§ Mr. GOSLING
I beg to move, in page 8, line 21, at the end to insert the wordsAny person who proposes to establish a regular service of omnibuses within the area of the licensing jurisdiction of any such licensing authority upon a route which is not an approved route may apply to the licensing authority to define that route as an approved route, and in the event of the licensing authority refusing so to define such route an appeal shall lie to the Minister who may, if he thinks fit, define the route, either as originally proposed, or subject to such alterations as he thinks proper, and any route so defined by the Minister shall be deemed to be an approved route.This is in fulfilment of a promise which was given in the Committee stage to the 344 hon. and learned Member for Bristol (Sir T. Inskip). Under this Amendment there will be an appeal to the Minister, if the police, on the grounds of public safety or the convenience of traffic, refuse to licence a route as an approved route, This will leave untouched the right of the road authority to apply to the Minister under the Roads Act, Section 7, Subsection (4), to close a route to omnibus traffic either on the ground of public safety or because of the unsuitability of the route.
§ Mr. KEENS
I would like to know what is the exact meaning of "regular service" as mentioned in this Amendment, and who are to be the advisory authority to advise the Minister of Transport? The Minister is taking powers to override the ordinary licensing authority and set aside their decision, and I would like an assurance that that power shall not be used in an autocratic way.
§ Mr. JOHNSTONE
I would also like further information as to the meaning of the word "regular" in the proposed Amendment. It is possible to imagine the owner of one, two or three omnibuses proposing to ply on a certain route which he wishes to have approved by the licensing authority, and he might be refused under this Amendment on the ground that his service does not constitute a regular service. If it were so ruled in one case would it apply in every other case, or should we have the spectacle of the London General Omnibus Company bringing in its organisation and running omnibuses which would be able under this Act to apply to a licensing authority to approve a new route. I can fairly understand it being ruled to mean that by a legal authority. If that be the meaning we should have some variation of the proposed Amendment.
Moreover it is not clear what is to be the advice on which the Minister is to act. As far as I can understand from the Amendment he is to act arbitrarily. He is to override any licensing authority without the advice of any committee. Many hon. Members of this House are of the opinion that the arbitrary powers of the Minister are increased to an undue extent under this Bill, and many hon. Members would be sorry that under this Amendment increased powers should be given. I would like to know the exact meaning of the word "regular" and I 345 would like an assurance that the word would not be used to rule out a small independent concern from applying for a licence on these routes.
If my hon. Friend will look carefully at this Clause he will find that it is plain even to his non-legal intellect that "regular" is opposed to "irregular" or spasmodic. If anyone proposes to run a spasmodic or irregular service I take it that he requires no licence at all. It is only when he wishes to turn some route into part of a regular omnibus route that he will require permission under this Amendment. Omnibuses, though it may not be known to the hon. Member for Willesden (Mr. H. Johnstone) sometimes run in an irregular fashion. For instance, parties who wish to go to a dance and are not able to afford motor cars sometimes combine together and hire an omnibus, or parties who wish to go to Wembley, and Ascot I believe, hire omnibuses. These people clearly are not people who are supplying a regular service, but I take it that an omnibus which runs along a well-defined route, even if only once a day, or weekly, even if only once a week, is running a regular service. I imagine that the hon. Member can be reassured if I say that probably any legal authority would hold that a service of that kind was a regular service, so I shall support the Amendment proposed by the Minister of Transport.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
Hon. Members are, perhaps, under a slight misapprehension. As I read it, this Amendment is only put in for the protection of the small omnibus proprietor. As hon. Members know, the police are the authority who are to define omnibus routes, and if a large or small owner of omnibuses wishes to start on a route different from the ordinary omnibus route laid down he would have to apply to the First Commissioner of Police for permission, but if the Commissioner refused him permission all that it is sought to do under this Amendment is to give to that small man, or big man, a second chance by enabling him to apply over the head of the Commissioner of Police to the Minister of Transport, so that he may have, at any rate, authority to go into the matter.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I dare say that what the right hon. Gentleman has said is right. My hon. Friend opposite has 346 told us what he imagined a legal decision would be. The right hon. Gentleman gets much more down to brass tacks in saying what this means, but what about the Minister of Transport? It may be an improvement. This is a bad Bill, but if we can improve it by this provision I will vote for it. As this is a matter of great public interest, I would appeal to the Minister of Transport to explain what it does mean.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I think that a great deal of misapprehension has arisen, largely owing to the inaudibility of the Minister. Had the object of the Clause been explained at the beginning there would have been very little misapprehension. I agree with the interpretation of the Amendment which has been given by the right hon. and gallant Member for the New Forest (Colonel Ashley). This is a new addition. The object of this Amendment is to safeguard a person, who applies for a licence to run on a new route not already approved of, against the licensing authority exercising its powers unfairly. If the licensing authority decides that there shall be no such service on this route, then the applicant is entitled to appeal to the Minister so that he has two chances instead of one.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Sir T. INSKIP
I beg to move, in page 8, line 35, to leave out paragraph (b).
