Thank you for the introduction, I am exactly a year and 2 weeks into my role as Under Secretary of State of Transport and I have comfortably exceeded the average life expectancy of a minister with a portfolio like mine.
I feel I can say I have been a friend to the industry this past year, a constructive friend in what has been a difficult year for both the public and private sector. I’m very pleased to repeat a comment I have received from a member of today’s audience that the relationship between the FTA and my officials in my department is the best it has ever been, and I would therefore like to take this opportunity to thank all those involved who work so hard in maintaining this relationship.
One of government priorities is to create a transport system that is an engine for economic growth, greener and safer. I’m pleased to say I am starting to see signs of this growth again.
The UK freight and logistics sector is vital to economic growth. It is worth around £74.5 billion to the economy, employs 2.3 million people across 190 000 companies and delivers the country’s core needs (food, oil, coal, hospital supplies);
But freight movements also have significant environmental and social impacts. Around 27% of domestic carbon emissions come from freight; and HGVs contribute to many urban air pollution hot spots.
At the heart of my job is a determination to ensure we have the transport networks and proportionate regulations that enable you to do what you do best; but to ensure that the freight and logistics sector is making a contribution towards reducing its emissions.
Instead of the government telling you what you must and must not do I want to tell you that it is my aim to legislate the bare minimum. One of things I can do is reduce the number of rules and regulations - this is absolutely central to the coalition’s vision for Britain, removing barriers to economic growth and increasing individual freedoms.
You are hopefully already aware that all Whitehall road transport regulations have been placed on the Red Tape Challenge website for 4 weeks. As de-regulation minister I want to hear from everyone; whether you think that a regulation is well designed and provides vital protections, or if you think that a regulation is badly designed, badly implemented or simply a bad idea.
We are working on the presumption that regulations will go, unless it can be justified why a regulation should be kept - so we can free businesses to compete, create jobs and unleash a private sector-led recovery;
I also continue to support modal shift through our grant support scheme. We have a confirmed budget for these grants of £20 million for 2011 to 2012 and £19 million for 2012 to 2013. An indicative budget is in place of £19 million for both 2013 to 2014 and 2014 to 2015.
But you know what you do best; and it is important that you grasp the opportunities being provided by the government to demonstrate that you as an industry are leaders in supply chain and fuel efficiency.
Our localism agenda provides real opportunities for you as an industry. I would encourage you to get involved in the new Local Enterprise Partnerships which we expect to play a role in taking decisions on local transport priorities.
I welcome today’s discussions on the latest factors that can help improve supply chain fuel efficiency and I am grateful for the work that many of you in the room are putting into leading measures to reduce emissions from freight transport. We need more action from the industry as a whole if we are to meet our wider climate change objectives - and especially if road freight is to compete with other sectors in a future low carbon economy.
In October I announced I would not make eco-driving training mandatory, but that I would instead encourage and support industry-led schemes to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.
That is why, in March, I formally endorsed the FTA’s logistics carbon reduction scheme. I really welcome this scheme. The scheme is the first of its kind for the freight sector, and should deliver real progress toward the UK’s carbon reduction targets. It already covers more than 40,000 vehicles - and will expand to cover more. It will help to provide a detailed picture of the quantity and trend of carbon emissions by the freight industry and show that it is capable of working together, voluntarily, to tackle its harmful emissions. I would urge those of you in the room who have not yet signed up to this scheme to do so.
I want to see continued progress and action. I stated in March that I will review progress from industry-led action in 2012 and re-consider the case for government intervention and I have written to the chief executives of the major freight organisations to highlight the importance I place on this review.
So now is the time for you to put in place measures in your business that will lessen your environmental impacts - and to join up to schemes such as the FTA’s to demonstrate that, as an industry, you can do your part in reducing emissions.
(This speech represented existing departmental policy but the words may not have been the same as those used by the minister.)