HC Deb 21 November 1950 vol 481 cc206-13
Mr. Butcher (Holland with Boston)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the law relating to hackney carriages in London. The House will remember that, not so long ago, after a brief debate, it decided to allow the introduction of Bills under the Ten Minutes Rule. I trust that the one I have now the honour to commend to the House will secure a passage. I believe the Lord President gave it a welcome in his reply to a supplementary question on Question 48. At least he gave some indication of its foreshadowing in his reply to that question, and well indeed he might, because I believe the passage of this Bill may assist the Festival of Britain.

The background of this Bill is quite simple. It seeks solely to remedy a point of law based upon a statute passed by this House in 1853, and relates to what is known to lawyers as hackney carriages, and to less legal minded persons as taxicabs. On 9th December, 1948, certain hon. Members of this House raised questions with the Home Secretary. Those questions followed a judgment by Lord Goddard in the Kings Bench Division of the High Court on 1st December, 1948. The judgment followed a case where a taxi-driver, whose cab was in motion, refused to accept as a fare a person who hailed him.

It was then decided by the courts that, under the law as it now exists, there is no obligation for the travelling taxi, although its flag may be up and it has an illuminated sign "For Hire," to accept a person as a fare, Let me say at once that most members of the travelling public have no complaint against the way in which taxi-drivers discharge their duties at the present time, nor is there any suggestion that they arbitrarily avail themselves of the privilege they now have of refusing a fare. But a case might arise where a bad taxi-driver might refuse to accept a poor stranded foreigner, with his baggage, outside one of the London termini in order to pass on to take some of the idle rich home from a night club. It is to remove this temptation and others, that I ask leave to introduce this Bill.

When we expect a large number of foreigners next year, it seems somewhat appropriate to amend the law so that when it is indicated on a taxi that it is for hire, the driver should be under some obligation to accept as a passenger the person who wishes to hire. The intention is to amend the existing law, to bring it into line with what is believed to be the law by the vast majority of people in this country. In commending this Bill to the House I do not think I can do better than quote from the learned judge to whom I have already referred. The quotation is as follows: It may not he inappropriate to hope that this matter will receive the attention of the appropriate authority which, in relation to cabs, is the Home Secretary. Conditions in 1948 are very different from what they were in 1853, when taxi-cabs were unknown. At present, every taxi-cab which is not actually hired must be driven with the flag of the taximeter in the upward position, and the words 'for hire' appear on it. Modern taxicabs are now fitted with devices illuminated at night which show on the front of the roof the words 'taxi' or 'for hire,' and the public may well believe that under those circumstances it is open to them to demand to be driven in any cab which is not actually conveying a passenger. When answering the Questions to which I referred earlier, the Home Secretary said: The question of amending and consolidating the statutes dealing with London cabs is one which I have noted for consideration at a convenient opportunity, but in the present state of Parliamentary business, I fear I can hold out no hope of early action."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th December, 1948; Vol. 459, c 537.] Pending this further legislation, I believe that this Bill will be a useful one to the public at large. It will inflict no hardship on taxi-drivers, and it will, in no way, delay or hamper the further codification of the law relating to London taxicabs to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. I believe that it is for clearing up of small points of this nature that the right of private Members to introduce a Bill, under Standing Order No. 12, is available. In the brief time at my disposal, I hope I have been able to commend the introduction of this Bill to the House.

Mr. Gibson (Clapham)

I ask the House to reject this Motion. It is not because I do not agree that there is a point to be dealt with in this case, but because I think it should be dealt with in another way. I should like to emphasise the remark made by the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Butcher), that he has no complaint, and does not think anybody else has a complaint, generally speaking, about the way taxi-drivers operate in present conditions.

I think it would be generally agreed that even when we are here until a very late hour at night most of us can get home, somehow, and we are seldom refused by a late travelling taxi-driver. But it is conceivable that this might easily be a dangerous and difficult situation for the taxi-driver, particularly for one who might have finished his work and be on his way home and might be expected by some traveller to go in quite the opposite direction. I am quite sure the hon. Member for Holland with Boston would not like to leave the door open so widely as to impose any hardship on taxi-drivers. On the other hand, I do not dispute that there is room for the law to be altered. I hope the House will bear that in mind.

The main reason why I ask for the rejection of this Motion is that this matter is already under consideration. There is a working party which was appointed by the Home Secretary to look into the law and the practices in connection with the use of hackney carriages in this country. It consists of representatives of both sides of the industry—the owners of taxi-cabs and, through their trade unions, the men themselves—and also of representatives of Scotland Yard. At the moment the committee is busily engaged in considering this problem and in trying to reach an agreed solution to this and to a number of other very difficult problems which exist for people who have to use taxi-cabs.

I suggest that it would be much better if legislation to deal with this matter were brought forward when the working party has reached agreed conclusions.

Those conclusions can be included in an agreed Bill.

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

When was the working party appointed?