The licensing authority is to have power to licence omnibuses, and the Clause provides that the licensing authority may attach to any such licence any of the following conditions. To the conditions in paragraph (a) nobody could take any objection because they are to be imposed only on the ground that the omnibus is unsuitable, but paragraph (b) and, to some extent, paragraph (c), as to which I have another Amendment, specify conditions which the Minister may or may not attach to the licence. Under this Bill the licensing authority and the Minister on appeal are going to have a very difficult task. Everybody will agree that it would be most undesirable if there were to be any discrimination between omnibuses belonging to a large or a small owner, or belonging to somebody who might be for one reason or another objectionable to the Minister or to somebody else, and this power to insert 347 conditions—the wording of the Clause is "may attach conditions" and not "shall"—to one licence and not to another is a power which, I will not say under our excellent Minister of Transport, but in the hands of another, would be open to abuse
I suggest that it would be fairer in relation to all owners of omnibuses, particularly to small owners, to say that this is a condition which is to be attached either to every licence that is granted, or that it shall not be a condition of the licence. This particular condition, as I understand it, is intended to give the Minister power in the case of persons who apply for authority to run a omnibus on a new route to say, "You may run the omnibus provided you charge fares which are reasonable." It is a very cumbrous way of effecting that intention. If this language were only to give the Minister power to do that, and to say that when an omnibus is running on a new or exceptional route the Minister shall have power to say that proper fares shall be charged, I should not have objected so much. But it gives the Minister very wide powers. It states:A condition that the omnibus shall not, without the consent of the licensing authority, which consent may be either of special or of general application. … "—relating to a special occasion or relating to every occasion—. … and may be either absolute or subject to any conditions. …" —that the Minister or the licensing authority may think of—.… ply for hire except upon approved routes.We all desire, although we have different opinions as to the way in which it should be done, that there should be absolute equality amongst the owners of the various vehicles that ply for hire. I respectfully suggest that this paragraph, and paragraph (c), which follows, should be excepted, and that if the Minister desires to have the power of saying that an omnibus which is undertaking a special adventure on some day, where it is going to run only once in the year, shall run subject to some control by the Minister, proper words with that object should be put into the Bill in another place. I object to the very wide and vague powers which are given by this paragraph to the 348 Minister to attach conditions which may conceivably be attached to one owner and not to another.
§ Mr. GOSLING
This paragraph relates to the power to require omnibuses to confine themselves to approved routes. Any attempt to deal with the problem of the omnibus traffic of London must fail unless the omnibus services are restricted to routes which are safe and convenient. That is the object of the Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman has raised the question of an individual omnibus wanting to run one day to one place. I suppose that he was thinking of the Derby or something of that kind. Even then, it is just as well for the passengers to know under what conditions they are going, what fares they are to pay, and matters of that kind. You must confine the whole of the services to conditions that are laid down and to routes that are approved. Directly you begin to interfere and to take out those conditions, you make the Bill unworkable for the benefit of the community.
§ Mr. KEENS
I trust that the Minister will not regard that decision as final. We have heard the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, a skilled lawyer, who finds himself in great difficulty in deciding what the Clause really means, and the Minister of Transport does not seem to be any too definite as to what it means. Surely it is possible to have these words reviewed in such a way that there can be no doubt whatever as to what they mean. If the meaning is what the Minister states it to be, I agree that he must have power to confine traffic to approved routes, and there must be power to prevent the fleecing of the public. But we have the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, whose abilities are well known, saying that he cannot make out that that is the meaning of the Clause. Surely it is possible to have a little more definition. I hope the Minister will see either that the paragraph is withdrawn now or inserted in some other form in another place.
