§ 31. Mr. Teeling
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is aware that the allocation for petrol for the Streamline taxicabs of Brighton is to be gallons per day, when their normal consumption is eight gallons per day; whether he is also aware what unemployment and dislocation this cut will cost; whether this is in proportion to cuts for taxicabs throughout the country, and especially in London; and if he will give instructions to ensure that such cuts are equally applied throughout the country.
§ 40. Mr. McLeavy
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he has considered the petition from the Bradford Taxi Owners' Association relating to the supplementary allowance for hackney carriages; and what further steps he can take to meet the claims of hackney carriages.
§ 43. Mr. J. Howard
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will suitably increase the allowance of petrol for taxis in Southampton and other ports where taxi services are an essential part of the port facilities.
§ 52. Miss Bacon
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power what is the supplementary allowance for a London taxi and for a Leeds taxi of the same horse-power.
§ Mr. Aubrey Jones
I have received representations on behalf of taxi services in several areas. The general question of allowances to provincial taxis is under consideration, and I will announce my decision as soon as possible.
§ Mr. Teeling
Will my right hon. Friend tell us also why it is that London seems to be getting so much more petrol than are the provincial towns? Is he aware that, in the particular case of my own division at Brighton, the Christmas holiday season is a very valuable and important one? Does he realise that next week taxi drivers are to be sacked because no decision has been reached on the subject? Does he further realise that some of the hotels are three or four miles from the station, that the taxis have to get back to the station, and that far more petrol is being used in that way? Will he be willing to receive a deputation to discuss this matter?
§ Mr. Jones
Taxis, after all, are not put to quite the same use in provincial cities as in London. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] In fact, under the last scheme, the allocation made to provincial taxi services was not as great as that given in the case of London. The final allocation to provincial taxi services has yet to be made, but, in the light of my hon. Friend's comments, I certainly 22 appreciate the urgency of the position, and I will make a decision as soon as I can.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Before the Minister commits himself to a comparison between London and the provinces, will he keep in mind the fact that many provincial taxicab drivers hold the view that they have to return empty much more often than have the London drivers, who cruise and pick up their passengers? If he is convinced, as many taxi drivers are, that they will be driven off the roads unless they get better supplementary supplies, will he undertake to this House to give these people sufficient petrol to enable them to continue to earn a living?
§ Mr. Jones
In answer to the first part of the hon. Member's supplementary question, the relative needs of provincial and London taxis are under consideration in an attempt to assess their needs. I have to assess these at their proper value and, in the light of this, to come to a decision. As to the second part of the hon. Member's supplementary question, I have, on various occasions, made it perfectly clear that, where livelihood is threatened, special consideration will be given. Having regard to this, as we hope, temporary or emergency rationing scheme, that is perfectly proper.
§ Mr. J. Howard
Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in ports such as Southampton, where there is no alternative means of transport, the taxi services need very special consideration, since the sailings of liners and steamers are determined by the tides and not by the hours at which public transport runs?
§ Dr. King
Is the Minister—whose sympathetic approach to the question when we put it to him I appreciate—aware that Southampton taxi men are, up to the moment, to get nine gallons a week; that they tell me that with that allocation they can earn £7 a week, and that many of them have overheads, including the hire of their car, amounting to some £5 a week. Is he further aware that, if the present 23 ration stays as it is, the owner-driver will be utterly destroyed and the employers of fleets of taxis will have to dismiss about 75 per cent, of their men before Christmas? Will he treat this as a matter of very real urgency, affecting the livelihood of a small but quite worthy group of men?
Does the Minister realise that by stating that there are special uses for taxis in London which, apparently, do not exist in the provincial towns, Birmingham and other towns which have great need of taxis will find themselves in great difficulties? What need is there for a taxi in London which does not also apply in these towns?
§ Mr. F. Harris
Is the Minister aware, from this and allied Questions, that people's livelihoods are affected and that it is taking far too long to reach a decision; that he should come to his decision very quickly as otherwise it is not fair to the people concerned?
§ Miss Bacon
Is the Minister aware that in a city such as Leeds, where there is no Underground service as there is in London, there is a very great demand for taxis? He says that the allocations have still to be given, but is he aware that the taxi drivers have already received their allocation, which is about one-third of the amount given to the taxis in London?
§ Mr. Callaghan
Is it not clear from the number of questions asked from both sides that a great many hon. Members have had representations because most taxicab proprietors are extremely concerned about their livelihood? Will the right hon. Gentleman make a statement on this subject tomorrow so that hon. Members may be able to reassure their constituents and the taxicab proprietors will know where they stand?
§ Mr. Jones
I think, Sir, that I have gone as far as I can by saying that I will announce the final allocations as quickly as possible. I am afraid that I cannot add anything to that. I am appreciative of the several difficulties caused, but I would ask hon. Members to reflect that the special considerations which they have adduced in the case of quite a large number of cities do, in themselves, underline the difficulties of the problem? But, I repeat, I will reach a final decision very soon.
§ Mr. Marlowe
In considering the urgency of the problem, will my right hon. Friend take particularly into account the difficulties experienced in the non-county boroughs, such as Hove? In the case of other corporations of local authorities, the drivers can, to some extent, offset the hardship by getting a rise in fares, but in the non-county boroughs that cannot be done without a byelaw—which requires the sanction of the Home Office—and six or eight weeks may elapse before the increase can be permitted. Will he give special consideration to that aspect of the problem?
§ Mr. McLeavy
Is the Minister aware that these taxis are just as important in the provincial towns as they are in London, and that particularly in a city such as Bradford, as well as Leeds, they are essential to the communal life of the people? Will he give an assurance that he will make an early statement and allow these men to earn at least a reasonable living?
§ Mr. Callaghan
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Several hon. Members were still endeavouring to catch your eye on these Questions in which there is a great deal of public concern and interest. May I therefore, through you, and with your permission, ask the Minister, in view of the public interest, if he will undertake to make a statement in the House during the current week so that we may have the opportunity to question him?
§ Mr. Speaker
There are over 600 constituencies, and if there are specific needs for all to be urged in Question Time we shall proceed no further. There is also a Prayer tonight which, although I do not know, may be relevant to this matter.
§ Mr. Callaghan
There is a Prayer tonight, Mr. Speaker, but, as far as I know, the Minister will not be in a position to make a statement tonight because he said earlier that he would not be in a position to make a statement tomorrow. There is great public concern about this, and it is not limited to purely constituency interest. Is it not reasonable to ask the Minister to say that he will make a statement on the subject before the end of the week?
§ Mr. Rankin
On a point of order. Is it in order, Mr. Speaker, for the Minister to ignore the interest of Scotland in this matter?
§ Mr. Teeling
Further to that point of order. In view of the fact that many people are being dismissed this week because of—