§ APPLICATIONS FOR OPERATORS' LICENCES
Amendment made: No. 211, in page 80, line 19, leave out subsection (1) and insert:
(1) A person may apply for an operator's licence to the licensing authority for each area in which, if the licence is granted, the applicant will have an operating centre or operating centres; and a person may hold separate operators' licences in respect of different areas but shall not at any time hold more than one such licence in respect of the same area.—[Mr. Swingler.]
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Campbell
I beg to move Amendment No. 212, in page 81, line 3, to leave out lines 3 to 5.
Those lines constitute paragraph (b) of subsection (4), and are particulars of the demand which is expected for the carriage of goods by those vehicles.
In Committee, the Minister stated categorically that in this Part of the Bill dealing with quality licensing there would be no element of quantity licensing. Therefore, we are surprised to find that this paragraph requires an applicant to give details of the demand expected. In Committee, the Minister clearly stated:This is not a system of quantity licensing. It is a system of quality licensing. Therefore, the judgment which the licensing authority is called upon to make is about the quality. If the operator can show that he has maintenance facilities which are adequate for a much bigger fleet than that which he happens to have, then he has permission to expand his fleet without reference back to the 1640 authority."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee F, 28th March, 1968; c. 2280.]Given that there is no element of quantity licensing here, and provided that the safety and maintenance provisions are satisfactory for the operation of a larger number of vehicles, it is difficult to see why it should be necessary to give in the application particulars of the demand expected for the carriage of goods. The applicant is expected to give to the licensing authority a number of other particulars, but this requirement does not appear to be necessary and, indeed, it is misleading because it gives the impression that there is a quantity element in this part of the Bill.
I recognise that when this matter was discussed previously there may have been a misunderstanding because the Minister spoke of the financial resources which an applicant had to show he possessed. But paragraph (g) of subsection (4) deals with the question of financial resources. It is not that to which we object; it is the question of demand. I hope that the Government will have considered this matter again because I believe that there was a genuine misunderstanding in Committee. I trust that they will agree that the question of demand does not arise from this Clause. We shall have a lot to say about demand and on the quantity licensing proposals, which are entirely different.
I hope that the Government will reconsider this point, otherwise it will be difficult for operators to believe that no quantity element is involved. I trust that they will not say that there is a quantity element in the present A and B licensing systems. We know that. The point of the proposals in the Bill is to do away with the existing system and to provide two separate systems—on quality and quantity.
It is the intention of hon. Members on both sides of the House to try to make the system of quality licensing as broadly acceptable as possible to everybody subjected to it. The Amendment proposes a way to remove the doubts and misunderstandings and to make it clear that the system is based on quality.
§ Mr. David Mitchell (Basingstoke)
In considering rather carefully how this Clause could have appeared in the form in which it is it seems to me that it is a 1641 left-over from an old fear which is no longer justified. There was a fear, and it may be that hon. Members opposite still have it, that a man might purchase a couple of old lorries not in a roadworthy condition, pay a fiver each for them when they ought to have gone to the breaker's yard, and set up in business in that way. I know there is a genuine feeling among some hon. Members, and one can understand it, that if we do not have a restriction in this Clause this sort of thing might happen. However, the whole purpose of this Part of the Bill dealing with the quality licensing is to prevent that from happening, because if a lorry is not in a fit condition to be on the road, and if the man proposing to use it has not the finance to maintain it properly, he will not be allowed to do any business with it. That being so the basic reason for putting in this paragraph does not apply any longer. Therefore I would support my hon. Friend very strongly in pressing the Government to delete the paragraph.
Apart from there being now no longer any reason for its being in the Bill, there is the other aspect of the matter, that it is really very unfair that a man should have to expose for consideration exactly what business he is proposing to get, and leave it to somebody else to assess his prospects of success. So far as I understand it, the information which is given to the licensing authority will not be entirely private and privileged but could find its way into the hands of the man's competitors. This would be grossly unfair and improper, but there seems to be no way to prevent that from happening under the proposals as laid down here.
