police.
We have talked about security. Security does come
into the argument. I mentioned the general aura of fear that exists
amongst lorry drivers today about the high level of criminal activity
engaged within this industry. Currently the level of crime against
HGVs and drivers continues to rise. We probably have the same
problem that the local authorities do with the police; the police,
by and large, do not rate this as much of a crime because nobody
gets hurt, the insurance companies pay up if a load has gone or
the truck has gone, so nobody actually gets hurt.
Happily, there is a change of view by the police;
they are becoming aware that people do get hurt, particularly
if you are an owner/driver and you have had your vehicle taken,
it may be two or three weeks or a month or two before the insurance
company reimburses you, in which case, by that time, you have
probably gone out of business. So there is real human misery in
commercial vehicle crime, and it is something that continues to
concentrate our views, as a trade association. I think the police
are becoming more and more involved in tackling an issue where
the rewards for those engaged in commercial vehicle crime are
very high. You can distribute a load of computers, which may have
a value of half-a-million pounds, virtually overnight, and it
has been done. Along with other valuable cargoes there is a ready
market in the underworld, or even in the over-world, for these
kinds of goods, sadly.
To give you some idea: last year there were 1805
cases of jump-up theft (that is people who jump up into a cab
when the vehicle is stationary and wrestle control of the vehicle
from the driver) with 53 cases of simple hijack. There have been
weapons used in those cases. We would submit the easy way to do
this, obviously, is when the vehicle is stationary.
We will accept that the local authorities in London
do not want to extend their stop and search scheme right across
London for hundreds of checks a day, but nevertheless extending
those that are involved does open up the opportunity for the underworld
to get involved in launching spurious checks, watching and replicating
what local authorities do. It can be said "Well, they can
do that already; they can impersonate a police officer".
Well, oddly enough - and it struck me as being quite odd - there
are not a lot of cases of people impersonating police officers.
In our communications with our members who have been victims of
various stoppages, very few have actually been stopped by someone
pretending to be a police officer. Whether that is because even
the underworld has respect for the police officer, I somewhat
doubt, but nevertheless they take the view that that is only adding
to the weight of the crime if they are caught impersonating a
police officer, I do not know. However, the opportunity of impersonating
a council official may rank a lot higher on the Richter Scale
of criminality than presently impersonating a police officer does.
My Lord, can I draw to the Committee's attention
another issue which was highlighted in yesterday's The Times,
in an article entitled "Alert for lorry drivers". Perhaps
I could just read out a couple of paragraphs from that. It reads:
"Freight companies transporting dangerous cargoes
by road have been told to tighten security to stop them being
hijacked by terrorists.
"The Department for Transport's warning comes
after security experts in Britain and America voiced concern about
the ease with which tankers carrying cargoes such as fuel and
toxic chemicals could be turned into mobile bombs.
"Police know of no specific threat against Britain,
but terrorists have tried to turn tankers into bombs in other
countries such as Israel, and freight associations hold regular
meetings with the department to review arrangements.
The department has told companies that lorries must
be securely parked; security on cabs should be tightened; and,
if necessary, checks should be carried out on drivers."
My Lord, I do not want to labour this point too much
but whilst the Government is asking us to tighten up security
- and one would assume from that, given the critical times we
are passing through, at the moment, particularly with the large
numbers of tankers and chemical trucks on our roads, moving very
dangerous and volatile cargoes if they are in the wrong hands,
that we are now talking about allowing another genre of citizenry
to have the right to stop vehicles for emissions testing - I would
submit that at a time when we are being asked to look very closely
at our security this would not be a very sensible and wise thing
Nevertheless, the real world beckons, and extremely
reluctantly we have had to concede that the Vehicle Inspectorate
has power to stop goods vehicles, and I have explained why. This,
of course, was granted them under Section 42 of the Police Reform
Act, which set out provisions relating to designations and accreditations
of persons authorised by the Chief Constable or, presumably, the
Metropolitan Police Commissioner.
We are opposed to removing the constraining influence
of the police authority by allowing the so-called authorised person
described in this Bill wearing, according to the Bill, a "uniform".
We heard today it may well be a uniform common to all authorities,
but this clause is being considered without any idea of what that
uniform is going to look like and how uniform it is going to be.
It will be prescribed by the council in question, which seems
to indicate that each council will have their own views on that.
