Cross-party committee puts politics to one side to bring about change
8th February 2017
Who holds the Department for Transport (DfT) to account? Decisions taken by the Government office have major, long-lasting implications for fleets, whether it’s investment in road infrastructure, action to tackle safety, approving trials of autonomous cars, incentivising uptake of alternative vehicles or even wider travel matters such as airport expansion and HS2 rail links.
Does the DfT make the right decisions? Could money be better invested in other areas? Can it justify its policies? This is where the Transport Select Committee comes in.
The Transport Select Committee (TSC) comprises 11 Members of Parliament, appointed by the House of Commons and drawn from the three largest political parties (Conservatives, Labour and SNP). It is responsible for examining the expenditure, administration and policy of DfT and associated public bodies, like Highways England, Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) and the traffic commissioners.
However, its remit extends further, into other motoring matters of public interest. Over the past 15 months, for example, two major automotive stories aroused interest: the Volkswagen NOx emissions scandal and the Vauxhall Zafira fires (the recent news about Corsa fires is sure to now come under its gaze).
In both instances, the TSC summoned senior executives at the companies to explain what happened and how they intended to resolve the issues. These sessions are often hostile and uncompromising – just check the YouTube clips involving Volkswagen UK MD Paul Willis.
Louise Ellman MP has chaired the committee for the past eight years and has been a member since 2002. Key to its success, she says, is having members who can put aside party politics to work together for a common goal.
“Overwhelmingly that does apply; we try very hard to concentrate on the issue in front of us,” Ellman tells Fleet News at her parliamentary office in Portcullis House, adjacent to the Houses of Parliament.
“Our aim is to try to improve transport for the public and identify issues of concern, conducting inquiries where we think it is appropriate into different topics which we decide.”
Committee members have full autonomy and are completely independent from parliamentary bias. It slots in the topical inquiries around its main transport scrutiny responsibilities.
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