HC Deb 18 April 1962 vol 658 cc563-73
Mr. Strauss

I beg to move, in page 61 to leave out lines 15 to 23.

I must briefly give the background to this Amendment. It concerns the position of the London Transport Executive —as it is today—and the London Transport Board—as it will be under this Bill. When bus and underground transport in London was brought under public ownership in 1933, there was a provision that the body running it—which later became the London Transport Executive—should be a monopoly in the sense that it would be able to have complete authority concerning the running of services in the London area, and that where it found that anybody who wanted to operate in the London area was competing with and damaging London transport services it would be able to invoke the veto.

That provision was essential because we had had in London a long history of pirate buses and of competition which did great damage to the transport services of the public. This monopoly situation was therefore proposed, and it was accepted by all parties. It has been operating ever since successfully and there has never been complaint about it.

The London Transport Executive has not been niggardly and dog-in-the-manger about this. When an operator has come along and proposed running a service in its area, and where that service has not damaged the existing service or seriously interfered with its finances, the Executive has given permission. There have been about two dozen cases where that has happened, according to the Parliamentary Secretary.

In this Bill, however, for the first time, the London Transport Executive's monopoly is taken away. No good reason has been given. The new Board will not be able to be master in its own house. It will not have the right to decide whether an outside operator should come into its territory. Any operator who comes along will, if permission to run a service in the London area is refused by the Board, be able to apply to the traffic commissioner. I do not know to what extent the Commissioner will have to take into account the overall injunction that the Board should make both ends meet and pay its way. He will consider the application. If the traffic commissioner says "No, the operator should not work in the London area," the operator can appeal to the Minister, and the Minister can override both the London Transport Board and the traffic commissioner and cam say that the operator can go into the London area.

6.30 p.m.

We suggest to the House that this is wholly undesirable, that it is wholly unnecessary, and that the position of the London Transport Board—or Executive, as it has been for years past—has been wholly satisfactory, has given rise to no complaints and should not be changed. What are the reasons given by the Government for this change? They have given two reasons. They say that it may be that in certain areas outside London, the London Transport Board may want to operate, and that if it does, the traffic commissioner has to be consulted, and there is an appeal from the commissioner to the Minister, in a case in which the decision might be in favour of the Board. They say that if there is an appeal to the Minister from the traffic commissioner when the London Transport Board wants to operate outside London, the same sort of procedure should take place when a private operator wants to operate inside London.

I do not see that that follows a bit. I do not think there is anything in that argument, because the whole purpose of establishing the London Transport Board, with the special obligation put upon it, was that it is a monopoly and must be master in its own house. This is an obligation, which the Railways Board has not got, to run adequate services in London, and we are told that special provisions were put in because it is a monopoly, because the Railways Board is not in this special position, and the London Board should be master in its own house.

The other reason that we are told is that some operators on the fringe of London—private operators or others— might find it convenient and desirable to come over the border into the London area and operate there. The London Board might say, "This is wrong; we cannot accept it, because it will interfere with our normal services and will be upsetting," and will, therefore, turn it down. It has been suggested that the applicant should have the right of appeal to the traffic commissioner and from the traffic commissioner to the Minister.

We cannot see any reason for that at all. We know by experience that the London Board, whose sole purpose is to provide the best possible transport service for London, either themselves or by anybody else, have always acted sensibly when it has been found incon- venient to provide services in a certain area and has allowed someone else to do it.

Why should it not do so? The London Board is not a private concern trying to make the maximum profit. Its purpose is to see that the people of London get the best possible transport service, and on many occasions it has willingly allowed outside operators to come into the London area.

These are the two reasons given by the Government for this break in the London Transport Executive's established position, which has existed since 1933 and which has operated exceedingly successfully and in regard to which we say that there is no reason for interference by the Government. We are frightened. The Minister may tell us, as he did in Committee, that it is not proposed to destroy the real strength of the London Transport Executive to allow private operators to come to London, but we do not know whether it will be so or not.

We do not know whether this Minister, or some other Minister with even a greater bias towards private enterprise operators than the present Minister has, might consider these cases and turn down both the traffic commissioner and the Transport Board so that these people can operate in London. They have always got a case, because one can always say that someone else can pick up some people better than others and provide a better service than there was before.

We are fearful lest the strength of the London Transport Board is—not undermined—but damaged by breaking the monopoly which has operated so well for such a long period, without as far as I know, any complaint, whether from any public body or responsible person. We feel very strongly about this. We feel strongly that the present situation should be maintained, and that there is no reason for altering it. In view of what we were told in Committee, we have very little hope that the Amendment will be accepted, but we intend to press it, because we think that it is of the greatest importance.