Obviously, it could vary from authority to authority, stopping
What worries us is that the 33 local authorities
will all have this additional power to stop vehicles for emissions
checking. It may not amount to much in the first place, but just
supposing they become zealots in campaigning for improved air
quality and, therefore, we have rather more people manning checkpoints,
all in a variety of different uniforms and with different approaches
to the task. We have heard that some co-ordination might take
place but there is little evidence in anything that we have seen
that that is anything more than a verbal commitment - nothing
written has been suggested - and we would certainly urge that
in consideration of this stricter standards were, at least, looked
The Vehicle Inspectorate are skilled people and we
recognise that given safeguards they have a general duty to enforce
regulations, not just vehicle emissions, but road safety factors
as well concerning the vehicles.
So what is the object of the exercise that these
emissions checks are seeking to achieve? Of course, it is about
reducing air pollution and improving the quality of the air. We
all support that. Maybe, just maybe, a case can be made for private
car or small car-derived vans. It is disappointing, actually,
that some of the motoring associations have not seen fit to actually
start asking questions about this particular piece of legislation.
Presumably they appear to be quite happy in allowing the broadening
of the scope of people empowered to stop vehicles to go through
unopposed. That is why we take the view that there is more to
it for heavy goods vehicles than a private car. There are more
risks and more security aspects at stake than with just the ordinary
The test summary on emissions from Westminster Council
makes very interesting reading. We have already touched on those
but it does demonstrate that as a result of all the enforcements
that are currently in place, all the high standards operators
have to meet, notwithstanding the element of roguery that takes
place in all industries - and I cannot, in front of you, my Lord,
and your Committee, say that we are as white as the driven snow;
there are people who do operate close to the margins - by and
large in the tests carried out by Westminster Council only one
heavy goods vehicle out of 88 actually failed the test. There
were four or five which could not take the test for various reasons,
but there is nothing to suggest that they were all going to fail
as a result. That is a very, very high standard indeed, and it
is only one that we would expect. So all this work, all this changing
of law to widen the scope for stopping, to empower more people
to prevent people from travelling the highway without being hauled
on to the side of the road and put through the rigours of yet
another test and another check is being done to accomplish something
that has virtually been accomplished anyway. It does not really
make a great deal of sense in terms of the time and effort and
money that is spent by local authorities, or would be spent by
local authorities, in order to carry this out.
I asked the question about where the income came
from, from those vehicles that were caught transgressing the emissions
limits. I accept the fact that today there is no intention to
make this a self-funded exercise, as much as I accepted many years
ago that parking meters would not be a self-funded exercise, and
that speed cameras at the side of the road would not be a self-funded
exercise. What is given today may well change as a result of experience,
and the need to cover costs. One can imagine that if all 33 local
authorities had emissions specialists on their roads they would
suddenly discover "Who is going to be paying for this?"
They would probably come back, discuss another Bill which would
empower them to raise the proceeds from those that had not met
the requirements to cover the costs of this exercise.
Our history in this country, certainly with local
government - certainly in dealing with any government - is that
if you give an inch eventually a subtle mile is taken. That is
something we want to be very careful to guard against.
Let me just, in summing up, conclude by touching
again on the security issue and, also, matters of concern regarding
training and operational matters. In the area of security, just
to recap, the RHA is opposed in principle to anyone other than
a uniformed police officer having power to stop a moving vehicle
because we believe an extension of the powers could compromise
the security of our members' vehicles, loads which may be of extremely
high value, or indeed of a dangerous nature (chemicals, drugs
etc) and of their employees driving those vehicles. Statistics
demonstrate that commercial vehicles are a prime target for criminal
activity, including hijackings, jump-up and attempted thefts.
Increasing the number of people for whom drivers are required
to stop will exacerbate the problems and create confusion amongst
It probably is not the intention of all 33 authorities
to conduct tests on a single day every month, but it is not inconceivable
that a commercial vehicle travelling through London could be stopped
on two or three occasions, or perhaps not on the same day but
in the same week, for yet another emissions check resulting in
yet more delays to the way they are operating. My goodness, if
you have got a driver of a vehicle bringing in essential requirements
for the hotel industry or to the retail industry and you have
a limited number of hours you can legally operate within, if your
vehicle has been thoroughly checked before it left its depot -
as would be the case - and you then have to be subject to further
emissions tests by local authorities, each one of which takes
ten minutes (it could be a lot longer if there are one or two
vehicles in line), it can mean all the difference between you
making your "slot" at your customer, where vehicles
are coming in and out all the time, and not. You have time slots
to get in there. It is difficult enough, we suggest, to make sure
you get that time slot. If you miss that time slot, you might
have to wait an hour or two before you can get in again.