Mr. Gibson

I do not know the date. It has been sitting for some time and has already presented one interim report to the Home Secretary. I believe that the way I suggest would be a much better way of dealing with the problem. It would carry with it the agreement and support of the men who drive the taxis, without which there will be difficulty, and the agreement and support of the owners, as well as the support of the Home Office and Scotland Yard. It seems to me that the solution of this problem and of a number of other problems before the committee would be much better dealt with in that way. I ask the House, therefore, to reject the Motion.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 12, "That leave be given to to hackney carriages in London."

The House divided: Ayes, 201; Noes, 197.

Division No. 6.] AYES [3.52 p.m.
Aitken, W. T. Crowder, F. P. (Ruislip—Northwood) Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Cundiff, F. W. Houghton, Douglas
Alport, C. J. M Cathbert, W. N. Hudson, Sir Austin Lewisham, N.)
Amory, D. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Davies, Nigel (Epping) Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)
Arbuthnot, John de Chair, S. Hudson W. R. A. (Hull, N.)
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Delargy, H. J Hulbert, Wing Cdr N. J.
Assheton, Rt. Hon R (Blackburn, W.) Digby, S. Wingfield Hutchison, Col. J. R. H (Scotstoun)
Astor, Hon. M Donnelly, D. Jeffreys, General Sir G
Baldock, J. M Donner, P. W Kaberry, D.
Banks, Col. C Drayson, G. B Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)
Baxter, A B Drewe, C. Lambert, Hon. G
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H. Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond) Lancaster, Col. C. G
Bell, R. M. Duthie W. S Langford-Holl, J.
Bennett, R. F. B. (Gosport) Eden, Rt Hon A Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.
Birch, Nigel Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Walter Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H
Blackburn, A. R. Fisher, Nigel Lennox-Boyd, A T
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells) Fort, R. Lindsay, Martin
Booth, A. Fraser, Hon. H. C. P. (Stone) Llewellyn, D.
Bossom, A. C. Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale Lloyd, Rt. Hon G. (King's Norton)
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D (Pollok) Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)
Boy-Carpenter, J. A. Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead) Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)
Brains, B. Garner-Evans, E. H. (Denbigh) Low, A. R. W.
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr J G Gates, Maj. E. E. Lucas, Major Sir J. (Portsmouth, S.)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col W Gridley, Sir A. Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)
Browne, J. N. (Govan) Grimston, Hon. J (St. Albans) Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Grimston, R. V. (Westbury) Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E Hale, J. (Rochdale) McAdden, S. J
Butcher, H. W Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.) McCallum, Maj D.
Carmichael, James Harvey, Air Codre. A. V (Macclesfield) McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M S
Carson, Hon. E. Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight)
Clarke, Brig. T. H. (Portsmouth, W) Hay, John Mackeson, Brig. H. R.
Clyde, J. L Headlam, Lieut -Col Rt Hon. Sir C McKibbin, A.
Colegate, A. Heald, L. F. Maclay, Hon. J. S.
Conant, Maj. R. J. E Henderson, John (Cathcart) MacLeod, Iain (Enfield, W.)
Cooper-Key, E. M. Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)
Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) Higgs, J. M. C Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)
Craddock, G. B. (Spelthorne) Hill, Mrs. E (Wythenshawe) Mallalieu, J. P. W (Huddersfield, E.)
Cranborne, Viscount Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Mann, Mrs. J
Cr[...]okshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Hirst, Geoffrey Marlowe, A. A. H
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich) Marshall, D. (Bodmin)
Crouch, R. F. Hope, Lord J Mathers, Rt Hon. George
Maude, A. E U (Ealing, S.) Remnant, Hon. P Sutcliffe, H
Maudling, R. Robertson, Sir D. (Caithness) Taylor, C S. (Eastbourne)
Medlicott, Brigadier F Robson-Brown, W (Esher) Taylor, W J (Bradford, N.)
Mellor, Sir J Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks) Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T Roper, Sir H. Thompson, K P (Walton)
Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury) Ropner, Col. L. Thompson, R. H. M. (Croydon, W.)
Mott-Radclyffe, C E Ryder, Capt. R. E. D. Thornton-Kemsley, C. N
Nabarro, G. Savory, Prof. D L. Thorp, Brigadier R. A [...]
Nicholls, H Scott, Donald Tilney, John
Noble, Comdr. A. H. P. Shepherd, W S (Cheadle) Touche, G. C
Nutting, Anthony Silverman, S S (Nelson) Vosper, D F
Odey, G. W. Smith, E. Martin (Grantham) Wakefield, E. B (Derbyshire, W.)
Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D. Smithers, Peter (Winchester) Ward, Hon. G. R. (Worcester)
Orr, Capt. L. P. S Smithers, Sir W. (Orpington) Ward, Miss I (Tynemouth)
Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.) Smyth, Brig J. G. (Norwood) Waterhouse, Capt. C.
Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare) Snadden, W McN. Watkinson, H.
Pannell, T. C. Soames, Capt C Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Peake, Rt. Hon. O Spearman, A C M Wheatley, Major M. J. (Pools)