Moreover, the ability of such a body to judge whether or not a man will have sufficient business to make a success of his enterprise must be a matter for him and not for such a body. I put it to the Minister that had he been at the Board of Trade a few years ago and somebody had come along and said, "I want permission to spend money on making an egg-beating machine" he would probably have booted him out of the office, but the fact is that the manufacture of the Kenwood mixer was built up having been undertaken when it was not regarded as economic. I do not think the licensing authorities have this wonderful ability to judge, better than the man whose capital 1642 is involved, whether his proposed enterprise will be a success or not.
§ Mr. Leslie Huckfield
If the hon. Member studies the reports of the licensing authorities established over the past five or six years he will find exactly the opposite of what he is trying to tell the House. In their annual reports they have proved, quite conclusively to the reasonable man, that in many cases they are in a far better position to judge.
§ Mr. Mitchell
One of the advantages of a competitive system in a free society is that, for the benefit of everybody, prices are kept down—by traders and manufacturers competing—
§ Mr. Mitchell
—and why should they not be allowed so to do? After all, we are proposing to start this system by applying it to vehicles of 30 cwt. and over. There is no such restriction on vehicles of under 30 cwt. It seems to be a slightly artificial point at which to make this criterion start to operate. Apart entirely from that, the high cost of setting up in business these days, the high cost of vehicles, and the high cost of maintaining them at high standards, seems to me to be sufficient to deter people from setting up in business unless they have a genuine prospect of making a success of it. People do not have vast sums of money to chuck about recklessly. Bank managers look carefully before lending money to finance the start of enterprises of this sort.
For these reasons I do not believe there is any need for the Bill to contain this paragraph, which is really a part of quantity licensing rather than quality licensing, and I hope, therefore, that the Minister will accept this Amendment.
§ Mr. Bessell
This is an important matter. It is a matter which, under a different guise, we discussed at some length in Standing Committee, but I think it is important for us to emphasise here that, as the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell) said, we are dealing with two separate systems of licensing. We are dealing with quality licensing and with quantity licensing. I join the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn in saying that the broad principle of quality licensing is entirely acceptable 1643 to us, as, indeed, is much of the detail contained in this Part of the Bill. We believe that there is a strong argument to be advanced in favour of tightening up controls to ensure not only greater safety of the vehicles themselves but, in turn, greater safety for the drivers of the vehicles and other road users.
Having said that, I believe it is right to underline that the two systems have somehow or another become muddled, because whichever way one looks at Clause 58(4)(b), which this Amendment would delete, it cannot be regarded as other than an element of quantity licensing. The point which is covered by it is covered by the provisions of Clause 67, and it is, therefore, quite unnecessary, in my view, but even if it were necessary, even if the Minister were to say, for example, that under the present licensing system a similar requirement has to be met—to which my reply, incidentally, would be that in any case it is covered under the quantity licensing system—even if he were to reply to the argument on privacy which the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell) put, that an applicant already has to disclose a great deal about his business and disclose it publicly so that that is already known to his competitors, the fact remains that this paragraph is unworkable, at least so I believe, and that is the reason why I support the Amendment and why I objected in Standing Committee to this paragraph.
If we look at this paragraph, we see that taken in relation to the rest of the Clause it can be operated at the discretion of the licensing authority. The licensing authority may decide to ask for a number of particulars which are spelled out in this subsection, and among those for which he may decide to ask areparticulars of the demand which it is expected there will be for the carriage of goods by means of those vehicles ".I do not believe that it is possible to operate this paragraph, because although some licensing authorities with sound common sense will say, "This is really something which we cannot expect every operator to answer, though there may be some instances where they can", other licensing authorities may decide, perhaps 1644 because of representations made to them —who knows—that this is a paragraph which ought to be operated. Then if the applicant cannot satisfy them in relation to the demand which is likely to be made upon the vehicles, they are quite clearly entitled to turn down the application.