Mr. Hay

The right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) has addressed the House somewhat forcibly on this Amendment.

Mr. Strauss

I feel strongly about it.

Mr. Hay

The right hon. Gentleman says that he feels strongly about it, but he did not tell the House what the Amendment would do. His arguments were directed to an attack upon the whole idea of the Clause and the possibility of any kind of a right of appeal against the fiat of the London Transport Board whether or not a private operator could come into its territory. He has not told the House that the effect of the Amendment, and of the two consequential Amendments being discussed with it, would be simply to delete, at the end of the line, so to speak, the appeal from the traffic commissioner to the Minister. That is all we are concerned with in this Amendment.

As the right hon. Gentleman has said, Clause 58 (1), in effect, provides that before an operator, other than the London Board, can run a bus service in the London special area, which is the centre of London, he must have the consent of the London Board itself. I must remind the House that the consent which is in question here is not a permit to operate. It is merely a consent by the board to allow the operator to apply to the traffic commissioner for a licence. Let us assume that the London Board refuses this consent. Under this Clause, there is then an appeal against the refusal of consent to the traffic commissioner.

If the traffic commissioner turns down the applicant, there is a right of appeal, which the Amendment seeks to delete, to the Minister against the refusal of consent. If, at the end of the day, the Minister allows the appeal and grants the consent, then the operator has to start again. He then has to go to the traffic commissioner and has to prove need, and he has to go through the whole machinery of the licensing system, and may not then receive a road service licence.

Mr. Strauss

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that if an applicant appeals from an adverse decision by the traffic commissioner to the Minister, and the Minister reverses the decision, the application to the traffic commissioner may again be turned down, although the Minister has rejected the decision of the commissioner?

Mr. Hay

It seems, perhaps, that the right hon. Gentleman has not fully understood the situation, and there may have been some misunderstanding throughout the whole discussion of this Clause. If so, I must clear it up.

The consent referred to in the Clause is merely a consent by the London Board which enables the operator to apply to the traffic commissioner for a road service licence. An appeal against the refusal of the traffic commissioner to grant a road service licence goes to the Transport Tribunal, so that it might well happen, to continue the example which I was just giving to the House, that the Minister may, on appeal, reverse the decision of the London Transport Board and give consent to the operator to apply to the traffic commissioner for a road service licence, and then, at the end of the day, when he has applied for a licence to the traffic commissioner, the operator might be refused. He appeals then to the Transport Tribunal, and may then be turned down once more. All this is perfectly feasible.

In the light of this explanation, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends will not feel quite so violently about this matter as they formerly did. All we are saying is that if an operator has a case which he wishes to deploy to the licensing authority, which is the traffic commissioner, for running a service inside the London special area, he should have the right to do so, provided that he can persuade, first, the traffic commissioner and then, on appeal, the Minister, that he should have the opportunity of putting his case. That is all that this Clause does and, in these circumstances, I feel that the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends are making altogether much too heavy weather of this matter. After all, by Clause 59 we are reproducing what is virtually the mirror image of the situation, as I described it in Committee, in respect of applications by the London Board to operate bus services outside its special area and in territory normally reserved to private operators.

So far as I can see, that is all that I need to say about the Amendment. I hope that it will not be pressed, because if it is we shall once more have to waste a certain amount of time marching through the Lobbies. I hope that in the light of what I have said it will be possible for the Amendment to be withdrawn.

Mr. Strauss

I cannot understand what the Parliamentary Secretary is telling us. I think that he is misleading the House. Subsection (4), which we are moving to delete, says: The applicant or the London Board may appeal to the Minister against the decision of the metropolitan traffic commissioner on an application … and on such an appeal the Minister may confirm, vary or annul the decision. How can it possibly be that if an applicant applies to the traffic commissioner, and the commissioner's decision is reversed by the Minister, the applicant can go back to the commissioner and find himself exactly where he was? What is the use of an appeal to the Minister if his reversal of the commissioner's decision has no effect?

Mr. Hay

The position is as I explained. The Clause deals with the case in which the applicant wishes to operate in the London special area. Even under the existing law, the Transport Act, 1947, he has to obtain the consent of London Transport. That consent is a consent to enable him to apply for a road service licence. All we say in the Clause is that if London Transport refuses that consent, then there shall be a machinery of appeal and that at the end of the line will be the Minister. Having got to the end of the line, the applicant still has to get his road service licence in the same way that he would have to get it if he wanted to run a new service outside the London special area.

