French border officials not scanning enough trucks in Calais

Scanning equipment supplied to French border officials for the purpose of detecting stowaways in lorries headed for the UK is not being used as it should be, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) has warned.

Speaking to CM in the wake of a threat by Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart earlier this month to shut down the port in order to concentrate British minds on the problem of stowaways, FTA international manager Don Armour said it was hard to see what more the UK could really do. Bouchart claimed the problem stems from the UK’s open approach to immigrants.

Armour added that French border officials were refusing to operate the British-supplied HGV scanning equipment in Calais on the basis that it was illegal to X-ray vehicles without issuing a warning to possible stowaways inside, whose human rights would otherwise be infringed. “I think it’s absolutely preposterous,” he said.

“Talk to the Border Force and they’ll tell you all the vehicles are scanned and that they’ve got heartbeat monitors and dogs and so on,” said Armour. “But all these people are still getting through, so clearly, there must be holes in the system.”

A spokesman for the Home Office told CM the security of the UK border was its “first priority”, adding: “That is why the government has invested several million pounds in strengthening security and upgrading technology at Calais”.

“An existing agreement between UK and French authorities states that scanning equipment will be utilised 24 hours a day,” he added.

The spokesman declined to comment, however, on whether that agreement was actually being adhered to.

However, owner-driver Tony Harrison, a supporter of the UK & European Lorry Drivers Safety At Or Near French Ferry Ports Facebook group, got in touch with CM via Twitter to share his experience. “Just been thru shed at Calais, they never put any monitors on, just looked at back door & waved me on” he tweeted.

Security for truck drivers at the port remains an issue too, according to one of the Facebook group's founders. Tommy Harrison said that despite a surge in security personnel at Calais last month, the authorities appeared to have since removed their focus and the situation “is now worse than ever at the port”.

The FTA is advising vehicle operators to try and schedule journeys so that trucks returning to the UK do not arrive at Calais with hours to spare, said Armour.

Drivers should also attempt to organise themselves so they do not have to take any rest breaks within 60 miles of the port, he advised.

  • This article first appeared in Commercial Motor magazine on 18 September. See next week's issue for more on the story or why not subscribe?

Pre-pack sale rules to change

The government is on course to introduce regulations that will give creditors of insolvent companies the power to have their say before a pre-pack sale takes place, according to the Road Haulage Association (RHA).

In its Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill, the government laid out plans to change the law surrounding sales to connected parties while a company is in administration. It wants to regulate all sales made during administration to ensure creditors have the chance to object or comment before a transaction takes place.

Under other proposed changes put forward in the bill, which received its second parliamentary reading in July and will go to the House of Lords at committee stage in October, creditors will also be deemed to have approved the sale unless a group of creditors requests a meeting to vote on the sale before it takes place.

The regulations would cover all sales of businesses in administration, not just pre-pack sales, which, due to incidents of abuse, have gained a poor reputation in the road transport sector.

An independent report into the issue was published earlier this year (CM 19 June). The Graham Review into Pre-pack Administration recommended a package of voluntary reforms to the pre-pack process, including the requirement for firms to justify to creditors how their business will survive for at least 12 months after the sale.

Jack Semple, director of policy at the RHA, welcomed the reform. “We are pleased to see that there is reform involved in the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill. There is a commitment to increase creditor engagement and create reserve power to prohibit pre-packs to certain parties.”

The government also wants to make payment practices more transparent and, if passed, the bill could introduce the requirement for certain companies to publish their payment policies for business contracts.

  • This article appeared in the 18 September print issue of Commercial Motor. Why not subscribe?