I believe that this is a very serious situation indeed, because I can visualise a case where, for example, a comparatively small carrier may not be able to indicate the demand which is going to be made upon his services. He may say that he expects there will be a demand, let us say, to remove furniture or goods from one part of the country to another, or within a restricted area. But he may not be able to say with certainty what the demand is going to be. While the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn was speaking, I was thinking of a small haulier who operates his business from his depot near me in Cornwall. He has a relatively small business with two or three lorries, but I should guess that it would be extremely difficult for him to tell me or any licensing authority in any degree of detail what he anticipates his business is likely to be one month from now. He could probably say, "I have orders for this week and orders for next week, and on my books I have one or two orders for the week after next", but I should not expect him to be able to give a complete picture.
§ Mr. Manuel
I can agree with what the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell) is saying, but paragraph (b) is not asking for that. The operator is obviously expecting something, or he would not be applying for an operator's licence. There is no detail asked for here. But he is expected to give some information about the volume that he intends to carry.
§ Mr. Bessell
I would say to the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel), that if the paragraph were worded in that way, and were as clear as the hon. Gentleman has himself made it, then I do not think there would be any objection to it, although I should still say that an element of quantity was being introduced into the quality licensing system. But, having said that, I still cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman, because the paragraph does not say that the licensing authority must be 1645 given some approximate idea of what is expected. What it says is,particulars of the demand which it is expected …In other words, it asks for particulars of the demand which has caused a person to go into business. As the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire rightly said the applicant may be able to give a rough outline. I do not think anyone would go into that sort of business or apply for a licence under this new system unless he had some idea, and some anticipation of profits.
§ Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)
Does this Clause not have a bearing on Clause 59, which lays down certain persons who can object to a licence being granted? I have a great deal of sympathy with what the hon. Gentleman is saying, and I agree with him that it would be a bit difficult to get a licence, because Clause 59 gives certain persons or groups of persons power to object to one's having it.
§ Mr. Bessell
The hon. Gentleman has made a valuable point here, because if this is taken in association with Clause 59 the point is underlined. Although the particulars of the person who may object, and the system under which he may object, are spelled out pretty clearly, and the Clause is clearly restrictive—in principle, it is not a bad Clause—the difficulty is that once there is a system of objection, which I accept there must be, it is then possible to give a far greater significance to a paragraph of this sort than would be the case if there were no method of objection. That is why I feel the paragraph is dangerous in its present form, because it may well be that an applicant is unable to satisfy the licensing authority, if the licensing authority in its discretion decides to make this particular demand. I recognise that in the majority of cases the licensing authority is not likely to exercise this paragraph, and will be satisfied with a general statement of the anticipated business, but the discretion could be misused.
§ Mr. David Mitchell
But surely a licensing authority will be bound by the provisions of this Measure when it becomes an Act. It does not refer to a general statement. It says "particulars", and, legally, "particulars" means what it says and not what the hon. Member 1646 for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell) is now expressing the hope that it might be allowed to mean.
§ Mr. Bessell
If I may say so, this is not quite correct. Subsection (4) does not concern the basic information. That is dealt with in subsection (1). It says:A person applying for an operator's licence shall give to the licensing authority any further information which he may reasonably require for the discharge of his duties in relation to the application, and in particular shall, if he is required by the licensing authority …In other words, the licensing authority is given absolute discretion, and I see the Parliamentary Secretary indicating his agreement.
In most cases, I believe that the average licensing authority will not require more than a general statement, but in certain cases, especially where an objection is raised, one might run into a situation where this would be a demand which it would be impossible to fulfil.
Apart from the fact that I agree with the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn that this is a quantity licensing provision and should have its place in the quantity section if it is to be in the Bill at all, there is a practical objection, and, for that reason, I hope that the Government will agree that it is a valid point by accepting the Amendment.
§ Mr. W. Baxter
I hesitate to enter into the debate, but this matter is a rather important aspect of the Bill. As one with some experience of being on the receiving end of a licensing authority, I am a little concerned about the powers of such authorities as they are defined in the Clause. In the past, my experience has been that licensing authorities can become a law unto themselves, just as committees and individuals have a tendency to do when they are given permissive powers under a Statute.
During the last war, I had a conditional B licence, which was taken away when the licence system came back into its own again. Since then, I have applied diligently for an A or B licence to permit my firm to ply for hire for reward.