Mr. Strauss

He will get it automatically.

Mr. Hay

He will not get it automatically. That is what I keep telling the right hon. Gentleman.

I must stand in a white sheet and apologise to the House for saying that the final appeal in the case of a road service licence is through the Transport Tribunal. It is to the Minister. I was wrong about that and to that extent the right hon. Gentleman has a good point. There are two separate and distinct processes, one the procedure for obtaining consent and the other the procedure for obtaining a road service licence.

Mr. Norman Cole (Bedfordshire, South)

Presuming the Minister's consent to lodge an application to the traffic commissioners, would it not still be open to the London Board to oppose that application?

Mr. Hay

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The railways would probably oppose it. All sorts of people oppose applications for road service licences, people of whom one has never heard and who suddenly emerge and lodge objections. There is a complicated and difficult process to be gone through by any applicant for a road service licence.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

This appears to be a game of snakes and ladders.

Mr. Hay

The right hon. Gentleman is a very good judge of that game.

Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill: —

The House divided: Ayes 250, Noes 187.

Division No. 170.] AYES [6.44 p.m
Agnew, Sir Peter Bishop, F. P. Channon, H. P. G.
Aithen, W. T. Bossom, Clive Chataway, Christopher
Allasen, James Bourne-Arton, A. Chichester-Clark, R.
Arbuthnot, John Box, Donald Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)
Atkins, Humphrey Boyle, Sir Edward Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)
Balniel, Lord Braine, Bernard Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth W.)
Barlow, Sir John Brewis, John Cleaver, Leonard
Barter, John Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Cole, Norman
Batstord, Brian Brooman-White, R. Collard, Richard
Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate) Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Cooper, A. E.
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Browne, Percy (Torrington) Cooper-Key, Sir Neil
Berkeley, Humphry Bryan, Paul Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.
Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald Buck, Antony Costain, A. P.
Biffen, John Bullard, Denys Coulson, Michael
Biggs-Davison, John Bullus, Wing Commander Eric Craddock, Sir Beresford
Bingham, R. M. Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden) Critchley, Julian
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn) Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver
Crowder, F. P. Kerans, Cdr. J. S. Proudfoot, Wilfred
Cunningham, Knox Kerby, Capt. Henry Pym, Francis
Curran, Charles Kerr, sir Hamilton Ramsden, James
Dalkeith, Earl of Kimball, Marcus Rawlinson, Peter
Dance, James Kirk, Peter Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Deedes, W. F. Kitson, Timothy Rees, Hugh
Digby, Simon Wingfield Langford-Holt, Sir John Renton, David
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M. Leather, E. H. C. Ridley, Hon. Nicholas
Doughty, Charles Leavey, J. A. Rippon, Geoffrey
Drayson, G. B. Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Roots, William
du Cann, Edward Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Duncan, Sir James Lilley, F. J. P. Russell, Ronald
Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David Litchfield, Capt. John Scott-Hopkins, James
Eden, John Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral) Seymour, Leslie
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshal) Longbottom, Charles Sharples, Richard
Emery, Peter Longden, Gilbert Shaw, M.
Errington, Sir Eric Loveys, Walter H. Shepherd, William
Farey-Jones, F. W. Lucas, Sir Jocelyn Skeet, T. H. H.
Fell, Anthony Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)
Finlay, Graeme McAdden, Stephen Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)
Fisher, Nigel MacArthur, Ian Spearman, Sir Alexander
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia Speir, Rupert
Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Stanley, Hon. Richard
Freeth, Denzil Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute&N. Ayrs.) Stevens, Geoffrey
Gammans, Lady McLean, Neil (Inverness) Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Gardner, Edward Macleod, Rt. Hn. Ian (Enfield, W.) Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
George, J. C. (Pollok) Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Storey, Sir Samuel
Gibson-Watt, David Maddan, Martin Studholme, Sir Henry
Gilmour, Sir John Maltland, Sir John Summers Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)
Glover, Sir Douglas Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R. Tapsell, Peter
Goodhart, Philip Markham, Major Sir Frank Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Goodhew, Victor Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)
Gower, Raymond Mathew, Robert (Honiton) Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)
Grant, Rt. Hon. William Matthews, Gordon (Meriden) Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R. Mawby, Ray Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Green, Alan Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Thomas, Peter (Conway)
Gresham Cooke, R. Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Grimond, Rt. Hon. J. Mills, Stratton Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)
Gurden, Harold Montgomery, Fergus Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Hall, John (Wycombe) More, Jasper (Ludlow) Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon
Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Morgan, William Turner, Colin
Harris, Reader (Heston) Morrison, John Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles van Straubenzee W. R.
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Nabarro, Gerald Vane, W, M. F.
Harvey, Sir Arthur vere (Macclesf'd) Heave, Alrey Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Harvie Anderson, Miss Nicholson, Sir Godfrey Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis
Hay, John Noble, Michael Wade, Donald
Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard Walker, Peter
Henderson, John (Cathcart) Oakshott, Sir Hendrie Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek
Hicks Beach, Maj. W. Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Wall, Patrick
Hiley, Joseph Orr-Ewing, C. Ian Ward, Dame Irene
Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe) Osborn, John (Hallam) Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Hirst, Geoffrey Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth) Webster, David
Hobson, Sir John Page, Graham (Crosby) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Hocking, Philip N. Page, John (Harrow, West) Whitelaw, William
Holland, Philip Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe) Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Holt, Arthur Peel, John Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P. Percival, Ian Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Howard, John (Southampton, Test) Peyton, John Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John Pilkington, Sir Richard Wise, A. R.
Hughes-Young, Michael Pitman, Sir James Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Pitt, Miss Edith Woodhouse, C. M.
Jackson, John Pott, Percivall Woodnutt, Mark
Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch Woollam, John
Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Prior, J. M. L. Worsley, Marcus
Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho
Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Profumo, Rt. Hon. John TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. J. E. B. Hill and Mr. McLaren.
Abse, Leo Boyden, James Davies, Ifor (Gower)
Ainsley, William Braddock, Mrs. E, M. Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)
Albu, Austen Brockway, A. Fenner Deer, George
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Dempsey, James
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Diamond, John
Awbery, Stan Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Dodds, Norman
Beaney, Alan Callaghan, James Driberg, Tom
Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Chapman, Donald Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John
Benson, Sir George Cliffe, Michael Ede, Rt. Hon. C.
Blackburn, F. Corbet, Mrs. Freda Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)
Blyton, William Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Edwards, Robert (Bilston)
Boardman, H. Cullen, Mrs. Alice Edwards, Walter (Stepney)
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Darling, George Evans, Albert
Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W.(Leics, S. W.) Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Finch, Harold
Bowles, Frank Davies, Harold (Leek) Fitch, Alan
Foot, Dingle (Ipswich) MacColl, James Rogers, G. H. B. (Kensington, N.)
Forman, J. C. McInnes, James Ross, William
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) McKay, John (Wallsend) Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh McLeavy, Frank Short, Edward
Ginsburg, David MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles) Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Greenwood, Anthony Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Grey, Charles Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Manuel, Archie Small, William
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Mapp, Charles Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Gunter, Ray Marsh, Richard Sorensen, R. W.
Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Mason, Roy Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Mayhew, Christopher Spriggs, Leslie
Hamilton, William (West Fife) Mellish, R. J. Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Hannan, William Mendelson, J. J. Stones, William
Harper, Joseph Millan, Bruce Strachey, Rt. Hon. John
Hart, Mrs. Judith Milne, Edward Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)
Hayman, F. H. Mitchlson, G. R. Swain, Thomas
Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis) Monslow, Walter Swingler, Stephen
Herbison, Miss Margaret Moody, A. S. Taverne, D.
Hill, J. (Midlothian) Morris, John Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Hilton, A. V. Moyle, Arthur Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Holman, Percy Mulley, Frederick Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Houghton, Douglas Neal, Harold Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)
Howell, Charles A. (Perry Barr) Oliver, G. H. Thornton, Ernest
Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Oram, A. E. Tomney, Frank
Hoy, James H. Oswald, Thomas Wainwright, Edwin
Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Owen, Will Watkins, Tudor
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Padley, W. E. Weitzman, David
Hunter, A. E. Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.) Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Hynd, H. (Accrington) Parker, John Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Hynd, John (Attercliffe) Paton, John Whitlock, William
Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Pavitt, Laurence Wilkins, W. A.
Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Willey, Frederick
Jeger, George Peart, Frederick Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Pentland, Norman Williams, LI. (Abertillery)
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Plummer, Sir Leslie Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.) Popplewell, Ernest Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Prentice, R. E. Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Winterbottom, R. E.
Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Probert, Arthur Woodburn, Rt, Hon. A.
Kenyon, Clifford Proctor, W. T. Woof, Robert
Lawson, George Pursey, Cmdr. Harry Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Lee, Frederick (Newton) Randall, Harry Zilliacus, K,
Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Rankin, John
Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Reid, William
Loughlin, Charles Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Robertson, John (Paisley) Dr. Broughton and Mr. Redhead.
McCann, John Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)