I recently served on a Statutory Instrument Committee – the sort of technical and dry piece of legislation which you might think is of little importance. But it marked the successful culmination of one of my first campaigns in Parliament(see blog here).
Since entering the Commons, I have repeatedly raised with Ministers the issue of lorry drivers from the UK paying road tolls in most European countries, when foreign registered heavy goods vehicles who use UK roads paid no equivalent fee.
Most foreign lorry owners do not even pay for fuel duty on their journeys. They have extra fuel tanks and fuel up with much cheaper diesel before crossing the Channel, so these drivers are getting a free ride twice over.
We all see plenty of foreign lorries on our roads and this is a particular issue in North East Cambridgeshire as we have a number of local haulage firms affected by this competition. It is not a level playing field for UK firms to pay for the use of roads whilst their foreign rivals do not.
The Statutory Instrument Committee reviewed changes to the law to introduce a levy which means lorries weighing 12 tonnes or more, no matter where they come from, make a contribution to the upkeep of our roads. The levy must be paid before using a UK road, with rates depending on the nature of the vehicle.
To help enforce the levy, drivers who haven’t paid will be issued with a fixed penalty notice. Drivers of foreign vehicles who have not paid, and who cannot provide a UK address, will be required to pay an on-the-spot deposit of £300 before they are allowed to continue their journey. This is a good idea as all too often drivers who break our laws simply return home before action can be taken.
The new proposal will be tax-neutral for British haulage drivers and owners. Their road tax will be reduced to balance the new charge, so for them this is a step forward – at last their competitors will be paying something. It is only fair that all heavy goods vehicles weighing 12 tonnes or more using the roads in Cambridgeshire make a contribution to road maintenance.
The haulage industry is important as a local employer, and for keeping our shop shelves stacked. Whilst a Statutory Instrument Committee is far removed from the noise of Prime Minister’s Questions, in terms of what matters to constituents the changes for our lorry drivers are far more important, and shows that quiet persistence can pay off.