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The Queen's Speech
An opinion piece by Elizabeth de Jong, Director of Policy, Logistics UK
Since the EU Exit, the resulting transition period and then the pandemic, Logistics UK has been urging government to provide clarity on its imminent and upcoming policies so the logistics sector can prepare and invest with confidence. The Queen’s address to the nation on 11 May, which outlined the legislative programme for the next Parliament, provided some of this much-needed direction. However, although elements could mean potential good news, without re-focusing we are concerned that there may be lost opportunities ahead in several significant areas. It could have provided a strong vision for economic recovery and given our sector the support it needs to fully play the part it should to deliver economic recovery.
As expected, the plans place a substantial focus on skills. Addressing the HGV driver shortage has been an ongoing campaign for Logistics UK for many years, and providing additional paths for new drivers to become qualified is a fundamental way of reducing the current skills gap. The new Skills and Post-16 Education Bill revealed government’s proposals for a lifetime skills guarantee, to enable flexible access to education and training throughout adulthood. School leavers can find it difficult to access vocational driver training courses due to the high cost of insurance for under 25s, so encouraging older jobseekers or those recently unemployed to retrain as drivers could provide a group of new workers to recruit from. It is expected that the lifetime skills guarantee will only apply to level-four roles and above and therefore not address the biggest skills gap in our industry which is for level-two roles.
Another missed opportunity is potentially in the Planning Bill which, although it seeks to modernise the planning system, seems to prioritise housing while overlooking freight and logistics. Historically, the planning system has been a cause of major frustration for logistics, across all modes, with problems including the loss of freight infrastructure to housing developments, the slow process for gaining approvals for new freight infrastructure and additional restrictions on freight operations where housing is permitted near existing facilities. Logistics services the needs of the economy and society and, as such, needs to be considered as part of essential infrastructure; the requirements of logistics should be as intrinsic as considerations for gas, electricity, water, broadband, public transport, schools and hospitals when building new communities. Safeguarding land also enables modal shift and supports the switch to low and zero-emission vehicles.
The New Plan for Immigration Legislation sets out the intent to strengthen UK borders and deters criminals who facilitate dangerous and illegal journeys. Logistics UK strongly opposes the government’s plan to expand the existing penalty scheme to any haulier found with an illegal migrant in their vehicle, regardless of their compliance with load security standards or accreditation schemes. We know our members are highly responsible operators, with stringent checking procedures and policies for their drivers, and government should recognise that these hauliers are additional victims in these situations. In addition, these proposals could significantly impact on the supply chain by deterring businesses from bringing goods into the UK and reducing the attractiveness of HGV driving as a career option. We will be engaging with the Home Office to impress these concerns, as well as the unfairness of penalising responsible drivers who have taken all reasonable measures to mitigate the risk of illegal entrants.
Some of the plans and white papers, such as the ‘Plan for Jobs’ and ‘Levelling Up White Paper', look to provide some positive developments and opportunities for our sector. Confirmation of the eight new freeports, for example, is welcomed, and these will hopefully be the first of many. However, Logistics UK will need more determined engagement with government to ensure the needs of logistics are fully realised within all these plans, especially as the past year has proven how vital our industry is to the strength and growth of the economy.
Published On: 20/05/2021 17:00:29