MR CLARKSON: My Lord, this is not within the Petition.
It is outwith the scope of the Petition.
CHAIRMAN: I think, Mr King, you did indicate that
you were drawing to a finish, did you?
MR KING: That is correct, my Lord. So further checks
in that can only delay the workings of our industry.
In training, police officers undergo extensive training.
The skills required to stop moving traffic are quite different
from those needed to direct traffic or simply issue penalty notices.
In addition, police officers generally have the ability to use
their discretion and judgment in particular situations. For instance,
a driver, say, would follow them to a police station rather than
stop there and then. In most functions passed to local authority
officers there is no discretion allowed. Indeed 10(4) suggests
that if a driver fails to stop, an offence will have been committed
unless he can demonstrate reasonable excuse. Who will determine
this and how will it work in practice? The outline Code of Conduct
is there, but very many of these practical and operational issues
are missing and we would certainly want to see a much closer dialogue
between the London authorities and the industry, both ourselves
and other trade associations, in developing a Code of Conduct
which we think not necessarily addressed our main cause, but at
least began to make this exercise workable if in the event it
is decided that the right should be extended to local authority
I have talked about operational problems, but as
well as the confusion which will be caused by these powers being
exercised by so many local authorities, we are concerned that
such an uncoordinated approach could lead to a vehicle being stopped
several times in one day.
We are also concerned about 10(3) which allows the
authorised persons to require the driver to proceed to a suitable
place. Again as well as the obvious concern of security that this
raises, we would not want vehicles to be directed too far from
their planned route. Can we involve a Code of Conduct which guards
against this, as we have been offered? The argument remains the
same: stopping legitimate users on the Queen's highways should
only be carried out by uniformed officers of the law. Road haulage
is already highly regulated. There is no need to vastly step up
emissions testing in this way.
The fact is of course that this measure is accepted
and the power to stop vehicles is granted to London local authorities.
How long before every authority in the land wants this power?
How long will it be possible to travel the length and breadth
of this country without facing further stoppages as a result of
other authorities looking perhaps enviously upon London having
the power to stop vehicles without the police being present? It
would seemingly indicate that those that dislike the truck and
believe that they have a part to play in getting rid of it by
encouraging the use of rail will have another weapon at their
disposal. Every day will become a nightmare of endless checks
of those who are engaged in delivering essential supplies to our
cities, towns and villages.
For all these reasons that I have outlined, I urge
the Committee to think very carefully, as I am sure it will, about
the merits of extending the powers of stoppage to others that
are not within the parameters of acceptability or have a relationship
with the police force. We would suggest that this particular clause
is a fairly substantial, thick wedge of an even thicker wedge
in introducing a whole new tier of policing, with a small 'p',
and checking of our members and those that use the roads and we
do not think at the end of the day that the reason it is being
done, certainly as far as the heavy goods vehicle is concerned
in terms of emissions checking, is proven. Thank you, my Lord.
CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Mr King.
MR CLARKSON: Could I just come back on a point of
procedure on that. I only have a couple of points to make. The
first is this: as I have just sought to point out, the RHA petitioned
on the basis of security of members, vehicles and loads and Standing
Order 111(1) reads: "No Petition against a Private Bill shall
be taken into consideration by the Select Committee on the Bill
which does not distinctly specify the grounds on which the Petitioner
objects to any of the provisions thereon." What is being
sought to be placed before you is something much broader and Mr
King is not entitled on behalf of his Petitioner, with respect,
to say that. May I make it absolutely plain to you, therefore,
that there is no additional power sought in the Bill to test and
exactly the same people are going to be doing the testing as are
testing now. The discretion to stop, the evidence has been, is
that of a local authority directing the police officer at the
moment and that will remain in the sense that the discretion will
remain with the council officers. Lastly, you will have noted,
with respect, it is not being suggested that it shall only be
the police officers that should be doing the stopping. As Mr King
told you, he does not see it as insurmountable that a traffic
warden could be found to do it once a fortnight. Our simple response
to that is that there is no substantial difference between a traffic
warden and a council officer in the circumstances that Mr Lester
outlined. That is all I have to say. Thank you, my Lord.
CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Mr Clarkson. I have allowed
two acts of latitude here, first of all, in listening to you in
the sense of partly a right of reply and, secondly, I do believe
that when Mr King made his presentation, I was anxious that he
should have as wide a latitude as possible to make his case. I
was conscious that he may have been straying into certain areas
which were beyond the immediate text which was furnished to us
in the first place, but I am satisfied that both sides have had
the latitude which I think is beneficial to this Committee. We
now pass on to invite my colleagues to ask questions of Mr King
on his Petition.
EARL OF LISTOWEL: Mr King, if it was possible to
exempt heavy goods vehicles from this piece of legislation, would
you withdraw your Petition?
MR KING: We would certainly do that, yes. I hope
I made the point that we are not short of any enforcement in the
way we operate the vehicles, the checks that are made. We would
have no problem with that.
LORD JACOBS: If you were excluded from these regulations,
what do you plan should be done to deal with the number of vehicles,
and it is only a small percentage, that clearly breach the regulations?
In other words, does your organisation have any plans as to how
it will solve that problem?
MR KING: Well, my Lord, there are cases where responsible
operators will report the cowboy element. Indeed the enforcement
procedures that the Vehicle Inspectorate are now able to carry
out is largely on the basis of information being received by them
about operators who are clearly not operating vehicles [legally],
though these vehicles may well be within the emissions standards,
but there are other things that they may be lacking in, poor tyres,
broken springs and general bad upkeep of the vehicle. Why is it
possible then, you might say, if they are poorly maintained that
the emissions control might be within the parameters set? That
is largely because on current vehicles, and even going back a
few years, the systems of control by electronic systems, they
are designed not to go out of control, if you like. Besides that,
all vehicles have to be presented every year for a very stringent
check indeed and they can be failed for a light bulb and that
costs a great deal of money to re-present the vehicle, so I think,
by and large, the standard of HGVs in this country, the standard
of upkeep and maintenance continues to rise. I am not suggesting
that it is perfect, there is a long way still to go, but I think
we are making very good progress. Enforcement and seizure are
very good weapons indeed to concentrate the minds of those on
the periphery of the industry, the rogue element.
CHAIRMAN: Mr King, as part of the argument that you
were developing, I think you were suggesting, and you pointed
to the evidence given earlier of the testing in the Westminster
area, that HGVs do in fact achieve a very high level of low and
reduced emissions, but you also suggested that because that high
level of reaching those standards had been accomplished, there
was in a sense no need for further testing. Is it not the case
that it is all the more desirable to maintain those high standards
that testing continues to be done and done as efficiently and
as effectively as possible?
MR KING: My Lord, you make a very good point. I would
say this: that currently I think the use of widespread emissions
testing, as we heard in evidence, is not at this stage a significant
activity partly because the police have not been present to enforce
and that in many cases the scheme of emissions testing is still
in its early stages, so the evidence we have got at the moment
is received on the basis that most operators would probably not
think that they ran the risk of having their vehicles emission
tested at any time, so actually to have got to the high state
that we have says a great deal for the technology of the vehicles
that are being used and the maintenance schedules that are being
complied with. Now, I do not see if you increase the emission
testing level so that it expanded fairly substantially throughout
London that you would see anything other than what you are already
getting now. I think there are always going to be some vehicles
that will not quite meet the standards because they may have gone
wrong on their journey, for instance. They may have been all right
when they left the depot, but they may have gone wrong on the
journey and, therefore, get a fail at the testing area, but I
do not think that the increased presence of emissions checking
for heavy goods vehicles is actually going to achieve anything
really other than stopping the vehicles going about their daily
work, and the evidence would seem to suggest that we are already
meeting a very high standard indeed.
CHAIRMAN: You then went on to paint a disturbing
vision of increased number of checks on vehicles such as to impede
your members doing the very worthy work that they do. You also
acknowledged elsewhere that there were some cowboys in the trade.