The Clause and subsequent provisions give a licensing authority certain powers by defining it in such a way that it can become almost a law unto itself. One has no power to override it, because it 1647 has the statutory power to carry out its obligations as it sees fit. After all, a traffic commissioner is only human, and he has the usual weaknesses of human beings.
§ Mr. Manuel
May I remind my hon. Friend that the Clause and this Amendment deal entirely with quality licensing. The Clause has nothing to do with the issue of a licence for a vehicle as such. It is concerned with giving it a quality licence. The Clause is brought forward in order to make sure that operators' vehicles are kept in good condition.
§ Mr. Baxter
I am grateful for my hon. Friend's intervention, but I am aware that this is on the basis of quality. However, I believe that there is a factor based upon quantity here which we would prefer not to see in this part of the Bill.
I do not see the matter in as simple and as clear a light as my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel). It is not depicted in a manner which one can see and describe. Indeed, there is a parallel here with a good deal of modern art that one sees nowadays, where it is difficult to tell whether a man's head is intended to be on his shoulders or between his legs. A similar concept has crept into drafting in this House. If it was as clear as my hon. Friend indicates, there would be no need for me to ask for clarification. I may not be as clever or able as some hon. Members who had the privilege of examining the Bill in Committee upstairs, but I say frankly that this is bad legislation which gives permissive power to an individual or a group of individuals who are not responsible in any way to the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Leslie Huckfield
If my hon. Friend is saying that this is bad legislation, I do not think that he is aware that many licensing authorities are now and have been for some years asking for this kind of information.
§ Mr. Baxter
My hon. Friend has not followed the point I am making. No one knows more than I do about being on the receiving side of the licensing authority. Since the war, I have had 14, 15 or 16 vehicles and I have always been on the receiving side. I am conscious of 1648 the need for vehicles to be kept up to the highest peak of perfection.
I want to be sure that this new group of people, who will have the power to say whether or not one should have a licence, will take into consideration the aspects of the matter which were considered under the previous arrangements —that is, the quantity of vehicles used in a particular area. This is an important aspect of this Bill and I should like greater clarification.
§ Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)
I am glad that the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. W. Baxter) has raised this issue from a practical point of view. I was not a member of the Standing Committee which dealt with this Bill and I therefore come to the subject fresh. I am alarmed by the Clause and by Clause 58.
I declare my interest in that I am a director of a company that distributes motor spare parts. We have 30 or 40 lorries distributing silencers, brake linings and so on to 40 or 50 depots, and we must carry these items about the country every day of the week. The ordinary C licensee, and I am one, must now give eight different sets of particulars to the licensing authorities—a burden in itself. In addition, he must give particulars of the demand for his transport; the demand for the carriage of goods. In other words, he must show the licensing authority what induces him to run his lorries about the country, distributing goods to his own depots. If I read the Clause correctly, it seems that a trade association could, on behalf of one of its members, bring into the light of day the details of the trade being carried out by an operator.
In the trade with which I am connected there are only two main competitors. I assume that one competitor could, through a trade association, object to what his counterpart is doing and thereby seek details of the demand for the carriage of goods by his competitor. This is Socialism going rather mad. [Interruption.] I wish that hon. Gentlemen opposite would listen to my argument. People must disclose details not in relation to operators competing with railway companies but of one's ordinary trade between one's headquarters store and 1649 Depôts in various parts of the country. I would have thought that this was part of quantity licensing rather than quality licensing and that, if anywhere, it should be in a different part of the Bill.
I am alarmed at this provision and I cannot imagine its object. Why should a trader who is carrying on business in his own trade and transporting goods to his own depots have to disclose the details of his trade to his competitors? To be obliged to give the details of demand is totally wrong in the mixed economy in which we live.
§ Mr. Leslie Huckfield
I am perplexed by the observations of the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) because he does not realise that under the Bill his company will not only be in a position to carry its own goods but to carry other people's goods, too. This particularly applies if his firm is operating, as I suspect it is, vehicles of under 16-tons gross and below 5-tons unladen. It is only right and proper that there should be some sort of examination of the demand which the hon. Gentleman could perhaps claim for his vehicles.
