New powers for traffic officers to avoid no-deal disruption at Dover
By Neil Lancefield and George Ryan, PA
Hauliers face increased fines and civilian traffic officers will be handed more powers under proposals aimed at cutting delays at Dover in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
The Department for Transport (DfT) is consulting on measures which would see Highways England traffic officers checking lorry drivers' documents before they reach the port, PA understands.
Lorries with the correct paperwork would be allowed to continue but those with mistakes will be ordered off the road until the problem is resolved, in a bid to ease the flow of traffic at Dover.
It would be the first time civilian traffic officers would have the power to demand drivers' documents and direct them.
If a driver does not comply, the officers would work with the police who could issue fines.
The DfT is proposing to raise the maximum penalty from £50 to £300 to deter hauliers from ignoring orders.
The department is consulting on the proposals with haulage firms and local bodies in Kent, but has not made the details public. This process is expected to last around three weeks.
On Thursday, the Government announced a £2.1 billion funding boost for no-deal Brexit preparations, which includes money for improvements to infrastructure at ports.
It will also mean extra cash for the contingency plan to deal with disruption on the M20 leading to Dover, named Operation Brock.
Rod McKenzie, a spokesman for the Road Haulage Association, said the Government appeared to be trying to bring "some discipline to what has been, up to now, a chaotic and confusing system in the event of a no-deal Brexit".
He went on: "We do believe that hauliers and everyone involved in the logistics business needs to be fully prepared for unfamiliar customs and borders paperwork, but they do need to be told urgently what is required from them and that has not yet happened."
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the Government is taking "necessary steps" to make sure goods carry on flowing.
"This is what people expect a responsible Government to do under the circumstances," he told Sky News.
"We are going to make sure that we leave on October 31, we are going to make sure that people are as ready as they possibly can be.
"I can't rule out that there'll be some disruption in the process of making that happen, but I'm pretty certain that we will get this in a place where goods will carry on flowing."
John Howarth, Labour MEP for the South East region, which covers Dover, accused the Government of secretly seeking to give draconian powers to traffic officers.
He said: "I am alarmed by the reports of secret plans for unprecedented summary powers for traffic officers in Kent in the event of the UK crashing out of the EU without an agreement.
"This is an admission that Kent faces chaos and the introduction of neo-police state powers with a so-called 'consultation' carried out in secret and with 'non-disclosure agreements' is quite disgraceful."