KPMG roads study fuels row

A Commons row has erupted over KPMG’s role in the political controversy surrounding the government’s battle with the UK road haulage industry.

The dispute follows a study of competitiveness in North America, Europe and Japan. Transport minister John Reid has used the study, which was undertaken by KPMG, to show that government policies have ensured that the UK – alongside Austria – has the lowest road haulage costs.

Tory transport spokesman Bernard Jenkin has tabled a series of questions in the Commons. One asked whether KPMG is a candidate for contracts with the defence ministry. Defence minister Doug Henderson confirmed that it is.

Jenkin, MP for Essex North, has revealed the text of a letter he has sent to Reid which makes it clear that the KPMG study was intended to help certain types of business decide where to locate, not as an indicator of the UK road haulage industry’s competitiveness.

Jenkin told the minister the accountancy firm would not assume any responsibility for the way he was ‘shamelessly’ misusing figures which simply reflected the ‘compact market area’ of the UK and Austria and not the cost per mile of running a UK-registered truck.

A representative of KPMG accompanied the minister at a briefing with political lobby journalists at which Reid made reference to the findings of the firm’s transport study.

Jenkin has challenged Reid to commission a new study from KPMG or any other reputable firm comparing the competitiveness of the UK road haulage industry with that of other EU operators.

In his letter to Jenkin, Reid confirmed that KPMG ‘not only attended but participated in my press briefing drawing attention to the report’.

Reid went on to condemn truckers’ disruptive demonstrations – likely to be repeated – against increases in duty on diesel and vehicle licence fees.

KPMG would not comment.

Related reading