HC Deb 04 February 1965 vol 705 cc1270-2
20. Mr. Dudley Smith

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress he has made in his consultations with taxi-cab owners over extending the present six-mile meter limit, particularly with regard to taxis plying for hire at London Airport.

Mr. George Thomas

Representatives of all sides of the London taxi-cab trade have expressed their views on proposals for revision of the six-mile limit. My right hon. and learned Friend is giving further consideration to the question in the light of the trade's representations but he is not yet ready to make a statement.

Mr. Smith

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a fair number of taxi drivers as well as practically everybody else believe that the six-mile limit is out of date? Would it not be sensible if it were extended to, say, 14 miles to combat the exploitation of passengers arriving at London Airport? Is he aware—I am sure that he is—of the outrageous demands made by some taxi drivers in respect of journeys into London?

Mr. Thomas

It is quite true that when a journey is over six miles or is of more than an hour's duration the driver and the hirer have to haggle over the price. It is unfair to call it negotiation. We are aware that the cab owners have strong views on this question, but there is some disagreement, as the hon. Gentleman well knows, on the part of taxicab drivers about it. My right hon. and learned Friend is aware of all the difficulties. He travels from London Airport. We will do our best to meet this question.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Besides taking into account the representations of the trade, the taxi drivers and taxi owners, would the hon. Gentleman take into account the public interest, which must be paramount?

Mr. Thomas

The hon. Gentleman surprises me. It is the public interest which we have in mind. In 1964, about 60 complaints were received from the public. However, I have no doubt that a great many more people felt disturbed but did not take the trouble to complain. We are aware of the public interest in this matter. We need no prodding. My right hon. and learned Friend is considering it.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

While bearing in mind the public interest, would the hon. Gentleman also bear in mind the interests of visitors to this country, particularly people coming here to negotiate business? This sort of thing gives a very bad impression of our arrangements. The rate charged is much higher than it is from international airports in other capitals.

Mr. Thomas

It is a fact that a great many visitors to our country have their first impression when they seek a taxi into Central London. The cab trade itself has recommended a scale of fares to cab drivers for such journeys, but they are not enforceable by law. The recommended tariff which is exhibited at the airport includes a charge for a journey between the airport and Charing Cross or the West End of 50s. to 55s. The cab trade itself recommends this. My right hon. and learned Friend is considering what he can do.