§ Mr. H. MORRISON
Surely the Clause is quite clear. The House must remember what we are doing by this Clause as a whole. The object of the Clause is to remove the congestion upon London streets. That being the object, the way in which the Clause proceeds to do it is 349 by saying that upon a given approved route there shall not be more than a certain number of omnibuses, and that the number shall be adequate to meet the reasonable requirements of traffic on that route. That is the principle of the Clause. It is to secure that on certain approved routes, where congestion now exists, and which are ordinary omnibus routes, there shall not be a flood of additional and unnecessary omnibuses. The Clause does not lay it down that no omnibuses may ply upon any route other than the approved route. There are, apparently, certain routes where omnibuses may ply, in addition to the approved routes where the congestion exists. Paragraph (a) of the Clause provides thata condition [may be imposed] that the omnibus shall not ply for hire upon specified approved routes or any parts thereof, but such conditions shall be imposed only on the ground that the omnibus is, by reason of its construction or equipment, unsuitable for use on such routes or parts thereof.It is clear that an omnibus of given construction must not, ply on routes for which it is not suitable. There are various provisions in the several paragraphs of the Clause to cover varying traffic problems, and you cannot consider the one without the others. Paragraph (b) imposes the condition thatthe omnibus shall not without the consent of the licensing authority, which consent may be either of special or of general application and may be either absolute or subject to any conditions, ply for hire except upon approved routes.Surely, if you consider the purpose of the Clause, that is a vital provision. If you accept the principle of this Clause, paragraph (b) is the vital and, indeed, the central part of it. It goes right to the heart of the Bill, but I am not sure that it is altogether appreciated by the hon. and learned Member for Central Bristol (Sir T Inskip).
§ Mr. P. HARRIS
I am afraid that there is a good deal of confusion in the generally clear mind of the last speaker. It is due to the fact that we have two Clauses, Clauses 6 and 7, dealing with the same problem. They deal with a similar question in two parallel ways. Clause 6 deals with the licensing of omnibuses by the Home Office, acting through the Commissioner of Police. Clause 7 gives powers to the Ministry of Transport on certain special routes to restrict 350 the use of those routes. We have had several interpretations, and I hope I am interpreting the mind of the Minister when I say that the licensing authority has no power, as a licensing authority, to attach a condition to a licence. They cannot say that only so many licences can be given. That power is in the hands of the Minister of Transport under Clause 7. All that they can do is to say that omnibuses shall not ply for hire on such and such streets. If that is right, this is a very harmless provision. But we have the right to ask the Minister to interpret his Bill. It is a very complex Bill, and that is one of my objections to it. I suppose that we have had skilled draftsmen engaged on it, but to-day we find that such an eminent lawyer as the ex-Solicitor-General has been so puzzled as to move the deletion of a paragraph in a Bill largely fathered by the party with which he is associated. Therefore, we have reason to ask the Minister, who has the special advantage of expert officials behind him, to give a clear interpretation of the exact effect of this paragraph.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
It is a pity that we should have any Division upon this Amendment. I was hopeful that the Minister would clear the matter up. I have been applying my mind to the best of my ability to ascertain exactly what this paragraph means. To put it in plain language, it seems to say simply that one of the conditions laid down is that the omnibus shall ply for hire only upon approved routes. It does not lay down a condition about any particular route. It is a general condition that the omnibus will ply for hire only upon approved routes. There are certain exceptions, that with consent it may go somewhere else under certain conditions. I see no objection to that. I assume that that was the principle of the Bill. I do not see why this is in the Bill at all, for it seems to add nothing to it.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
It seems to me that what this paragraph states is, that the licensing authority, namely, the Commissioner of Police, shall, when he gives a licence, say to the person to whom the licence is given, "You may ply only upon certain routes."
§ Colonel ASHLEY
Upon a certain approved route, or certain approved routes. In Clause 7 power is given to the Minister to discriminate among the people who hold licences, so as to reduce the number of licences upon that route.
§ Mr. GOSLING
I made this as clear as I could in my earlier speech. Here is a condition that the omnibus shall not,without the consent of the licensing authority, which consent may be either of special or of general application, and may be either absolute or subject to any conditions, ply for hire except upon approved routes.A condition of that kind is fundamental if you are to deal with London traffic. Otherwise, the chaos will continue.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Would the hon. Gentleman excuse my interrupting? Is the interpretation which I have given or the interpretation given by the right hon. and gallant Member for the New Forest (Colonel Ashley) the correct interpretation?
