Examination of witnesses (Questions 320
WEDNESDAY 1 NOVEMBER 2000
MR D HANLEY,
MR P ASHLEY
320. You would move animals yourselves.
(Mr Hanley) We move animals ourselves if we take summer
grass keep, which is we take extra land on during the summer to
get our animals away from the farm; we tend to do that ourselves.
Markets, abattoirs, etcetera are all done by the haulage industry.
321. What kind of mileage are we talking about
in a year which is not haulage contractors' work?
(Mr Hanley) That is a big question. Probably on one
vehicle alone last year it would have been about 12,000 miles.
322. The reasons I was interested in that is
because you have £11,600 as costs in your budget for fuel
for the road vehicles and the agricultural contractor.
(Mr Hanley) Yes; that is the total cost of everything
we have incurred in the last just over 12 months.
323. Is that fuel cost?
(Mr Hanley) Yes.
324. That is some mileage.
(Mr Hanley) It is a lot of mileage. We move a lot
325. What do you want from the pre-budget report?
(Mr Hanley) We are asking for a cut in fuel tax right
across the board for everyone in this country. We do not want
any essential user rebate or anything. We feel, and this is travelling
the country, the people who are using the mail bag, the people
who are using the telephone are all saying it is putting immense
pressure on them. When we went to Government following the demonstrations
we asked the Government for 26.2 pence a litre to give us parity
with Europe. That was a figure for negotiation. You will be perfectly
aware yourself if you put your house on the market you do not
put your house on the market at £35,000 and when someone
comes along say it is going to go up to £100,000. We put
in there what we require to have a level playing field. We felt
then it was up to the Government to come back to us and negotiate
and talk and tell us what they could afford to pay and let us
work out a stepping stone system of how we get eventually to parity
with Europe or some mechanism which makes us able to be competitive.
That is all we were asking for. Unfortunately, despite the very
long letter which you have from Lord Macdonald, with whom we had
an excellent dialogue, and we had an excellent dialogue with Nick
Brown, since that day unfortunately they appear to want to talk
to the associations but nobody seems to want to roll their sleeves
up and come down to meet the grassroots people, the people who
are the primary producers, the general public who are hurting
and hurting badly. A question was raised earlier about why the
protest took place. I will tell you why it took place: because
people just feel they are not being listened to. They cannot go
on any longer. You have mentioned bankruptcies today: there is
one major thing I think everybody in this room should be aware
of, and look at it in my industry and talk to the Samaritans,
and that is the loss of life. The loss of life by suicide. We
have had six people in my area in the last six months who have
either shot themselves, under the age of 40, or hanged themselves
because they can see no future in their business. Very, very sadly,
I understand yesterday that a young man, the son of an NFU member,
also took his life because he could see no future. At the end
of the day it is time we all sat down and asked what exactly is
going wrong. You asked about bankruptcy: all I will say to you
is that you have seen nothing yet. I have been with hauliers,
large numbers of hauliers over the last three months. I have been
to their houses, I have met their families. Not only are they
going to lose their lorries, they are going to lose their homes,
they are going to be repossessed, they are going to be out on
the street looking for a job. We say retraining. Retraining takes
time. How do you retrain a 58-year old into computer skills? Who
is going to employ a 58-year old with computer skills? The list
goes on and on. I do not think we have seen anything yet in terms
of bankruptcy and people losing their homes. You brought up the
issue of textiles and the miners. When the miners went they did
receive payments for rehousing etcetera and redundancy payments.
We are being told, the-self-employed farmers, hauliers and other
businesses, "Sorry, boys, you might have to go". You
use the words "restructure", "too much overcapacity",
fine, but I think someone has an obligation to those people because
at the end of the day they are like myself and you, they are British
326. Would you accept nomination as a people's
(Mr Hanley) I do not think it is for me to answer
that question here today.
327. It certainly is not within the gift of
(Mr Hanley) I have just come along and I know John
has and I know Paul has. We are not associations. What you have
heard today is from in there not up there.
328. You have suggested that you would perhaps
wish to start the protests again within 60 days if you do not
get what you want.
(Mr Hanley) Yes.
329. Let us be practical about this for a moment.
The pre-budget statement is an indication of what may be in the
budget and it is put down as a set of suggestions. Do I take it
that if you do not get 26.2 pence then you are going to start
the demonstrations again?
