§ As from the first day of January next all driving licences issued by licensing authorities shall expire in every year on the thirty-first day of March the sum payable in respect of periods of less than twelve months -being calculated at the rate of sixpence for each month or part of a month for which the licence is valid.— [Sir A. Wilson.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ 1.22 p.m.
§ Sir A. WILSON
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
This proposal provides that as from January next the issue of driving licences shall be standardised so as to begin from a particular date, 1st April until 31st March, so that motorists will readily know when their licence expires. I admit 2066 that the new Clause is far less necessary in view of the undertaking given by the Parliamentary Secretary that the county council shall send a reminder to the driver that his licence has expired, but from the financial point of view there is something to be said for regularising the position of licences. It will make an appreciable difference to local authorities to know the approximate sum which will come in on a given date; and it will make it easier for everybody. There are strong objections to a great mass of clerical work falling on the office of a local authority on a single day in the year, but it should be possible to arrange for licences to be dealt with on the 1st of the month or the first day of the quarter, and it is quite easy to calculate the proportionate amount for licences taken out for periods of less than a year. They could be calculated on a scale of 6d. a month or is. 3d. a quarter. It is difficult to see why licences should be streaming into the offices of the authority all the year keeping a clerk engaged on half-speed, when the work could be concentrated and done more rapidly, even done mechanically, if it were concentrated in a single month. The Minister of Transport has power to do these things by regulation, and I hope he will consider *is as a matter of routine rather than of public convenience, because I admit that the public convenience has been met by the assurance he has given.
§ 1.25 p.m.
§ Sir G. FOX
I beg to second the Motion.
I would like to say that I do not quite agree on the date of 31st March.I think it would be much more convenient if the day could be the first day of the year, and then it might be possible to unify all the licences on one application form. If that were possible it would save a great deal of clerical work and people would be able to pay all their licences at one time, thus being spared a great deal of trouble. I am very grateful to the hon. and gallant Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) for moving this new Clause.
§ 1.26 p.m.
§ Mr. OLIVER
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will consider very long before accepting this proposed new 2067 Clause. I think there is a great deal to be said for spreading the issue of licences over the whole of the year, but making them applicable from, say, the first day of the month. If this proposed new Clause were accepted, what would be the position of the local authorities? It would mean that they would have to engage additional staff in order to issue the whole of the licences at one period, and thus they would not be able to spread the work over the whole year and make it a proper whole-time job for a proper staff. If it were possible to divide the 3,000,000 odd licences by twelve, so that on the first day of each month one-twelfth of the various licences would be issued, that would undoubtedly spread the work out over the year and would prevent a big rush on 1st January, or the first day of any particular period. There is a great deal to be said also for the taking out of a licence in the middle of the month but dating it for the first of the month, if that were possible. By these means it might be possible to spread the work out more evenly over the year and employ a permanent staff engaged in issuing licences, instead of employing a large number at one period of the year and then having either to dismiss them or put them on to some other work for the remaining part of the year.
§ 1.28 p.m.
§ Mr. STOREY
I hope the House will not agree to this proposed new Clause. After the remarks of the hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Oliver), there is little that need be said. If the issue of all these licences were concentrated into one day, it would mean that the local authority would be seriously overworked at that time and would have to provide casual labour, which we want to avoid. What we want is regular work spread over the whole year, and for that reason alone I suggest that the House ought not to accept this Clause. For instance, the London County Council have to issue some 300,000 licences, and it does not call for a great deal of imagination to see what congestion there would be if they were all issued on one day. I hope the hon. Member will not press this new Clause.
§ 1.29 p.m.
§ Mr. KELLY
I hope this proposed new Clause will be rejected. If the mover 2068 could see the work that has to be done by the London County Council when, at the beginning of the year, it has to deal with the great number of licences that are issued at that particular time, I think he would realise that the new Clause would put on bodies such as the London County Council a task which they ought not be called upon to undertake. I hope the hon. Member will withdraw his proposed new Clause.
§ 1.30 p.m.
I was sorry to hear the last two speeches addressed to the House. I had thought that on this occasion the new Clause moved by the hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson), and supported with my name on the Order Paper, might have been favourably considered, because the previous proposed new Clause, which my hon. Friend withdrew at the request of the Parliamentary Secretary, was designed to do something for the motorist. I am perfectly sure, in spite of that which has been said by the two speakers who preceded me, particularly the hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Oliver), that this new Clause would help the, local authorities to obtain greater efficiency. The idea of the new Clause is to make it easier for the local authorities, and incidentally for the motorist, by standardising the date, which would tend towards greater efficiency. Surely the tendency of all modern legislation is towards greater efficiency—centralisation if you like. The hon. Baronet the Member for Henley (Sir G. Fox) suggested that the 31st March might be an inconvenient date. I suppose he had some idea that it was too near 1st April And that that would be a very inappropriate date for licences to be issued in view of the mentality which some motorists have. Nevertheless I am not seriously disturbed about the date of 31st March. I think there is a very great deal of substance in this proposed new Clause, and I shall await with great interest and expectancy the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary.
§ 1.32 p.m.
§ Mr. MESSER
I am convinced that the hon. Members who support this Clause have had very little to do with the local taxation work of the London County Council, for anybody who knows something of that work will realise that while there may be some comparison between 2069 the issue of driving licences and wireless or dog licences, there is not much comparison. The issue of dog or wireless licences has very little reference to anything except a certificate permitting the holder of that licence to use a wireless or own a dog, but the issue of a driving licence is a very different matter indeed. Anybody who has seen the records required and the correlation of the information contained on a motor driving licence will understand that the book-keeping involved is very different in the case of a driving licence and in the cases of the other licences to which I have referred. It is because I can visualise what would happen in an enormous council such as the London County Council or the Middlesex County Council that I ask the House to reject the proposed new Clause.
§ 1.34 p.m.
I cannot advise the House to accept this new Clause. I had hoped that perhaps it would not be moved, as we were able to meet the spirit of the last new Clause proposed. The reason I say this is not that we do not wish to make it more convenient for motorists, but because of the grave administrative difficulties. As hon. Members with personal knowledge have said, the dislocation of work would be simply appalling, and I would remind the House that by accepting the principle of the last new Clause proposed we put even more work on the local authorities in that they will have to send reminders in the case of every driving licence. If the new Clause were accepted it would mean that at one time of the year, 31st March, all the councils would have to engage an enormous amount of casual labour. Certain people who are busy all the year round on this licensing work would be thrown out of their jobs and casual labour would be substituted. I think no part of the House would like that, and I advise the House not to accept the Clause.
§ Sir A. WILSON
With your permission, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I beg to ask leave of the House to withdraw the Clause. I hope they will continue to consider the importance of making administrative changes in the issue of licences by county councils by regulations that will make them uniform for the whole of England and Wales and not peculiar to any particlar county.
2070 Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.