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. GOSLING
I do not intend to be an arbitrator between the two hon. Members. This is a perfectly simple Clause and I want it in the Bill, because without it the present chaos will continue. What I fear is the attempt to let omnibuses run wild, as they do now. There must be restrictions. The conditions in the Clause have been drawn with very great care, and I must ask the House to accept them.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Will the hon. Gentleman answer one question, namely, whether the omnibuses are to be confined to one specific, approved route, or are they to be allowed to ply over all such routes?
Before the Minister replies, I should like to reinforce, if I can, the point put by the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle), because it does not matter in the least what the Minister of Transport thinks this means. When this comes to be interpreted by a Court of Law, if anybody were to say to the judge, "The Minister of Transport in the House of Commons said it meant such and such a thing," the judge would say, "What have I got to do with that? What I have to look at is the words in the Section, and what is their plain grammatical meaning." I 352 respectfully submit that in their plain, grammatical meaning, the words of the paragraph in question mean that the Minister can attach a condition that an omnibus shall only ply upon approved routes. That means it can go along any approved route it likes. Obviously it means that. At any rate, the hon. Gentleman may take it from me, that if one with some experience of the interpretation of Acts of Parliament holds that opinion so strongly, he may find others who have to interpret Acts of Parliament holding that opinion. If it is really intended to confine the omnibus to a particular specified approved route, that is to say, that such an omnibus shall be licensed only to ply between A and B along a certain route, then it ought to be made perfectly clear, and I should think it would not be beyond the wit of man, beyond those expert advisers, upon whom the hon. Gentleman can call, to make this clear. If that is what is intended, I suggest to him quite respectfully it does not mean that, and if he intends it to mean that an omnibus shall ply on a particular specified approved route, he should make it quite clear in unmistakable language.
§ Sir T. INSKIP
Perhaps I may say one more word. Clause 7, as has been pointed out, gives the Minister the amplest powers to restrict the running of omnibuses in any place which is congested. In Sub-section (2) of that Clause it is provided that where the Minister has declared any street, or part of a street, to be a restricted street, he may determine "the omnibus proprietors whose omnibuses alone may ply for hire," and apportion the number of journeys an omnibus may run, and do everything to prevent congestion. Where, in fact, congestion occurs, that is very reasonable, but this Clause says that when a licence is granted, before it is known where the omnibus is going to run, or before it is known whether to anticipate congestion where the omnibus is to run, a condition may be inserted which may contain any other condition which the licensing authority may put in not specified in the Bill, and I object to the Clause, because it may be used hereafter to differentiate unfairly — perhaps unintentionally — between two different proprietors, and I object again because, as my hon. and learned Friend and hon. Members opposite have pointed out, the Clause is really so involved and ambiguous, that side by 353 side with Clause 7, it is very difficult to discover its intention. Somebody has said something about criticising a Bill which proceeded from a Government in which I had a humble part. Although the Bill is not in the form in which it was before us, it might have been my duty to look at the Bill more closely if we had been allowed to remain in office, and I cannot believe that, because this Bill had its origin in our Government, that prevents me from criticising, when I am sure I should have criticised it if my attention had been called to it in the course of my duties.
§ Mr. MARCH
I do not profess to know anything about the legal position in connection with this Clause, but it does seem to me the Clause is to give powers to the Minister and to the licensing authority to find out which route or routes the omnibuses are going to take, and if they are proposing to go on certain routes which have not been approved by the Minister, then certain conditions will have to be imposed upon them. I know, as a member of a local authority, that we have omnibuses frequently going off the main road on to side roads which are not fit and suitable for those omnibuses to ply for hire, and very frequently the local authority makes complaint about omnibuses going down various streets. There is only one authority who can alter it, and that is the Ministry of Transport through the London County Council. If this is not in the Bill, what right has the Minister of Transport got to prohibit omnibuses going down certain roads which are not approved routes? It seems to me there have got to be certain conditions placed upon the owner of the omnibus who applies for a licence, unless he is going to ply for hire on approved routes. If he is going along routes not approved, then, I take it, the Minister wants the power to stop those omnibuses going there. Therefore, I hope this Clause will remain to give him that authority and power.
§ Mr. BECKER
To a humble Back Bencher, without the slightest bit of legal mind, this Clause appears to enact that when an omnibus is licensed, the licensing authority can stipulate that it shall go on any approved route. The Minister says that an omnibus shall be bound to one route. If, however, it is the case that an omnibus can go on any approved route, I need not pursue the matter further.