Is it not the case that this regime of proper, efficient, effective
checking actually is a competitive advantage to the members of
MR KING: My Lord, I cannot, though I would like,
to speak for every single operator, and I suppose we have a very
wide range in our membership, but, by and large, I think they
recognise, because they are members of a trade association, that
they have certain standards to uphold. I think in trying to deal
with the small sector in the industry, what one might call the
rogue element, the people that can carry that task out most effectively
is the Vehicle Inspectorate, armed, as they are, with their enforcement
and seizure capabilities now, and the industry is well aware of
what the Vehicle Inspectorate can do. I think it is quite obvious
that any good operator is motivated from one factor alone and
it is not an overabundance of love and appreciation for clean
air. I am sure they want to breathe as clean air as the rest of
us, but it is based on the fact that a vehicle that is polluting
is burning precious fuel up. It is not being fuelled properly
and it is costing a great deal of money to run, so there is that
balancing factor there, that a good operator - or any operator,
come to that - operating a vehicle that is emitting excessive
fumes, excessive smoke, is not operating efficiently and it is
costing him a substantial sum of money because it is burning up
excess fuel, fuel which, as you well know, is the most expensive
in Europe by a considerable margin. There is a lot of balance
in there which acts as an incentive for the operator to make sure
that their vehicle is as efficient in its operation as it is possible
CHAIRMAN: I fully understand but what I am asking
you is, is it not the case that a tighter regime ought to be embraced
by the RHA because it actually means that there will be a competitive
advantage to those hauliers who on a regular basis are acknowledged
to have the very best vehicles in terms of emissions and so on?
We have heard from earlier witnesses, have we not, that they tend
to pick and choose those that they think are more likely to fail
the stringent tests than otherwise?
MR KING: I absolutely agree with you, my Lord. It
is in the interests of an operator to want a strict regime of
standards and indeed, as I said earlier, the industry welcomes
the enforcement policies of the Vehicle Inspectorate and the rights
to seize vehicles and confiscate vehicles that do not meet the
standards required. But there are many standards which the industry
has to meet in terms of the construction and use of the vehicle,
of which emissions is but one. As I said, the desire by operators
to reduce emissions to as low a level as they can within the design
parameters of the vehicle is done primarily to save fuel and to
ensure that the power of that vehicle is right because the vehicle,
if it is not fuelled correctly, will not give the power to move
the load that you are carrying in an adequate way.
There are already two incentives in there, one because
you want the vehicle to operate properly, and the other because
you want to save money in your own pocket or the company's pocket
to make sure the vehicle performs properly. There is the additional
factor, which of course the Vehicle Inspectorate is keen on looking
at, to make sure the brakes are adequate, the oil seals do not
leak, the brake lines are secure, all the things that they check
that are part and parcel of enforcing a standard within the industry.
That is a rigorous standard and one which the industry fully supports
in order to make sure that those that cut corners will be found
out and, if necessary, have their licence taken away. Just to
delay traffic to check emissions is only one relatively modest
part in checking the overall security and capability of a commercial
vehicle. What is likely to happen, we feel, is that there will
be stopping points not just across London but eventually across
the length and breadth of the land out of all proportion in terms
of delays to our operators in comparison with what they are trying
to achieve. What they want to see achieved is already being achieved.
CHAIRMAN: You rightly alluded to the skills of police
officers in the actual act of stopping the vehicle for inspection
and directing the vehicle and so on, but what evidence do you
have that excites your fear that those who do that as alternates
to the police officers will not be skilled or in time learn the
skills and have the experience that currently police officers
have in stopping vehicles?
MR KING: the police officers have been engaged in
this in the past, and still are in much of the country, are usually
traffic police who know approximately, when they see vehicles,
their stopping distance, whether the vehicle is loaded, what its
ability to pull in is like, the swervability of the vehicle. This
is a sixth sense to them because they have dealt with it throughout
their police life as a traffic operative. These skills are ones
that can be - I will not use the word "taught" - gained
by experience. I am not sure that you can just take somebody to
one side in a classroom and say, "What you do is you wait
until there is a gap in the traffic, walk out and put your hand
up and beckon somebody to come in to the side of the road."
I guess that is something that is relatively and straightforward
and does not require much in the way of training, but we have
been told by the police that there is far more to it than that.