Perkins, W R. D. Spens, Sir P. (Kensington, S.) Williams, C. (Torquay)
Peto, Brig. C. H M Stanley, Capt Hon. R (N. Fylde) Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge
Pickthorn, K. Steward, W A. (Woolwich, W.) Wills, G
Powell, J. Enoch Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.) Winterton, Rt. Hon. Ear
Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.) Stoddart-Scott, Col. M. Wood, Hon. R
Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. Storey, S. York. C
Raikes, H. V. Strauss, Henry (Norwich)
Rayner, Brig. R Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Redmayne, M. Studholme, H G Captain Duncan and Mr. Nugent.
Acland, Sir Richard Fraser, T. (Hamilton) McLeavy, F.
Adams, Richard Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. [...] MacMillan, M. K (Western Isles)
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Ganley, Mrs. C. S. McNeil, Rt Hon H
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Gibson, C. W MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)
Ayles, W. H. Gilzean, A Manuel, A C
Bacon, Miss A Glanville, J. E (Consett) Mellish, R. J
Balfour, A. Gooch, E G. Messer, F
Bartley, P. Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P C Mikardo, Ian
Benson, G. Greenwood, Anthony W J. (Rossendale) Moeran, E. W
Beswick, F Grey, C. F. Monslow, W
Bevan, Rt. Hon A (Ebbw Vale) Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley) Moody, A S
Blenkinsop, A. Griffiths, W D. (Exchange) Morley, R.
Boardman, H. Gunter, R. J Moyle, A.
Bottomley, A. G. Haire, John E (Wycombe) Mulley, F. W
Bowden, H. W Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Murray, J. D
Braddock, Mrs. E. M Hall, J. (Gateshead W.) Nally, W
Brockway, A. Fenner Hamilton, W W Neal, H.
Brook, D. (Halifax) Hannan, W Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.
Brooks, T. J (Normanton) Hardy, E. A Oliver, G. H
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Hare, Hon. J H. (Woodbridge) Orbach, M
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Hargreaves, A Paget, R. T
Burton, Miss E. Harrison, J Paling, Will T (Dewsbury)
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.) Hayman, F H Pargiter, G A
Chetwynd, G. R Herbison, Miss M Paton, J.
Clunie, J. Hobson, C R Pearson, A
Cocks, F. S Holman, P Peart, T. F
Collindridge, F Holmes, H E (Hemsworth) Popplewell, E
Cooper, J. (Deptford) Hudson, J. H (Ealing, N.) Porter, G.
Cove, W. G. Hughes, Emrys (S Ayr) Price, M. Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Proctor, W T
Crossman, R. H. S Hynd, H. (Accrington) Rankin, J
Cullen, Mrs. A. Hynd, J. B (Attercliffe) Rees, Mrs D
Daines, P. Irving, W. J (Wood Green) Reeves, J
Darling, G. (Hillsboro') Isaacs, Rt Hon G A Reid, W. (Camlachie)
Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.) Janner, B. Rhodes, H
Davies, Harold (Leek) Jay, D. P. T Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Jeger, G. (Goole) Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)
de Freitas, Geoffrey Johnson, James (Rugby) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Deer, G. Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Rogers, G. H. R (Kensington, N)
Dodds, N. N Jones, William Elwyn (Conway) Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
Driberg, T. E. N Kenyon, C Royle, C.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J C. Key, Rt. Hon C W Shackleton, E. A. A
Edwards, John (Brighouse) King, H. M Shurmer, P L E.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. N (Caerphilly) Kinley, J Silverman, J. (Erdington)
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Lang, Rev. G Simmons, C J
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W) Lever, L M (Ardwick) Slater, J
Evans, E. (Lowestoft) Lewis, A. W. J. (West Ham, N.) Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Ewart, R. Lipton, Lt.-Col. M Smith, H. N (Nottingham, S.)
Fernyhough, E. Logan, D. G Sorensen, R W
Field, Capt. W. [...] MacColl, J. E Sparks, J A
Finch, H. J. McGovern, J Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) McInnes, J Stokes, Rt. Hon. R R
Follick, M Mack, J D Strachey, Rt Hon J
Foot, M. M. McKay, J. (Wallsend) Stress, Dr B
Summerskill, Rt. Hon. Edith Wallace, H. W Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Sylvester, G. O. Watkins, T. E Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield) Webb. Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.) Williams, Rt Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth) Wells, P. L. (Faversham) Williams, W T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare) West, D G Winterbottom, I. (Nottingham, C.)
Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin) Wheatley, Rt.Hon.John (Edinb'gh, E.) Winterbottom, R. E (Brightside)
Thomas, I. R. (Rhondda, W.) White, Mrs. E. (E. Flint) Woodburn, Rt. Hon A
Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton) White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.) Woods, Rev. G. S.
Thurtle, Ernest Whiteley, Rt Hon. W Wyatt, W L
Timmons, J. Wigg, George Yates, V. F.
Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G Wilkins, W. A.
Tomney, F. Willey, F. T. (Sunderland) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Viant, S. P Willey, O. G. (Cleveland) Mr. Awbery and Mr. Keenan.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Butcher, Mr. John Hay, Sir Stanley Holmes, Sir Peter Macdonald, Mr. Maudling, Mr. Nugent and Mr. Derek Walker-Smith.