HC Deb 21 April 1950 vol 474 cc472-4
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)

With your permission, Sir, I should like to make the following statement.

Sir Alan Rae Smith has been examining the costs of running taxis in London with a view to advising me whether any revision of the present fare system should be made as there has been no increase in these fares since 1933. I have asked Sir Alan Rae Smith for a special interim report on the increase in the fares which might be justified by the increased tax on petrol. Sir Alan Rae Smith has said that the increased cost to be attributed to this source would be met by an increase of 3d. on the fare for each completed journey. Acting on this advice I have decided to make an Order, as an interim measure, authorising such an increase in the Metropolitan Police district as from Sunday midnight.

Mr. Osbert Peake

While we cannot take exception to this, so long as it is the Chancellor's intention to increase the price of petrol, would not the Home Secretary add a word of praise for London taxi drivers for their forbearance in not having asked for an increase of fares in the last 16 years?

Mr. Ede

The inquiry is going on into taxi fares because an increase has been asked for, and while I think they have not unduly pressed the matter, I think it should be borne in mind that the question of an increase in fares has been before me for some time.

Mr. Rankin

My right hon. Friend used the phrase "an increase of 3d. on the fare for each completed journey." Could he explain the words "completed journey" a little further?

Mr. Ede

I think I can give two examples. If the fare shown on the clock is 9d. the taxi driver will be entitled to ask for ls. If it is 9s. he will be entitled to ask for 9s. 3d. Threepence will be added when the final clocking is shown.

Mr. Molson

If this inquiry for this increase of fares has been confined to the increase of the price of petrol, will the Home Secretary say what procedure is being adopted to inquire into other increases of costs, such as, for example, the very great increase in the capital cost of taxicabs since before the war?

Mr. Ede

That is the main inquiry Sir Alan Rae Smith is conducting, as a result of which I should have a report within a few days; when I get that report it will enable me to consider what is the appropriate increase, if any, that should be granted because of other increases in costs.

Mr. Nally

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that the probability is that the real effect of what he has quite properly just announced will simply be, from the point of view of the taxi drivers employed by firms, that the increase of threepence will mean a reduction in their tips, and that the average driver will be no better off.

Mr. Ede

I always hesitate to join the ranks of the prophets, but I should have thought that this would be understood by the people and that they would pay the amount shown on the clock plus the tip.

Sir George Harvie-Watt

Does the right hon. Gentleman's statement mean that there will be an alteration in the figure shown on the taximeters?

Mr. Ede

No, that cannot be done at once.

Mr. Jennings

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean what he says when he stated that taximen will get 3d. on 9d. and 3d. on 9s.? If so, it is fantastic.

Mr. Ede

No, Sir, I do not think it is. We have to try to do these things in the simplest form. The hon. Gentleman is himself an accountant, and this is the recommendation of, I think, the most distinguished member of his profession. He proceeded in the normal way in which accountants and actuaries work, with a profound belief in the law of averages.

Sir David Robertson

The right hon. Gentleman's statement refers to Metropolitan taxicabs. Does this increase apply throughout Great Britain?

Mr. Ede

No, Sir. I can only make an order with regard to the Metropolitan Police district, because I am the police authority in the Metropolis. What will happen elsewhere will be a matter for the appropriate authorities concerned.

Sir D. Robertson

Will the Home Secretary get into touch with these lesser authorities, because if this is fair in the Metropolitan district, it must be equally fair in other districts.

Mr. Ede

No, Sir. I have no doubt that what has been announced this morning will be noticed elsewhere and that local autonomy will operate.

Mr. Baldwin

Would the Home Secretary agree that a fair and simple way to effect the increase would be a penny in the shilling as shown on the taximeter?

Mr. Ede

No, Sir, because as far as London taxicabs are concerned we proceed in threepences.

Mr. Rankin

While this increase may be necessary, I hope it will not be an indication of what may be expected elsewhere.