Transport minister Baroness Vere (pictured) faced a barrage of questions in the House of Lords today (26 October) on the lorry driver shortage with peers accusing the government of creating a “world beating” dearth of HGV drivers and enacting “panic button” policies to solve the crisis.

The transport minister was asked by Baroness Randerson if she could “explain why the government has had to resort to government by panic button, with some 25 last-minute measures to try to avert a crisis. And why was there no long-term plan to improve pay rates and conditions in order to attract new entrants, which government now says is so needed?”

Vere responded that the government “doesn't customarily get involved in individual pay rates within the those sorts of sectors” and added that in terms of providing lorry parking facilities “it is mostly up to the industry to resolve it”.

Peers questioned why British truck drivers were not afforded the same level of publicly funded parking facilities as those provided to lorry drivers on the continent, such as the Routiers in France.

Vere answered: “We're working very closely with the industry on this. And of course, it is not just the haulage industry that have skin in this game. It is also the people that provide these services to the haulage industry, and the noble lord will be very pleased to hear that I'm working with National Highways to figure out what we can do to improve services at the motorway services area.”

Vere also called on the UK warehousing association “to encourage its members to provide decent facilities and places to have a rest for HGV drivers when they are dropping off” at their facilities.

She also indicated that there could be a change to the planning rules on lorry parking planning applications in the upcoming government spending review. She told the House of Lords: “I'm working very closely with the owners and operators of the 114 motorway service areas that we have. And of course, there are countless other providers or facilities that are away from the strategic road network. I do agree that we need to approve them. And perhaps there might be something more about that within the spending review.”

Asked about delays in processing HGV licence applications by the DVLA Vere insisted there was no backlog. She said she had had several conversations with the DVLA on the matter, and that “at this moment in time, there was no backlog of tool for provisional vocational licences, these are being processed within the normal turnaround time”.

She added: “As of Monday, there were 27,000 applications for vocational driving licences awaiting processing. However, the vast majority of those that are under the new rules and will of course still be able to drive under Section 88 provisions.”

Peers also pointed to the shortage of lorry drivers to deliver council services such as waste collection as a result of being attracted to higher wages elsewhere. She was asked if the government was prepared to boost council funding to enable local authorities to increase pay rates.

The minister replied: “There is a shortage of lorry drivers across Europe. And so I don't think that we could have necessarily been able to rely on cheap EU labour in the current situation. But I do accept that that there will be a transition period from where we were previously to where we are now. Some people will move jobs. And I do accept that the key to that is to increase training for HGV drivers, we are providing the tests and we are working with the training sector to provide the training so that people can come through and drive our garbage disposal trucks and our grit our roads.”