In the House of Lords on Thursday a debate took place that was convened by Charlotte Vere who back in 2010 stood against Caroline Lucas and Nancy Platts for the election in Brighton Pavilion. Charlotte came third with 12,275 votes. She was appointed to the House of Lords by David Cameron after he had resigned following the catastophic result of the 2016 Referendum which is the theme of this debate. As from the 1st January, these lines of lorries and indeed other vehicles will emerge as we wait for our permission to travel to the European Union unless a reasonable deal is achieved. My personal view is that despite the comments that are emerging in social media that Labour should approve a deal if the Government can achieve one unless it is very damaging. However back to the lorry issues, the debate was on the theme of “Heavy Commercial Vehicles in Kent (No. 1) (Amendment) Order 2020 – Motion to Approve” This is the beginning of what Charlotte Vere stated
My Lords, this package of statutory instruments ensures that traffic can be managed effectively in Kent should there be any disruption on the short straits. This project is called Operation Brock. As noble Lords will be aware, the Government have been working with partners in Kent to continue to develop Operation Brock during the transition period. Brock is a co-ordinated multi-agency response to cross-channel travel disruption, specifically when capacity for heavy commercial vehicles—HCVs—to leave the UK through the port of Dover or the Channel Tunnel is significantly restricted. We are prepared to use Brock should cross-channel disruption occur due to the UK’s departure from the EU at the end of the transition period, although it could also be deployed as a result of disruption relating to bad weather or industrial action. These three orders are a vital part of Operation Brock, as they will significantly expand and strengthen the enforcement regime that underpins it.
So all of this sounds almost reassuring. However the challenge is that Charlotte Vere who was of course a pro-remain supporter working for David Cameron, is now a Minister for the Government that is not quite so supportive of such matters and indeed has revealed all sorts of problems in recent months. Meanwhile another Conservative member of the House of Lords who was set into the House of Lords from September 2013 and became a Minister from August 2014 – July 2019 which was ended when Boris Johnson was elected as the leader of his party. His name is Nicholas Bourne and his comments relate to the traffic which Charlotte had been referring to a few minutes earlier. I have reproduced the final few words he spoke about on Thursday.
These orders appear to be specific to Kent. I understand that, but given the impact that all this is having, are we sure that it will not have an impact on the surrounding counties of Essex, Sussex and Surrey, and the capital, London, as well? If not, what are we doing about the position in the adjoining counties and areas? Are we ensuring that there is proper publicity in the surrounding areas—indeed, throughout the country—so that people travelling to Kent will be aware of the problems involved in doing so, particularly close to Dover, Ashford and so on? There are many considerations, and I appreciate that my noble friend might not have answers to all the questions. If she does not, I shall be happy to receive a letter from her, with a copy placed in the Library.
The response from Charlotte that seems the closest to what Nicholas Bourne had to ask was the following.
This SI covers Kent because it is the area that will be most under pressure, but I reassure noble Lords that we are working closely with local resilience forums at all the major ports. We do not expect levels of disruption to be as significant at those other ports. Indeed, many plans are already being put in place by local resilience forums. We will keep an eye on that but this measure is about Kent. More than any of the others, the short straits is the crossing that is most used. I reassure noble Lords that the Kent resilience forum liaises closely with surrounding counties. It is not just about Kent but about movement of traffic that is sometimes a significant distance away. The Kent forum liaises with the surrounding areas.
So no doubt in due course, given that Sussex is the adjacent area to Kent, we will be informed by the Sussex forum or perhaps it has another name. In any event we can look forward to finding out what will happen ahead of the 1st January. In the meantime, the discussion which took place on Thursday can be read in its entirety from here.