Quite obviously to us, there is the need to have skilled people,
which traffic police fulfil, in that criterion. Certainly those
that might do it, traffic wardens for one, would probably have
to work with the police to make sure that they were familiar with
all the requirements of stopping vehicles, some of which could
be doing 30 or 40 miles an hour on the public highway. You need
to understand stopping distances, whether the vehicle is laden
or unladen, whether you standing out in the road might not cause
an accident through the vehicle swerving. I am talking about very
heavy goods vehicles. I think light vans and cars may be another
issue altogether and far simpler to deal with. Heavy goods vehicles
in particular, to stop them in that way whilst they are moving
does require some experience and that would mean experience is
not something you can necessarily be taught in the classroom but
which you have to experience yourself in the field.
CHAIRMAN: There was an interesting argument about
whether there ought to be some kind of transitional phase with
the police helping and aiding and abetting the new officers. Would
you not agree that in time the new officers themselves would develop
that sixth sense given that they are working for departments in
local authorities who are wholly concerned with this area?
MR KING: It would be silly to say that it would be
impossible to get these skills; of course they could over a period
of time. It is not something where you could just give someone
a Dayglo jacket and ask them to go out and start stopping vehicles
along the A40 coming out of London or wherever. We would not expect
someone to do that. We would expect them to be trained.
These are side issues which are important in their
own right. If your Lordships decide that this petition of ours
is filed away somewhere or whatever you do with petitions that
are not successful, then we must address ourselves to the working
of this and the code of conduct and the training of people will
obviously become very important indeed. Our main basis for petitioning
is the concept in the first place of whether someone other than
a police officer or someone working within the meaning of the
|Police Reform Act should be the person to stop vehicles in the
CHAIRMAN: My last question, Mr King, refers to your
petition and paragraph 5 which Mr Clarkson said earlier goes to
the nub of the matter, this possible worry that new uniformed
people stopping vehicles are differentiated from police officers
with whom your drivers and hauliers are so familiar. Again, there
may be a transitional stage of possible confusion but would it
not be the case in time that these new officers, who are in uniform,
would be recognised on a regular basis by your drivers, by your
hauliers, and that would breed content in time? I think you rightly
pointed to a source of possible confusion where there were different
uniforms in different parts of London. We heard evidence to the
effect that we really ought to arrive at a uniform uniform, if
I can put it in that way, but why have you poor expectations that
once this system has bedded down the driver would not have the
confidence that they now have in the police who stop them?
MR KING: I hope, from the point of view of operators,
that they would not come across so many of these stops that they
would come to recognise the people manning them, but that rather
makes the point that we are making, that there would be far too
many of them. Of course it would not be impossible to set out
criteria under the code of conduct of how and what type of signposting,
what type of refuge, what kind of pull-off would be required to
conduct these checks. We would not want to see them done in side
streets or traffic diverted down a side street for a checking
to take place. It would have to be done on an open highway in
front of everyone. Again, we come back to the fact that of course
there is no technical problem why you cannot solve these issues.
They are not that insurmountable, but again we come back to the
core reason. We are desperately concerned that what happens in
London today will happen the length and breadth of the land tomorrow
or very soon and that we will be facing thousands of such check
points a week as we go about our daily business. Whether there
can be an agreed national uniform and a national standard I do
not know. It may be possible and in fact I think it would be probable
that it could be arrived at in London, but whether we are opening
the door to an opportunity for all local authorities to have different
interpretations of this as a result of what takes place here today
is something that we are extremely worried about. Yes, the mechanics
of working it, provided the authorities talked closely to the
industry and to the police, are not insurmountable. It would be
stupid to say that it would be impossible to do it; of course
it would not. But we come back to the basic principle of whether
they should do it.
CHAIRMAN: Mr King, we are extremely grateful for
your petition. We now have the opportunity to retire and think
about all that we have heard. May I suggest that we return at
half past three or later, according to the length of our deliberations?
With that could you clear the bar please?
After a short break
CHAIRMAN: The Committee have deliberated, and concluded
that clause 10 should remain in the Bill, with the amendments
suggested by the promoters.
The next stage of the Bill will be the Unopposed
Bill Committee, which will consider those clauses which were not
opposed by petitioners.
In concluding, may I thank all of those who have
assisted the Committee: the promoters, counsel, witnesses, petitioners
and staff. We are most grateful.