(Mr Hanley) Not at all. What we have said, and we
have openly said it in the media, is that if Mr Brown comes out
with a statement with a stepping stone figure that he feels he
can afford at the moment and there is room for negotiation and
he is prepared to talk and negotiate with people then there is
no-one in this country who wants to go out and protest, nobody.
330. May I just say to you that in my constituency
I have a lot of whisky workers and every year the whisky industry
goes down asking for a reduction in duty, with varying degrees
of success; they sometimes get a freeze. They go down, they make
their representations but they never negotiate. I would just warn
you here, if I might be so bold . . .
(Mr Hanley) Yes, you may.
331. . . . that the idea of negotiating with
the Treasury . . . One makes representations and then one waits
and one is usually disappointed. The point I am making is that
it is a different type of protest from megaphone diplomacy which
(Mr Hanley) I can tell you we are in a new millennium
now and we are seeing people now who have finally had enough of
waiting because you cannot ask a man to wait when he cannot afford
to buy the shoes for his child. If he loses his home if he loses
his employment, what is he to do? I am quite happy for democracy
to operate but I am sorry, time has run out. We are so downtrodden
now, we are in a corner. I am from the country. If you get a rat
in the corner of a room, being chased by a cat, there is only
one thing he can do to survive: he has to fight back. Unfortunately
we have been forced into that corner because the listeners are
not listening or if they are, they are not giving that impression
to the people of this country.
(Mr Pratt) May I just add that this is not just about
haulage people, it is not just about farmers, it is about the
general public? If you come to my village, I can tell you that
there are young chaps who cannot get employment in our area because
there is virtually no industrial employment whatsoever. They have
to travel as far afield as Cardiff, which is 48 miles, Newport,
the M4 corridor. These people are doing trips of anything up to
100 miles round trips per day. What do you think the fuel cost
is doing to them? It is crippling them. This is not just about
farmers and hauliers, it is about the general public. I think
it is the general public who are protesting equally as much as
anyone else. I think that point needs to be taken home to Government.
(Mr Hanley) One very small point which has not been
mentioned and that is the environment. I want everyone on this
Committee to realise that we actually care about the environment
as well. I certainly do and I know the haulage industry does.
They do not want to see a bigger hole up there and more water.
As one of the members of the FTA said, basically we could get
into a situation if we were competitive where we could buy better
vehicles, more fuel efficient vehicles. There are lots of things
which could have been done since the 1960s by previous governments
with regard to global warming. Why all of a sudden has this Government
decided that it is all the fault of agriculture and the hauliers?
Why do we have to be penalised and why are they prepared to allow
lorries to come in from Europe carrying dirtier fuel, engines
which are not as efficient as we could have and a load of other
332. We have had quite clear figures this morning
which suggest that the number of vehicles which come in from Europe
may well be increasing but they are not significant in terms of
the road haulage industry in the country. We know that they represent
a threat to some businesses but this idea of going on about, continually
maintaining that there is a foreign threat on our roads either
in terms of safety or in terms of environment, there is no evidence
to support your allegations today.
(Mr Hanley) I will give you some actual figures counted
with my own eyes. We have been actively involved with supermarket
distribution centres over our own industry. On one night at one
distribution centre there were 170 lorries stacked up to deliver
into that distribution centre. Ninety-four of those lorries were
European. If you travel your part of the world, the M6, I was
driving up the M6 the other night. We were with a driver and we
were counting the lorries. For every one British lorry we counted
we counted three European. I am sorry. Wherever the figures have
come from, they do not stack up.
Chairman: We shall have to agree to disagree
on that at this stage but that will not necessarily affect the
outcome of our inquiry. Just to reiterate: what we are looking
at is the impact of fuel prices in the round. We are not an agricultural
committee, we are not going to stray into that area, but we are
very grateful to you for the information you have given us today.
We recognise the strength of your feelings and our report will
be out after next Wednesday when Gordon Brown makes his statement.
In the interim, the evidence you have given us, along with the
evidence all the other people are providing will be in the Library
of the House of Commons, probably as of tomorrow, so that Members
of Parliament will be able to see what you have said in the way
you have said it rather than just the way it has been reported
in the press. We hope you accept that we have taken your evidence
in good faith and we shall be passing it on to our colleagues
as quickly as is feasible. Thank you very much.