For people who operate C licence vehicles only, even the conditions under the new proposals will put them in a privileged position compared with their counterparts in, for example, the Common Market countries, the United States and Canada. If the hon. Gentleman considers the system operating in Germany he will see that there is a penal tax on private goods vehicle operation. Under the system in Holland there is the utmost dissuasion—
Mr. Deputy Speaker
(Sir Eric Fletcher): Order. The hon. Gentleman is getting rather wide of the Amendment.
§ Mr. Huckfield
I am pointing out to the hon. Member for Twickenham the error of his ways. He does not realise that in future there will be about 900,000 goods vehicles in a category which will—
Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman must confine his remarks to the terms of the Amendment.
§ Mr. Huckfield
I am attempting to point out that in future instead of having to go through the ritual procedure 1650 of approaching the licensing authority for an A, B, C or contract licence— which is itself a check on demand from the point of view of an applicant's facilities—no such check will exist. Consequently, the fact that an applicant for a licence will no longer have to apply for an A, B or C licence, if he is in the category which will be excluded, will be to his advantage. That being so, it is essential that there is a check on the applicant's facilities.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that such a request for information about demand would be more relevant to quantity than to quality licensing?
§ Mr. Huckfield
The hon. Gentleman has convinced me that he has not read the rest of the Bill. Instead of the hon. Gentleman and some of his contractors having to obtain an A. B. C or one of the appropriate licences, they will simply have to get an operator's licence if their vehicles are under 16-tons gross and 5-tons unladen. In this category it was more than relevant for the licensing authority to be in a position, if it so wished, to ask the applicant for some evidence of the demand for his services.
I suggest that the two hon. Gentlemen look at the kind of comments that have been made in the annual reports of licensing authorities up and down the country over the past five or six years. They prove conclusively to all who read them that in applications for licences— especially "A" contract licences, which will be in a similar position as regards some of the applications under the Clause, the licensing authorities are already asking for particulars of this kind. Unless the licensing authority is in a position to ask for some evidence of demand, although it may be able to check on maintenance facilities and other things, the best evidence that it could ask for that a vehicle would be maintained and that a business would have a certain amount of stability, is, as it already seeks, some evidence of demand for the applicant's facilities. This is particularly relevant as many of the businesses tend to edge their way into transport by putting one or two vehicles of their own on the road first and then extending their sphere of operations to carrying other people's goods. So I should 1651 have thought that in this context it was very relevant that the licensing authority should seek some proof of demand.
§ Mr. W. Baxter
I think my hon. Friend will recognise this is just the difficulty I see in this Clause—that the licensing authority will take into consideration items that are not stipulated in this Clause, to say whether or not quantity licences have to be granted, and one of the factors as he sees it is the demand within that area. Will he direct his attention to this aspect?
§ Mr Huckfield
The point there is that in future there will be about 900,000 vehicles which at present have to go through some kind of application procedure for quantity licensing which in future will no longer have to do so. But if we have a look at the kind of figures, for instance, of maintenance convictions and at the kind of roadside spot checks which have been operated by the Minister of Transport I would have thought that many licensing authorities, on the basis of these figures, will be in future insisting on some kind of proof of demand being offered. I have given way to a large number of speakers; I will give way just once more.
§ Mr. David Mitchell
Would the hon. Member indicate to the House what possible connection there is between the degree of maintenance and the amount of trade being done?
§ Mr. Huckfield
If the hon. Gentleman, who has been feigning a certain amount of business experience all the way through the Standing Committee, does not recognise the very direct connection between a regular revenue coming into an operator and the amount of maintenance he can afford to do, I am very sorry for him. Although licensing authorities can ask under this Clause, and others, that some maintenance must be done, although they can ask for some kind of guarantee of an applicant's position, the best guarantee that any licensing authority can ask for that an operator will stay in business and conduct a stable business is some kind of evidence that he has a demand for his services. For those reasons, and particularly that reason, I urge the complete rejection of the Amendment.