§ Mr. GOSLING
The restrictions are in Clause 7. Clause 6 deals with approved routes. If I find, after taking advice, that an alteration is wanted, I will take the necessary steps. I hope the House will accept the Clause on that promise.
§ Sir T. INSKIP
If the hon. Gentleman will do what he now promises, look into the matter more closely and put it right in another place, I am content.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Sir T. INSKIP
I beg to move, in page 8, line 43, at end, to insert a new paragraph:—(d) it shall be a condition attached to every such licence that the same shall be held and shall be valid only so long as the persons on behalf of whom the licence is held shall not either by themselves or by others manufacture motor vehicles, or parts thereof, or apply their funds to the manufacture of such vehicles, or parts thereof, except for use on approved routes.The object of the Amendment is to prevent anybody who may be in a position hereafter, as some hon. Members anticipate, of having a monopoly, from using their entrenched position to enter into competition, which may have an unfair effect on the trading of other motor manufacturers. I do not want to take up the time of the House with this Amendment, beyond asking the House to consider the position in which motor manufacturers will be. I want to call attention to the possibility that a manufacturer may be faced with competition from another manufacturer who is able to rely upon resources derived, not from the manufacture of motor-cars, but from the running of omnibuses on the London streets. Hon. Members are aware of the large business carried on in the manufacture of motor-cars by the Associated Equipment Company, which is connected with the London General Omnibus Company. I say nothing about the way in which the London General Omnibus Company and the Associated Equipment Company conduct their affairs, because I have no criticism to make upon it from my point of view. But I think, as one who supports this Bill generally, and who believes in the efficiency with which that undertaking, on the whole, conducts the traffic of London to the advantage of residents of London, it is the more incumbent upon us to see that it is not in a position to use that power which it has, and those resources which it will derive 355 from the exercise of that power, in manufacturing motor vehicles in what, in one sense of the word, will be unfair competition with other motor manufacturers. I do not know what view hon. Members may take of it, but I have felt the seriousness of the position which might arise, and for that reason I moved this Amendment in Committee, and I regret very much that no one saw the matter as I thought I saw it in Committee. I hope it may be more successful in the House in obtaining the support, which, I think, will not interfere at all unfairly with the activities of the combine—or the monopoly, as some people call it—or anybody else, and will secure fairness between the various manufacturers of motor-cars.
§ Viscount CURZON
I have put my name on the Order Paper in support of this Amendment, and I wish to give one or two arguments which have not been touched upon in support of it. The reason this Amendment is put down really arises out of the inquiry which was held after the traffic strike. In the course of that inquiry a question was put by the representative of the trade unions to Lord Ashfield, with reference to the Associated Equipment Company. Lord Ashfield was asked whether he was making a profit or incurring a loss in this transaction, and he said the Associated Equipment. Company showed large losses. That led some of my friends and myself to make inquiries with reference to this matter. I am not absolutely certain as to all the details or the figures, but it is a fact that the Associated Equipment Company has been trading abroad. They have made lorries at their works here and exported those lorries overseas, where they compete in such markets as they can find and in order to secure a footing in those markets, I have reason to believe prices have been somewhat reduced. I submit that in doing so a company may be incurring a loss, and it is very unfair that such losses should be incurred by a company trading on the London streets, because it is obvious that in such an event the company might easily pass those losses on to the public in the form of increased fares. I submit to hon. Members above the Gangway opposite that they should examine this proposal with some care, because if a company incurs these losses it will be more diffi- 356 cult for that company to meet demands for increased wages. I am sorry I was not present at the Committee when this matter was raised there. It was the only day on which I was unable to attend its sittings, but I do not think these reasons were then advanced or that these arguments were present to the minds of the Committee.
§ Mr. GOSLING
I do not see the connection between the control and regulation of London traffic and a matter of this kind. I do not see how such a condition could be attached to the licence. The police could not enforce it because they would not have the necessary information, and if such a condition is required it should be separated from the question of licensing. It does not seem to me that this is a necessary part of a Bill to deal with London traffic, and I do not see how it finds its way into this part of the Bill. I feel bound to resist the Amendment more particularly as it was fully discussed in Committee.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I agree with the Minister that these words are unnecessary and inappropriate at this point, but I mainly rise to call attention to the extraordinary doctrine which has been preached by the Noble Lord the Member for South Battersea (Viscount Curzon). The Noble Lord is greatly concerned at the idea that the Associated Equipment Company was increasing export trade at a slight loss.
