HC Deb 21 November 1946 vol 430 cc997-9
17. Sir W. Wakefield

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether concessions in the supply of petrol for private hire will be made in the case of ex-Servicemen who have invested their gratuities in a motor-car hire service.

Mr. Shinwell

A petrol allowance for a new hire car service, or the extension of an existing service, is granted to meet a public need, and applications from ex-Servicemen and others are dealt with on this basis. While petrol rationing continues I could not justify the release of petrol for a new private hire service solely on the ground that a vehicle had been purchased for this purpose. An exception is made, however, in the case of a person who is registered under the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act, if work as owner-driver of a hire car offers the only prospect of such a person's satisfactory resettlement.

Sir W. Wakefield

What is the determination of public need? How is it assessed in the giving of fuel for licensing and rationing purposes?

Mr. Shinwell

We consult people on the spot, including the police, who, generally speaking, are able to assess whether there is an adequacy of vehicles in the neighbourhood, or whether more are required.

Mr. R. S. Hudson

Would the right hon. Gentleman have a look at this point, because, although no doubt in theory that is the case, in practice it does not work? I know of a case in my constituency where a licence for private hire was applied for by an ex-Serviceman, but which was turned down by the regional commissioners. I am sure that the need is there.

Mr. Shinwell

That may be. I have relaxed the regulation considerably in the last few months, and, recently, we have had very few complaints.

Major Peter Roberts

Will the right hon. Gentleman instruct his office at Leeds to be as sympathetic as other offices in this matter? There have been many complaints from that quarter, in comparison with other offices.

Mr. Shinwell

I cannot imagine any of my offices failing in sympathy.

Mr. George Wallace

Will my right hon. Friend arrange for a public warning to be issued to ex-Servicemen in order to protect them from wasting their money in these ventures?

Mr. Shinwell

I cannot say whether the police take hat into account in offering guidance to my Department but, naturally, it would be most unwise on the part of ex-Servicemen, or any other men, to engage in this activity if there was formidable competition.

Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I have experience of men who want to start in this business? Surely, they would not start unless they thought there was a living in it. After all, it is their own money they are spending.

Mr. Shinwell

Unfortunately, that is not always the case. There are men who are ready to venture into an activity of this kind who may not be altogether suited for it.

Sir W. Smithers

Who is the judge?

Mr. Shinwell

As I have said, so far as ex-Servicemen are concerned, if they are disabled—and this is an activity suited to them—we always agree.

Captain John Crowder

Could the right hon. Gentleman say what the percentage of disability has to be for ex-Servicemen to be given a licence, without taking into account any other factors?

Mr. Shinwell

I am sorry that I cannot, because this is a matter under the control of the Ministry of Labour.

Mr. Walkden

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in a certain town, owing to the indiscriminate issue of licences, many ex-Servicemen are having a very lean time, and are sorry they were let into the cart because of the wrong advice given from above the Gangway?