HC Deb 19 July 1968 vol 768 cc1877-85
Mr. Corfield

I beg to move Amendment No. 3, in page 3, line 28, at end insert: Provided that where any such representations are made—

  1. (a) by any person regularly operating aircraft into or out of any aerodrome to which this section applies and such representations relate to the provisions of any byelaw relating to any of the matters mentioned in paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of this section; or
  2. (b) by any chief officer of police (including any chief officer of the constabulary of the aerodrome concerned) and such representations relate to the provision of any byelaw relating to any of the matters mentioned in paragraphs (b), (c), (d), (e), (f) or (g) of subsection (1) of this section; or
  3. 1878
  4. (c) by any local planning authority and such representations relate to the provisions of any byelaw relating to any of the matters metioned in paragraphs (e), (g) or (i) of subsection (1) of this section; or
  5. (d) by any local authority and such representations relate to the provisions of any byelaw relating to any matter mentioned in paragraph (i)of subsection (1) of this section.
The Board shall before making any byelaws to which such representations relate afford to any such person, chief officer of police, local planning authority or local authority, as the case may be, the opportunity of being heard by an officer appointed by the President of the Board of Trade for that purpose.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this Amendment we can discuss the following three Amendments, standing in the name of the hon. Member for Gloucestershire South (Mr. Corfield) No. 4, in page 4, line 11, leave out subsection (2) and insert: (2) Byelaws made under this section shall not have effect until they are confirmed by the Board and the provisions of Schedule 6 to the Airports Authority Act 1965 (which govern the making and con[...]on of byelaws by the Authority) shall apply also, subject to any necessary modifications, to byelaws made under this section. No. 5, in line 12 at end insert: 'and subsection (3) of section 2 of this Act shall apply to the confirmation of byelaws by the Board under this section as it applies to the making of byelaws under section 2 of this Act aforesaid'. No. 32, in line 38, leave out from 'Board' to end of line 42 and insert: 'and subsection (3) of section 2 of this Act shall apply to the confirmation of byelaws by the Board under this section as it applies to the making of byelaws under section 2 of this Act aforesaid'.

Mr. Corfield

With respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I do not think that No. 4, No. 5 and No. 32 have very much to do with No. 3, but of course I will consider them together if that is your wish.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Mr Speaker has indicated that they can go together if any hon. Member desires to discuss them with No. 3.

Mr. Corfield

I think that it would be more convenient to take No. 4, No. 5 and No. 32 together but separately from No. 3.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

They cannot be taken separately now. If anyone wants to refer to them on Amendment No. 3, he can do so but they cannot be called separately now.

Mr. Corfield

No. 3 deals with a different point. The House will observe that Clause 2(3) provides that, where the Board of Trade is making byelaws in respect of an aerodrome which it controls, it shall provide an opportunity for representations to be made and shall only finally make the byelaws when it has taken those representations into account. It seems to us that, where the byelaws affect persons or bodies with particular knowledge or responsibilities in relation to their subject matter, it is important that those persons should not only be able to make representations but that the decision of the Board of Trade should be seen to be taken on the merits as deployed by those who hold such responsibilities.

This can only b[...]in cases where the Board of Tra[...] inclined to dismiss representations, it the persons concerned are given the opportunity of appearing before someone appointed by the President of the Board of Trade for the purpose of deploying the arguments, bearing in mind that it is not always easy—sometimes impossible—fully to deploy arguments in respect of representations if one does not know the grounds on which it is proposed to dismiss those representations or objections, whatever one may call them.

The purpose of Amendment No. 3, therefore, is to ensure that people with special responsibilities have the right to appear before a person appointed by the President of the Board of Trade to argue their case when they are dissatisfied with the proposed byelaws. Subparagraph (a) of the Amendment deals with the operation of aircraft. Anyone operating aircraft from the aerodrome concerned would have the right to make his case orally if the Board of Trade was disposed to dismiss a written representation. Sub-paragraph (b) deals with matters which are particularly the responsibility of either the chief constable of the district or the chief of the constables appointed by the Airports Authority. This covers the prevention of obstruction within the aerodrome, the control of vehicular traffic, the control of waiting by hackney carriages, the preservation of order within the aerodrome and the prevention of damage to property and the regulation or restriction of advertising within, the aerodrome.

Subparagraph (c) deals with matters which seem to us to be particularly within the interests and, indeed, within the powers of local planning authorities. It is surely right that, if a byelaw will affect matters on which the local planning authority has strong views, it should have the right to argue its case. The same applies to subparagraph (d), which is to restrict areas constituted as aerodromes for the purposes of byelaws. Again this is a matter on which the local authority might have views which it would be important for it to make known.

