• Community Transport Raised at Transport Questions

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    • Community Transport Raised at Transport Questions
    • by James Coe
      Policy and Public Affairs Executive

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    At a recent Transport Questions (18th January) MPs asked Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, Jesse Norman, a number of questions on the future of community transport, specifically looking at the impact of the ongoing discussions around the future of section 19/22 permits and driver licencing.

    You can find below a transcript of the questions and the Minister’s responses.

    Neil Gray MP | SNP MP for Airdrie and Shotts

    “What progress he has made on his proposals to change the licensing of community transport?”

    Jesse Norman’s Response:

    “The government wants to protect as many community transport services as possible, we will soon be consulting on the issue and said use of permits and have been working to interpret the scope of the exemption to the regulations as widely as the law will allow.”

    Neil Gray MP:

    “I thank the minister for the answer, of course he will be aware that the estimation is that this proposal will cost the industry £37 million and each driver £1500, it rather seems that the Government is taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut. So what does the Minister say to Shotts Getting Better Together, in my constituency, which provide absolutely essential community transport services, have no interest in being a commercial entity and could be lost to the community under these plans?”

    Jesse Norman’s Response:

    “Well, I must say, I don’t recognise the description the gentleman gives at all. I have been up and down the country talking to community transport schemes and actually it is not at all clear that the implication for local community transport operators would be anything as like as severe as has been suggested, and in the one case that’s been tested it’s been referred back for further evidence gathering.”

    Robert Courts MP | Conservative MP for Witney 

    “I am very grateful to the minister for having recently visited my constituency where he saw the great work being done by Our Bus Bartons Company; he will know of course that reassurance by such companies all over the country is urgently sought. Could the minister clarify whether any action that is proposed by the Transport Commissioner reflects upon the consultation that is taking place, or whether the consultation will be taking place in any event?”

    Jesse Norman’s Response: 

    “The consultation will be taking place in any event. And the details will be announced shortly. I must say I greatly enjoyed my visit to see the Our Bus group, I thought they were a model of good practice in local community transport.”

    Richard Burden MP | Labour MP for Birmingham Northfield 

    “Whilst I understand that the Government has said it is not going to end the section 19 and 22 arrangements, the letter they sent out in July of last year has caused, what the Transport Select Committee have said is paralysis in the not-for-profit sector. Don’t we now need some clarity from the Government about what it is intending to do, so that it can demonstrate some real support for the community transport sector, including firms like Shencare in my constituency?”

    Jesse Norman’s Response: 

    “Let me say in that regard, he will have seen the, I’m sure he’s been noting carefully, the Transport Select Committee, the testimony that I and one of my officials gave which actually put to rest the question of whether or not the letter was inappropriate or had caused difficulty. There certainly has been concern, rightly so, it’s a reinterpretation of the law, some people may not be compliant, that is true, but the vast majority will be, and we expect the consultation to be successful in further allaying concerns.”

    Norman Lamb MP | Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk 

    “North Norfolk Community Transport say that they’re unable at the moment to get new section 19 permits because they bid for some of their services competitively, but those services are cross-subsidising vital community services, and they’re doing exactly what the county council urged them to do. Can the minister give some reassurance urgently, because these vital services could go under unless that uncertainty ends?”

    Jesse Norman’s Response:

    “What I would say to that is, that the Traffic Commissioners are acting very speedily and effectively and as a unified group on this issue and I expect the consultation to continue to give, through the proposed exemptions and work arounds that we’ve been looking at, further comfort to the sector.”

    Since the Department for Transport’s letter landed, our members across the country have been reaching out to their MPs and making their voices heard. If you would like to contact your MP but are unsure who they are, you can find their contact details here.

    As ever, if you have any questions about this issue you can contact CTA via hello@ctauk.org. CTA will be in touch with members and supporters with information and guidance when the Department’s consultation is published.

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