The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:68. Wing Commander BULLUS,—To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement about the proposed increase in taxicab fares in the London area.
§ Mr. Ede
With permission, Mr. Speaker, I will answer Question No. 68.
I made an Order yesterday the effect of which is to increase the present surcharge on taxicab fares in the Metropolitan Police district and the City of London from one-third to two-thirds of the amounts shown on the meter. The Order, which will come into operation on 4th June, also provides that the extra charge of 6d. at present payable for both the third and fourth passengers, will, in future, be payable for the second passenger also.
I have also given instructions for the alteration of the existing meters to indicate a scale of fares similar to that authorised by the amending Order. It is necessary for reasons connected with the mechanism of the meters to adopt a slightly different scale, and I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a table showing the two scales. As soon as the necessary preparations have been made for altering the meters, I propose to make a further order authorising the scale of charges indicated on them. It will be unavoidable that the two scales of charges will be in force simultaneously for some little time.
I have reached these decisions after very careful consideration of the representations made to me by the various interests concerned, and I am satisfied that these increases are necessary in order to enable a public service of taxicabs to be provided on an economic basis. I should like to express my appreciation of the assistance which I have received from Sir Alan Rae Smith who, at my request, again undertook the task of examining the present financial position of the industry.
§ Wing Commander Bullus
The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that this is a very serious increase on the ever increasing cost of transport and of 403 living. Can he say when the new meters will be ready, because much confusion will be caused to visitors, particularly at this time of the year, in London and the surrounding district?
§ Mr. Ede
It will take some considerable time to complete the alteration of the meters. I understand that the trade are to put the matter in hand at once. To assist in the intervening period, the police, the owners and the drivers have collaborated in the formulation of a better type of placard to be placed inside the cabs, so as to avoid some of the confusion and the disputes which have arisen in recent months.
§ Mr. Gammans
Would the right hon. Gentleman say to what extent these additional charges are justified by the increase in the Petrol Duty?
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
Will the right hon. Gentleman consider placing on the placards which are to be put into the taxis during the change-over period instructions in French and German, as well as in English, in view of the large number of foreigners in this country?
§ Mr. Jennings
Would the Home Secretary consider giving hon. Members further details to enable them to decide whether what appears to be an exhorbitant increase in the taxi rate is justified?
§ Mr. Ede
I shall be quite willing to answer any Question that may be put on the Order Paper about this matter. It was most carefully considered, and the 404 owners of the taxi-cabs are of the opinion that this is not a sufficient increase, but on the advice I received from Sir Alan Rae Smith it is all that I was prepared to authorise.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood
Will any part of this increase be devoted to improving the remuneration of the drivers?
§ Sir Ian Fraser
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this charge on the public will, nevertheless, give great satisfaction to the drivers?
§ Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas
While not challenging the validity or justification of the decision just announced by my right hon. Friend, may I ask if he does not consider that it would be in the public interest for future decisions on taxicab fares to be referred to a specially selected tribunal, open to the public, so that people generally may be made fully aware of the circumstances leading up to any alteration of fares in future?
§ Following is the table:
|Distance (up to but not including)||Scale of fares based on a surcharge of 66⅔ per cent. on the fares shown on existing taximeters||Scale of fares to be shown on amended taximeters|