The procedure we propose would have the great advantage that it would be seen beyond doubt that the President of the Board of Trade, in making the byelaws had taken account of the arguments put for[...] by people with particular respon[...]ties for carrying them out. This w[...] be a major advantage to those concerned and also to this House in the sense that it would enable proper Parliamentary control to be exercised.

I am afraid that Amendments No. 4, No. 5 and No. 32 constitute a wholly different argument, and I must refer back to subsection (3) of Clause 2. As I have pointed out, the Board of Trade, when making byelaws in respect of aerodromes which it controls, is obliged to afford an opportunity for representations to be made and to consider those representations before finally making the byelaws. In Clause 3, a similar set of powers is conferred upon the local authorities which own aerodromes. In their case, the confirming authority for byelaws is to be the Board of Trade. But there is no provision for a local authority to give an opportunity to people to make representations to it about its proposed byelaws, let alone any enjoining on the Board of Trade to take these representations into account before confirming those byelaws.

In Clause 4, the Board of Trade may designate an aerodrome run by a private operator, and once there has been such designation the owner can make byelaws. Once again the confirming authority is to be the Board of Trade. This time, however, Byelaws made under this section shall not have effect until they are confirmed by the Board, and the provisions of Schedule 3 to the Airports Authority Act 1965 … shall apply also, subject to any necessary modifications … But Schedule 3 only requires that there shall be notice of the proposal to make the byelaws and a notice indicating where that notice and maps can be inspected. There is no provision in it for the making of representations, let alone for their being taken into account before the byelaws are confirmed. It would be sensible, therefore, to have a common requirement throughout Clauses 2, 3 and 4 in relation to the making and confirmation of bye-laws, and we suggest, first, that we should import the terms of Clause 2(3) into Clause 3 and 4 instead of the existing subsections (2) of Clauses 3 and 4. That is the purpose of Amendments No. 5 and 32. Amendment No. 4, on the other hand, produces uniformity in a different way by importing into Clause 3 the necessity of complying with the provisions of Schedule 3 of the Airports Act, 1965, thereby obtaining uniformity of Clauses 3 and 4, where the Board of Trade is purely a confirming authority, but leaving a slightly different approach in Clause 2(3) where the Board of Trade is not only a confirming authority but a making authority. It seemed to us that it would be simpler and more sensible to have a uniform approach.

1.30 p.m.

I stress that it is odd that where the President of the Board of Trade, who is directly answerable to the House, makes byelaws in respect of airports under his control and is therefore subject to question and answer in this House, there is a tighter requirement than where he is confirming byelaws made by private individuals and local authorities. It does not make much sense, and even at this late stage I think it would be right to change the drafting of the Bill so as to introduce uniformity, at any rate into Clauses 3 and 4, and preferably into Clauses 2, 3 and 4.

Mr. A. Royle

I rise to speak briefly in support of my hon. Friend and to raise one particular aspect of the Amendment and of the Clause.

I do not know whether the Minister of State, since he has not been in his present position for long, is aware of the scandalous situation now obtaining at London Airport in the hiring of taxis. I am anxious that the situation which arises at London Airport today should not arise at any other Board of Trade or local authority aerodrome. Paragraph (b) of the Amendment provides for control: (b) by any chief officer of police (including any chief officer of the constabulary of the aerodrome concerned) and such representations relate to the provision of any byelaw relating to any of the matters mentioned in paragraphs (b), (c), (d), (e), (f) or (g) of subsection (1) of this section; Clause 2(1) of the Bill provides in paragraph (d): for prohibiting waiting by hackney carriages except at standings appointed by such person as may be specified in the byelaws; This refers to the standing and waiting of hackney carriages at any airport which will come under the control of the Board of Trade. The situation at London Airport is so grave and so scandalous that I would like an assurance from the Minister that this provision will empower him to deal with hackney carriages in other aerodromes in such a way that the situation now obtaining at Heathrow will not obtain elsewhere.

I will briefly give the Minister of State an example of what I mean. On Sunday night I returned with a friend on a flight from the Continent to London Airport, and I left the airport building in order to obtain a taxi to convey me to London. On leaving the airport building accompanied by a porter carrying my baggage, I was surrounded by a mob—there is no other word for it—of taxi drivers who were shouting, remonstrating, pushing and jostling amongst themselves in order to obtain my fare to London. The baggage was taken from the hands of the porter and was put into a taxi. The driver inquired my destination in central London. I told the driver that I wished to go to an address in Chelsea and an address near Oxford Street in order to drop my friend. He said that the charge for the trip would be £4. I remonstrated with him, as this seemed to be an absurd amount. However, he insisted, and I allowed him to put my bag in his cab. No sooner had I sat down in the cab when altercations started between him and other taxi-drivers in the vicinity who apparently wanted to take me to London. This was finally concluded and the driver opened the door of my cab to ask me whether I wished to go first to Chelsea or to Oxford Street. I told him I wished to go first to Oxford Street, and he said, "That will be an extra 10s. on your fare". I was then faced with getting out of the cab, removing my baggage and starting an altercation with another driver and embarking on a major negotiation to get myself to London.

