HC Deb 26 November 1962 vol 668 cc160-5

Short Title and Section of Statute

The Bradford Corporation Act 1910, Section 17, as amended by the Bradford Order 1922, Section 1.

The North Ormesby South Bank Normanby and Grangetown Railless Traction Act 1912, Section 31, as applied by the Middlesbrough Corporation Act 1919, Section 89, and amended by the London and North Eastern Railway (Road Transport) Act 1928, Section 19.

The Maidstone Corporation Act 1923, Section 17.

The Ashton-under-Lyne Corporation Act 1924, Section 17.

The Ipswich Corporation Act 1925, Section 16, as amended by the Ipswich Corporation Act 1948, Section 32.

The Wolverhampton Corporation Act 1925 Section 20.

The Doncaster Corporation Act 1926, Section 40.

The Rotherham Corporation Act 1928, Section 70.

The Portsmouth Corporation Act 1930, Section 32, as amended by the Portsmouth Corporation Act 1946, Section 8.

The Derby Corporation Act 1930, Section 33.

The Cardiff Corporation Act 1934, Section 31.

The Reading Corporation Act 1935, Section 12.

The South Shields Corporation Act 1935, Section 17, as amended by the South Shields Corporation Act 1945, Section 10.

The Newcastle-upon-Tyne Corporation (General Powers) Act 1935, Section 72.

The Kingston upon Hull Corporation Act 1936, Section 13.

The Stalybridge Hyde Mossley and Dukinfield Transport and Electricity Board Act 1936, Section 18.

This Motion is about trolley buses. Although the popularity which these vehicles at one time enjoyed has recently declined, no fewer than 22 authorities in Great Britain still operate them. They do so under powers conferred by local Acts of Parliament which authorise them to operate only on specified routes. So, in the absence of any expedited or simplified procedure, any alteration or addition to the routes which are set out in each of the Acts would have to be the subject of fresh Private Bill legislation.

This is a cumbersome method, and the various Acts provide, therefore, in almost identical terms that any variation OS alteration to the routes should be made subject to the Provisional Order procedure. For example, Section 17 of the Maidstone Corporation Act, 1923, gives that Corporation the power to apply to the Minister of Transport if it wishes to use trolley vehicles on any road other than the streets or roads mentioned in the Act. The Minister is given the power to make a provisional order authorising the use of these roads by trolley buses.

There are provisions for the protection of the public, namely, publication in newspapers, in the London Gazette and on the roads in question of the intention of the Corporation to make an application, consideration by the Minister of objections lodged by members of the public, and so on.

The House will recall that under the Provisional Order procedure, when such an order is made by a Minister it can only be carried into effect by the Minister later introducing a confirming Bill into Parliament. This House has considered in the more recent past that Provisional Order procedure has some deficiencies and that for certain types of action the Special Procedure Order made under the Statutory Order (Special Procedure) Act, 1945 is more flexible. Put briefly, the object of the Motion is to apply this procedure under the 1945 Act to Orders which may henceforth be made by 16 of the authorities which have these powers to run trolley buses should they wish to provide new routes.

One of the demerits of the Provisional Order procedure is that it is tied to the parliamentary timetable and can be initiated only in October or November of each year. This can prove highly inconvenient in certain cases. Just now, I mentioned the Maidstone Corporation Act, 1923. Maidstone Corporation would find considerable advantage if the procedure were altered. At present, a new road is being built in the centre of Maidstone, and it is desired to divert trolley buses to it in one direction, but until the road is sufficiently advanced to be called a road for the purposes of Maidstone's private legislation, the Corporation cannot promote an Order.

If the Corporation has to wait for a Provisional Order, as its present Act requires, it must wait until next autumn. If it wishes to legislate instead, it must still wait until next autumn. Under the special Parliamentary procudure to which the Motion relates, the Corporation would be able to promote an Order by the Minister at any time as soon as the new road is capable of being regarded legally as a road.

I should tell the House that six of the 22 authorities which operate trolley buses have already applied this new procedure by private legislation in recent years. No difficulty has arisen, although one authority has promoted as many as four Orders since 1955.