§ Viscount CURZON
I wish to correct my hon. Friend. My point was that I did not want a company running omnibuses on the London streets, to be incurring losses in trade operations overseas which might be passec[...]on to the general public in increased fares.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
The Noble Lord does not really understand the effects of his own doctrine. Here you have a protected industry, because, in fact, this motor omnibus industry is protected so far as the London streets are concerned. It can make its profit here, and the theory is that under those conditions you can increase your production and spread your costs and consequently afford to lose abroad, yet make a profit on the whole project. The Noble Lord evidently does not understand the theory of mass production which the ex-Prime Minister is constantly preaching.
§ Amendment negatived357
§ Major MOULTON
I beg to move, in page 9, line 8, at the end, to insert the WordsProvided that no such conditions shall prevent any omnibus from being temporarily used on another routs in case of interruption of, or serious interference with, any of the normal means of traffic within the area to which this Act applies.I do not think this Amendment should be regarded as of a contentious character. It is intended to deal with a rather difficult question which may arise. I think the House should be very careful lest, in attempting to promote the convenience of London, it ties the hands of London traffic authorities so that it will bring about a serious inconvenience should certain circumstances arise. This Amendment is proposed with the idea of enabling the greatest possible amount of alternative traffic to be available in the case of an interruption of railways or other normal means of traffic. We do not require long memories to realise the desirability of this proposal. We only require to look back to a fortnight ago, when there was a break-down in the service on certain railways owing to a dispute. People from all over the country, to whom a bank holiday is a very important occasion, were coming to London and were desirous of getting to Wembley. I believe 1,000 omnibuses plied on that route on that occasion and got the people there. That is a right which London ought to retain.
I do not suggest that it should be left to the Minister to say in such a case whether emergency measures are to be taken or not. You may get a Minister who does not wish to take sides in a dispute; you may conceivably get an Advisory Committee or a Minister who will decline to allow this relief to be given if the emergency arises, but I say London ought to have the right to these temporary means of traffic in case of necessity. A condition should be inserted in every licence that the omnibus is free to ply on another route in the case of a serious breakdown, or the Bill itself should provide that the licensees will not be liable to any prosecution for using another route in such circumstances. I ask the House, in the interests of the public and in order to prevent an increase of the possibilities of holding up the London traffic, to include these words, and I suggest that the Minister in his 358 own interests should accept them. I think the Minister might probably be very glad to be relieved of the responsibility of dealing with the situation which might arise in the event of a lock-out or a strike or any dispute. I do not think it should be made a penal offence to try to help London in its emergency when one particular method of communication has been broken down.
I beg to second the Amendment.
I quite agree that the Minister ought not to be put in the position of having to decide this matter in the ease of a strike or a lock-out affecting any particular transport company, and he ought not to be called upon to play the part either of a strike-breaker or of a person who by his action or inaction can help a strike.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Robert Young
): I do not see where that comes in on this Amendment, which deals with cases of theinterruption of, or serious interference with, any of the normal means of traffic within the area.
I was trying to make a practical application of the words, because I apprehend that such a serious interference with London traffic would only really arise in cases such as those with which we are familiar. There have been two such occasions since this House met, when traffic has been seriously disorganised owing to strikes or other industrial disturbances.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I would call the hon. and learned Member's attention to the words of the Amendment, which areProvided that no such conditions shall prevent any omnibus from being temporarily used on another route in case of interruption." etc.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
On a point of Order. May I submit, with all respect, that the words in the Amendment are perfectly general in their character, and that the object is to deal with any interruption or serious interference from whatever cause it may arise? Consequently, if an interruption arose through a strike or a lock out, that would be an interruption, I submit, in regard to which the hon. and learned Member is entitled to speak.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I think, if the hon. and learned Member will look at the Clause, he will find that "interruption" means something else, and in so far as the words go which were used by the hon. and learned Member about strikes they may mean that there may be no omnibuses or cars running at all.