§ Mr. Daniel Awdry (Chippenham)
It is clear that there is great anxiety and apprehension on both sides of the House. In Committee there was considerable support for our point of view on the matter from the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) and I am very sorry that he is not here now, for I am sure that he would have helped us. He said in Committee:I have a great deal of sympathy with the Opposition on this issue. Everything that the Government has said up to now in relation to this Bill implies there is now to be a new process. Apparently quantity licensing is out, except for certain types of vehicles, and in its place will come quality licensing. However, there is no question of demand coming into quality licensing at all.He was then interrupted by the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield), who made the same sort of speech as he has made tonight. He said a little later:I have been assured by the Minister of State that there are adequate facilities and provision in the Bill to make sure that vehicles are properly maintained. Therefore, accepting the Minister of State's statement, which I am inclined to doubt, if the machinery is adequate there is no justification for putting in this paragraph which says that an operator applying for an operator's licence has now to show that there is a demand for his services."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee F, 2nd April, 1968; c. 2316.]The hon. Member put the case even better than anyone on this side of the House can.
There is no need to put any particulars of demand in an application for a quality licence. All the arguments have been very well deployed this evening. I rest my case on two of them. First, under paragraph (g) of subsection (4) the licensing authority can ask for particulars of the applicant's financial resources. I should have thought that that was sufficient. Second, if the authority is in doubt in any case it can give a probationary licence for one year. That might be a useful provision for someone coming new into the business. No doubt, if he is not successful, his licence will not be renewed.
It is an imposition for hauliers, particularly small hauliers, to have to give details of their businesses in their applications and to try to guess details of the demand they hope to have. This is a practical point. We have had representations from hauliers along those lines. It 1653 is unnecessary to put in the paragraph, which belongs to quantity licensing and not quality licensing. All the arguments have been one way in the debate. It would be only stubbornness by the Government if they tried to resist the Amendment any further.
We are not against quality licensing. This is not a highly controversial issue. We should like to see that this is made to work with a minimum of bureaucracy. The paragraph will merely annoy hauliers, and is totally unnecessary.
§ Mr. Carmichael
The debate has been rather longer than I had expected from looking at the Amendment. It seems that in this Report stage one thing catches up with another and we go on and on.
The purpose of including the paragraph is to allow the licensing authority to ask an applicant for further information directed towards discovering whether the business he proposes to conduct, if granted a licence, is likely to be viable, so that the licensing authority will be able to judge whether he will be tempted by inadequate revenue to economise too much on the maintenance of his vehicles. As my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Leslie Huckfield) explained very clearly there is no element of quantity licensing involved. The power to require an applicant to supply this information is discretionary. The licensing authority is not bound to ask for it, but is allowed to do so.
We must consider just what the licensing authority is. It is not a group of people who do not know anything about transport. I was rather surprised at the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell) trying to suggest that the licensing authority would not be able to judge whether someone could start a transport business, but seemed to think that a bank manager could. Bank managers are wonderful people. They have enormous understanding of their localities and what happens there, but the hon. Gentleman chose an unfortunate example because the licensing authorities are undoubtedly the authorities on transport matters in their areas. Most of them are very experienced. They are not new bodies being set up. They are able to judge the needs of the area. They are concerned about particulars of the demand which a new entrant would expect to receive.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. David Mitchell
Is the hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that a man who is prepared to put up several thousand pounds of his own money is not in as good a position to judge whether that is a sound investment as the person outside who has no internal knoweldge of his own ability?
§ Mr. Carmichael
I am not suggesting that. What I am suggesting is that the hon. Member is being unusually naive. If he studies the history of the road haulage industry, he will know that it is an industry which is full of responsible people willing to set up in business. One of the problems of the road haulage industry in the past was that it was bedevilled by people starting up with one lorry.
§ Mr. W. Baxter
My hon. Friend does not seem to appreciate, nor apparently do his colleagues on the Front Bench, that most of our large businesses—and this certainly applies to road haulage—were started up by men who were looked upon as cranks because they were prepared to risk their money in starting up a business. If it had not been for those people with faith in their own ability, then many business which exist today would not have come into being. It would be wrong for any Government to put any obstacle in the way of any person in the future to start up a business from small beginnings. It is from small acorns that great oaks grow.