Perhaps I may spend a moment or two in refreshing the memory of hon. Members about the special Parliamentary procedure, the protection for objectors and the right of both Houses of Parliament to intervene. The procedure laid down under the 1945 Act is that, in the first place, the proposed Order to be submitted to the Minister must be notified very widely to the public. This is usually done by advertisement. Any objector—in the case of a trolley bus Order, this might include, for instance, the operator of another type of transport such as an ordinary bus service—may object to the Minister. There are powers for the Minister to hold a public local inquiry to ventilate objections. Thereafter, if the Minister decides to do so, he makes the Order and lays it before Parliament. There is no confirming Bill as in the case of the Provisional Order procedure.

The Order must lie for a period of fourteen days during which objectors may have a second bite at the cherry and present petitions to Parliament. If no such petitions are lodged, a further period of fourteen days is allowed during which a Resolution may be moved in either House. If petitions are lodged, they are referred for examination by the Chairman of Ways and Means and the Lord Chairman of Committees, and they are thereafter considered by a Joint Committee of both Houses. If the Joint Committee makes no admendment, the Order comes into force forthwith. If the Joint Committee does make an amendment, then, as under the Provincial Order procedure, a confirming Bill is still necessary.

I think that it is now fairly generally accepted, particularly since the statement by the then Minister of Housing and Local Government on 1st August, 1961, that this procedure provides an adequate opportunity for proper scrunity of any such Order.

I should emphasise that these possibilities of scrunity may well he important in the context of trolley bus operation. Trolley buses involve fixed equipment in the street, including overhead electrified wires. I do not think that the House would think it right to allow such installations without some scrunity and formal authorisation.

All I need tell the House, finally, is that the power to apply the special parliamentary procedure in place of the Provisional Order procedure is contained in Section 8 (3) of the 1945 Act which provides that, if an Address is presented to Her Majesty by both Houses praying for the provisions of the 1945 Act to be applied to Orders made under an enactment passed before the 1945 Act but in substitution for the Provisional Order procedure, Her Majesty may make an Order in Council to effect the substitution. For this reason, the draft now before the House is a draft of the Order in Council. Hon. Members will see that the Schedules attached contain the amendments to the individual Private Acts of Parliament of the remaining 16 trolley bus operators to give effect to the change.

I think that this is a useful but limited change to make, and I hope that the House will agree to the Motion.

10.20 p.m.

Mr. F. Blackburn (Stalybridge and Hyde)

I am not quite clear about one point. The Parliamentary Secretary said that 22 authorities were running trolley bus services, but only 16 are mentioned in the Statutory Instrument. I think that he said that the other six had previously brought in Orders under the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act. How were those six authorities able to introduce Orders under that Act?

Mr. Hay

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman did not quite hear what I said. I stated that the other six had already introduced private legislation which, inter alia, gave them the special Parliamentary procedure in respect of their trolley bus operations.

Mr. Blackburn

I thank the hon. Gentleman for clearing up that point.

10.21 p.m.

Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary for mentioning the particular difficulties in which the Maidstone Corporation found itself. If by some mischance hon. Members do not agree to this procedure tonight, will my hon. Friend confirm that my Corporation would be in the greatest difficulty with its new scheme? To us in Maidstone it is of the very greatest importance that this Motion should be passed.

I would remind my hon. Friend and other hon. Members that the Maidstone Corporation is able to run a very successful transport undertaking and to make a profit, which is somewhat unusual. It should be congratulated on this and on the fact that it has, I believe, been instrumental in stirring my right hon. Friend into tonight's activities, which. I believe, redounds strongly to the credit of my transport undertaking.

10.23 p.m.

Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)

We should place on record our appreciation of the courteous way in which the Parliamentary Secretary explained this Order. The only thing which strikes me as odd—perhaps this links up with the Government's transport policy—is the fact that we are going through this procedure in order to assist trolley buses to go on to alternative routes. It is a sad and sorry thought that our transport policy should still be concerned with ensuring that we have trolley buses on the road. I should have thought that the day and age for trolley buses had long since gone. With great respect to the Maidstone Corporation and all that it is doing, I should have liked to think that many of these orders would not be necessary. We shall not oppose the Order and we congratulate Maidstone for doing so well. We on this side have always thought that municipalities were very much better than private enterprise.

Mr. J. Wells

Those that make a profit.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the provisions of the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act, 1945, be applied to Orders hereafter to be made under any of the enactments specified in the following table (which relate to the authorisation by the Minister of Transport of new routes along which trolley vehicles may be used), in substitution for the provisions of any such enactment providing that such Orders shall be provisional only and shall not have effect until confirmed by Parliament:—

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