Far be it from me to attempt to argue with you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, on a point of Order or on your ruling, but may I cite a case that actually arose in the last few weeks where we had a strike of certain employés in certain omnibus companies and there were other people who were not connected with that company at all, small proprietors, who had omnibuses of their own? These proprietors, many of whom had been plying in obscure parts of London, came on to the main routes and rendered yeoman service to those people who wished to go to and from their business. Such a thing happened in the part of London in which I live. Supposing under this Bill certain omnibuses were licensed to ply, say, between Peckham Rye and Croydon, and the associated omnibus company locked out its employés, or they went on strike, such a strike not affecting the small man or his employés. What happened on the last occasion was that the omnibuses which were plying on these obscure routes at once rushed on to the main routes into the City, and very greatly helped those people who wished to get to and from their business, and it is because we wish to preserve that right and that protection, small as it is—
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Will the hon. and learned Member point to anything in the Bill as it stands to prevent that being done?
Mr. STORRY - DEANS
As I understand it, it is the intention to license omnibuses to ply on approved routes and to limit them to certain approved routes. If that be the intention, a licensee holds a licence for a certain approved route, and then, of course it would be a penal offence for him to diverge on to another approved route, and I want to preserve the right of anybody who likes to put an omnibus on a route, provided, of course, it could be licensed as a suitable vehicle, in case of emergency. I appeal to the Minister, in the interest of his Depart- 360 ment and of himself and his successors, to give way on this point.
§ Mr. GOSLING
This Amendment is redundant. The conditions do not tie down a particular omnibus to a particular route, but merely require a proprietor to use his omnibus in maintaining a regular service. If he runs services on several routes, particular omnibuses may be used on any of them or sometimes on one and sometimes on another. Ample provision is made for elasticity in dealing with special emergencies, through the discretionary powers given under the Bill, and in these circumstances I ask that the Amendment be withdrawn.
Lieut.-Colonel J. WARD
After the explanation of the Minister of Transport. I scarcely see what the Bill is for. I say that most distinctly, because Stoke-on-Trent is trying to deal with this subject, and the main features of this Bill are based on some special precedents laid down last year in the Act which that corporation obtained from Parliament. What was discovered was this, that if you licensed an omnibus for all the routes, what happened was that the omnibuses ran on the most profitable routes and crowded those routes to such an extent that you had worse confusion after you had begun to make Regulations than before. Luckily, therefore, in the Act which the Stoke-on-Trent Corporation succeeded in getting, it was provided that the omnibuses could not without special permission, which can be given almost instantly—it is only a question of a few hours, or, at the outside, a day or two in special cases—ply except on certain routes. Otherwise, if you are going to license enough omnibuses for the town and work the different routes of the district, and you suddenly decide that an omnibus proprietor on his own initiative can run the whole of his omnibuses on any route, ignoring the less profitable, but not the less essential services to the community—
If the Transport. Minister is really aiming at the proposition that you are going to have an enormous number of Regulations, and yet the proprietor, on his own initiative, can roam all over London, wherever there happens to be an approved route, you are not going to get any control.
If Clause 7 prohibits that, then the statement of the Minister is incorrect, and, therefore, what is the use of his standing at that box and telling us that, as a matter of fact, when once you have licensed an omnibus, the proprietor can go on any route he likes? The hon. Gentleman has just said that. Under these circumstances, while I hope—[Interruption.] The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) interrupts so much that it is almost impossible to get a direct argument upon the subject; but I understood most definitely the Transport Minister now to explain that the proprietor, having once got a licence, can take his omnibus into any route he likes. The hon. and learned Member for Penistone says that there is another Clause in the Bill which prevents that. Then the Transport Minister is incorrect. It is a wrong interpretation of the Bill for the Transport Minister to make a statement of the kind he has made. He should have said they will be able to do so and so if it were not for another Clause in the Bill.
That is the whole point of the confusion in our minds on the subject. We have got the powers at Stoke, and we have succeeded in doing what I am explaining. That was only by fixing a certain number of omnibuses along a certain definite number of routes along which the proprietors have to send them, and no other. That is the only way in which congestion has been prevented. There is just one long main street in Stoke-on-Trent, running to between six and seven miles in length. The whole of the licensed omnibuses wanted to travel along that way. The surrounding districts that really required the attention of the omnibus proprietors at certain hours of the day for the purpose, it might be, of conveying workmen backwards and forwards, though there was no necessity for them to ply in these districts at other times, was entirely avoided. We have [...]ow got authority, and that has enabled us to reduce the thing to something like order. Because of our order and the sending certain omnibuses down certain routes our transport difficulty and our traffic problem has been considerably improved.
§ Amendment nagatived.362
§ Amendment made: On page 10, line 36, leave out the words "Common Council" and insert instead thereof the word "Corporation."—[Mr. Gosling.]