House of Commons - Committee Summary - Transport Select Committee

Transport Committee

Work of the Secretary of State for Transport

27 April 2022


· Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State at Department for Transport

· Bernadette Kelly CB, Permanent Secretary at Department for Transport

Cost of living crisis

The Chair, Huw Merriman (Con, Bexhill and Battle) opened the session by asking the panel about rumours that the Department for Transport (DfT) was looking at extending the validity of MOTs to two years to combat the cost of living crisis.

Grant Shapps, Secretary of State at Department for Transport, said that he did not want to comment on Cabinet discussions, but that he was always looking at policies which would assist in bringing down the cost of living, pointing to the 'Great British Rail Sale' and the impending removal of VNUK (VNUK is the piece of legislation that has been making its way through parliament for the past year and has now received royal assent. It reduces motorists insurance bill due to powers the UK got back after Brexit:

Karl McCartney (Con, Lincoln) said that moving MOTs from being required every year to every two years was an "absolutely crass" idea.

Shapps declined to comment on the rumour but said that it made sense to keep the policy under review.

Merriman asked about the rumours that the Prime Minister had said he would "privatise the arse out" of the Passport Office and DVLA.

Shapps said he would do whatever was needed to provide an excellent service, but stressed that if there had not been a strike at DVLA then there would not have been an issue at all.

Bernadette Kelly, Permanent Secretary at Department for Transport, agreed that the DVLA had taken a large number of steps to tackle the backlog. She added that the majority of staff, over 90 percent, were working onsite and that working from home was not an issue for the DVLA.

Merriman asked the panel about plans to grant powers to National Highways to seek injunctions against fuel protectors and asked what more could be done to stop protestors from disrupting motorists.

Shapps said that the awarding of powers to National Highways had been an extremely effective measure, and he would stop at nothing to prevent disruption.

Border disruption

Bradshaw asked Shapps about disruption at Dover and said that Kent had turned into "a massive car park" causing enormous damage to the economy and misery to hauliers and drivers.

Shapps said that P&O had taken out a third of cross ferry capacity and that this, alongside extremely bad weather, had produced a combination of problems which caused considerable disruption in Kent. Shapps said that it was very important not to become over reliant on the Dover-Calais route, and it was in the UK's interest to have as many ports and airports as possible.


Robert Largan (Con, High Peak) asked Shapps whether he was satisfied with the performance of the DVLA.

Shapps joked that he was never satisfied with performance of anything ever, and that he always thought all services should run better. He said that the Government's response to the consultation on allowing a wider range of medical professionals to approve licenses would be available quite soon.

Largan asked Shapps to set out what the state of the backlog was now, and how it would continue to be addressed.

Shapps said that there was now no backlog on vocational licenses. On standard licenses, there had been a backlog of 1.2 million but was now 400,000.

Kelly outlined the measures which had been employed to tackle the backlog, including digitisation, legislative reform, and opening a new DVLA centre. She said she was conscious that the issue was of high importance to MPs.

Smart motorways

Merriman said that the Committee had been delighted by the decision to pause the rollout of smart motorways, and asked for an update on the programme.

Shapps said that the second anniversary of the smart motorways stocktake was incumbent and that a new National Highways report was due to be published on the subject. He said that good progress was being made, and there would be new data on the safety of the motorways available shortly.


Simon Jupp (Con, East Devon) asked whether e-scooters should stay or go.

Shapps said that there had been 30 trials across the UK, which had been broadly successful. He said that in the trials, e-scooters were made to the proper standards and had been accommodated by local authorities. He said that he wanted to crack down on e-scooters that had been sold by private companies and would make it illegal to sell e-scooters that did not meet regulatory standards.

Jupp asked whether in the future, people would be able to buy e-scooters and use them on public roads and noted that there had been fatalities after e-scooters were involved in collisions.

Shapps said that in the future, he wanted to crack down on the illegal use of non-compliant e-scooters on the road. Shapps confirmed that there would be powers to regulate e-scooters. Shapps stressed that the e-scooters involved in collisions had not been part of trials.

Bradshaw asked when Government was going to get a move on and properly license e-scooters, stressing that e-scooters were a very good alternative form of transport.

Shapps said that he would announce further details on the 10 May.

Merriman pointed to pedicabs, and asked Shapps to commit to doing something about regulating them.

Shapps said he could commit to this and would be introducing a new law to control pedicabs and rickshaws, particularly in London.


Ruth Cadbury (Lab, Brentford and Isleworth) asked Shapps which sector of transport was going to be the most challenging to decarbonise.

Shapps said it was aviation, without a doubt, due to technical issues. He said he would shortly be saying more about the first principle of the Jet Zero Council, which was to fly a transatlantic aircraft at net zero.

Cadbury said that a lot of hope for Jet Zero was being put on sustainable aviation fuels, which were dependent on feedstocks. She stressed that there were other demands for that feedstock, particularly with shortages due to the invasion of Ukraine.

Shapps said that the Jet Zero Council was neutral in its view as to which technology resolved its problem. He agreed that there was a competitive market for feedstock but stressed that there were many different way to get to sustainable aviation.

Cadbury asked Shapps to highlight other challenges in decarbonisation across the sector.

Shapps said that one of the big things that Government was doing to decarbonise was creating the UK Shipping Office for Reducing Emissions (UK SHORE). He pointed to buses and lorries as areas to decarbonise.

On rail, Cadbury asked for an update on commitments to decarbonise the sector.

Shapps pointed to the electrification of the Midland Main Line and electrification of rail in general but added that he thought that hydrogen and battery technologies would play a part in the future of rail. He added that Network Rail had a very ambitious program for the decarbonisation of the track.

Cadbury raised the Government's consultation on pavement parking outside of London from November 2020 and asked when the response would be available.

Shapps said that the Transport Bill would bring the answers Cadbury was looking for.

On the growth of EVs and the implications for congestion, Cadbury said that the Government would have to deliver a range of responses to deliver valid alternatives to private vehicle use. Cadbury asked what DfT was doing to address that challenge.

Shapps said that active travel had had great steps forward, not least due to the pandemic. He said that a lot of responses would be discussed and spoke to the setting up of Active Travel England.

Driver shortages

Newlands pointed to HGV and bus driver shortages and sought an estimate of the number of the current shortage.

Shapps said he would write to the Committee but stressed that the UK had introduced 33 measures to tackle the shortage which would not have been possible if the UK had not left the EU. He added that he was working with Logistics UK on Generation Logistics, which was a programme which would attract people to the sector.