§ Mr. Carmichael
I take the point of my hon. Friend. I know that in his own case there is a romantic story of the sort he outlined. But we are now dealing with a situation which is far removed from the chaotic situation which existed in the 1930s. A licensing system then had to be introduced, not to prevent the honest man trying to make a living, but to prevent people coming into the industry and engaging in cut-throat competition, throwing safety aside, and concentrating only on getting as much as they could out of the vehicles and their drivers.
We are now dealing with a situation in which roads are badly crowded and in which it has been proved that the maintenance of a large number of lorries leaves a great deal to be desired. All we 1655 are asking here is that licensing authorities, who are highly responsible and experienced people, should be given the discretion, when they are in doubt, to ask a person who applies for a licence what sort of demand there is in the area for his business.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
Would the hon. Gentleman answer the question I put to him? Supposing a company has vehicles which go round the depots delivering the company's own goods. Does such a company have to disclose to the licensing authority the details of the number of goods, and so on? That seems to be the reason for this Clause and, if it is, I say that it is wrong.
§ Mr. Carmichael
I was coming to what the hon. Gentleman said. He spoke about Socialism going mad. That is one of the queerest definitions of Socialism I have ever heard. A firm which is running its own business will presumably only purchase vehicles when it has the material to move round in the vehicles. It is a different situation from that which is envisaged by the safeguard in this Clause. This provision seeks to deal with the genuine person who may have a good idea of the business he could start and the way he should go about it. We are asking that the licensing authority, if it so desires, should be given the power to ask a new entrant to the industry to supply information.
People not already established in the business, with insufficient background but with sufficient money behind them, would have to prove to the licensing authority that they had a reasonable expectation of demand for their services. In that case they would, in the judgment of the authority, get the licence.
§ Mr. G. Campbell
The hon. Gentleman now seems to be saying that he would accept our Amendment No. 213 which exempts people carrying their own goods and running their own businesses. If this Clause were limited to new entrants to the road haulage industry that would be sufficient.
§ Mr. Carmichael
We must deal with one Amendment at a time. This is a power which we feel a licensing authority should have in these peripheral cases when there may be difficulty in deciding.
§ Mr. Bessell
The hon. Gentleman is making an important point. He has mentioned peripheral cases, and says it is unlikely that a licensing authority would require this demand to be met in the case of an established haulage company. It is unlikely, but does he deny that an authority could demand this and the permissive power could be abused?
§ Mr. Carmichael
We are doing less than justice to the licensing authorities who are composed of highly experienced men. We are trying to provide them with safeguards. This can work both ways. One of the requirements of Clause 60 is that there must be sufficient financial backing in order to maintain the vehicle standards. Some fine businesses have been built on small beginnings, and if someone in such a position went to the authority with even a small amount of capital behind him, and could prove that he had a reasonably good demand for his services, then the other criteria could be, to some extent balanced by this. This Clause will provide the best way of giving the licensing authority the powers that it will require.
§ Mr. Webster
I am not sure how I would deal with quality licences, having been speechless through laryngitis since yesterday. I had better check to see whether my maintenance facilities are all right. The Parliamentary Secretary's attitude was basically against people trying to get started in the industry. He talked as if this was only the new operators coming in. This is not the case. If he would give us an assurance that he will accept Amendment No. 213, that would help us greatly. My hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell) made it clear that we accept in principle quality control but not quantity control.
The hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig), with his great length of practical experience, expressed grave doubts in Committee about this part of the Bill. The hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. W. Baxter) illustrated a personal experience regarding this point and the doubts that a practical operator has of giving excessive powers to a licensing authority. We are in absolute agreement that, on the question of quality control, matters of financial probity, maintenance facility and record of the company should 1657 be excellent. But on quantity control and whether there is enough demand to keep the business going, surely the operator is the judge, not the administrator. This is basic to our whole attitude towards this matter.
We have another Amendment down, so I do not want to extend things by talking about confidentiality. However, this again is a worry that we have. We shall be moving an Amendment on this later, and I hope that we will get adequate acceptance from the Government.