We set off and went first to Oxford Street and then to Cadogan Place in Chelsea, where I was finally dropped by the taxi-driver. The amount showing on the clock at the end of the journey was 39s. 6d. In the dispute that had taken place at the airport my porter had not been tipped and the driver informed me that he would subtract 5s. from my total fare to tip the porter. The net cost of my trip, according to the driver, was therefore £4 5s. for a journey that should have cost 39s. 6d. I am aware that under the byelaws of the Metropolitan area a driver is entitled to negotiate a fare outside a six-mile limit, and that is why I paid the fare as requested, but this scandalous state of affairs could follow in other parts of the country in other aerodromes which might be run by the Board of Trade.

Whilst I found the incident annoying enough, and indeed I have sent the details, including the number of the driver and his licence number to the Home Secretary, what can foreigners coming into the country think when this sort of incident occurs on their arrival at Heathrow? I am an Englishman and have some knowledge of the currency used in this country, but what can foreigners who do not understand the currency think when they are greeted by these extraordinary mob tactics by tough and angry drivers right outside the airport buildings, with the constables at London Airport apparently totally unable to control the situation? On the occasion of which I was speaking there were several policemen walking past who did not in any way try to get order into the taxi rank or amongst the drivers who were jostling and pushing for fares.

I know that this subject has been raised in the House many times, but it seems to me that the time has come for action to be taken, either by the Home Office or by the Minister's Department, to deal with the situation at London Airport. Whilst I realise that he may not be able to give an answer today, I hope that now I have given him a first-hand example of the scandalous situation which now obtains at London Airport outside the European Building at Heathrow, he will take action to deal with it.

I am most anxious that he should give us an assurance today that chief constables and officers responsible in other airports in the country will have the powers, which apparently they do not have at the moment at Heathrow, to enable them to stop this sort of behaviour. I apologise to the Minister of State if I am not here during the whole of his reply, but I have to leave, and I would be most grateful if he would look into this for me.

Mr. William Rodgers

I am fully aware of what the hon. Gentleman has described as the scandalous state of affairs about taxis at London Airport at the present time. I regard it as disgraceful and damaging to the country in a number of ways. As the House knows, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is seeking to take the necessary steps which I hope in due course will remedy the situation.

The hon. Gentleman was more temperate in his behaviour than I would have been. I have always regarded him as a fairly tough customer, but perhaps his proper sense of responsibility and his desire to draw the matter to the attention of Ministers led him on this occasion to be less determined than I would have been in a similar situation; I would have been greatly provoked. I take note of what he says, and I can assure the House that those responsible will ensure that never again will a comparable situation arise in any other airport in the country. I am grateful to him for drawing attention once again to the situation, though I am sure that many visitors to this country will know that there are other ways of getting to Central London than by taxi, and the attractions of being here are very much greater than such inconvenience as is caused in the way that he suggests.

I was also grateful to the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) for the very reasonable way in which he explained this complicated matter. I can see his argument that some uniformity Would seem to be necessary. But we are dealing with a situation which is anything but uniform, bearing in mind the ownership of the separate airports, and also the existing legislation to which this legislation refers from time to time.

I have been looking into the matter very closely because I have much sympathy with the Amendments in the first instance. However, I am satisfied that the Bill provides the necessary guarantees. Rather than detain the House too long, I will mention only that, on Amendment No. 3, the proposal would introduce a new principle into the byelaw-making procedure, and the principle would be extended by Amendments Nos. 5 and 32 to the confirmation of aerodrome byelaws by the Board at local authority and private airports.

Very careful consideration is given by the Board of Trade to representations which we receive in our capacity as bye-law makers or as a confirming authority, and there is nothing at present to preclude a hearing if it should be considered necessary, which is not usually the case.

Although I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not realise it, the Amendments would have the effect of subjecting the procedure of consultation to a set of formal rules which might limit the right to a hearing to a specific category of persons and authorities. It would restrict the present position and have the reverse effect to that which he has in mind.

Bearing in mind the way in which the Act will be administered and the element of consultation which must come in, though I can see why the hon. Gentleman felt it necessary to put down these Amendments and to raise the point, the Bill as it stands will meet the needs that he sees.

I ought to make the further point in advising the House to reject the Amendments that none of them could be accepted in the form in which they have been tabled.

Amendment negatived.

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