I stress again that it is not simply the chap with one or two vehicles just starting up in business. As the Bill stands, it is much more than that. It is established companies, as my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) has rightly said. We believe that the other tests are adequate and this is not. This is excessive. It blurs the issue between quantity and quality control.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary was not on the Committee at the time this matter came up. We had hoped to have a new argument. However, we have merely had the old arguments and reasons trotted out again. I therefore urge my hon. Friends to support the Amendment.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
My reading of the Clause, having come new to it, is that every operator, immediately the Bill is passed, will have to apply for this licence and. whether he has the biggest company in the world, he will still be counted as a new operator and have to give details.
§ Question put, That the Amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 231, Noes 278.1659
|Division No. 188.]||AYES||[9.12 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Sir Oliver||Harris, Frederie (Croydon, N.W.)|
|Allason, Jamos (Hemel Hempstead)||Crouch, David||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)|
|Astor, John||Crowder, F. P.||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Cunningham, Sir Knox||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere|
|Awdry, Daniel||Currie, G. B. H.||Harvie Anderson, Miss|
|Baker, Kenneth (Acton)||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hastings, Stephen|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Dance, James||Hawkins, Paul|
|Balniel, Lord||Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Hay, John|
|Batsford, Brian||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward|
|Bell, Ronald||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Heseltine, Michael|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Higgins., Terence L.|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Hiley, Joseph|
|Besselt, Petor||Doughty, Charles||Hill, J. E. B.|
|Bitten, John||Dougtes-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Drayson, G. B.||Holland, Philip|
|Black, Sir Cyril||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Hordern, Peter|
|Blaker, Peter||Eden, Sir John||Hornby, Richard|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Howell, David (Guildford)|
|Body, Richard||Elliott,R.W.(N'c'tle-uport-Tyne,N.)||Hunt, John|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Emery, Peter||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Errington, Sir Eric||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Ewing, Mrs. Winifred||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Braine, Bernard||Eyre, Reginald||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)|
|Brewis, John||Fair, John||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Fisher, Nigel||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col.Sir Walter||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S)|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Fortescue, Tim||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Bruce-Gardyme, J.||Foster, Sir John||Kerby, Capt. Henry|
|Bryan, Paul||Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus,N & M)||Gibson-Watt, David||Kimball, Marcus|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Gilmour, lan (Norfolk, C.)||Kirk, Peter|
|Burden, F. A.||Glyn, Sir Richard||Lambton, Viscount|
|Campbell, Gordon||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Carlisle, Mart||Goodhart, Philip||Lane, David|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Goodhew, Victor||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Grant, Anthony||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Grant-Ferris, R.||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Ceoffrey (Sut'n' C'dfield)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Gresham Cooke, R.||Lloyd, lan (P'tsm'th, Langstone)|
|Clark, Henry||Grieve, Percy||Lubbock, Eric|
|Clegg, Walter||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Cooke, Robert||Gurden, Harold||Mac Arthur, lan|
|Corfield, F. V.||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Mackenzie, Alasrlair (Ross&Crom'ty)|
|Costain, A. P||Halt-Davis, A. G. F.||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain|
|McMaster, Stanley||Percival, Ian||Tapsell, Peter|
|Macmilllan, Maurice (Farnham)||Peyton, John||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Maddan, Martin||Pink, R. Bonner||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow.Cathcart)|
|Maginnis, John E.||Pounder, Rafton||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Teeling, Sir William|
|Marten, Neil||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Temple, John M.|
|Maude, Angus||Prior, J. M. L.||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Mawby, Ray||Pym, Francis||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Ridsdale, Julian||Wall, Patrick|
|More, Jasper||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey||Walters, Dennis|
|Morgan, Ceraint (Denbigh)||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Webster, David|
|Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Royle, Anthony||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Russell, Sir Ronald||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Murton, Oscar||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Neave, Airey||Scott, Nicholas||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Scott-Hopkins, James||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Noble, Rt. Hon. Michael||Sharpies, Richard||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Nott, John||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||Wolrige-Cordon, Patrick|
|Onslow, Cranley||Silvester, Frederick||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Sinclair, Sir George||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Page, Graham (Crosby)||Smith, John (London & W'minster)||wylie, N. R.|
|Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Speed, Keith||Younger, Hn. George|
|Pardoe, John||Stainton, Keith|
|Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||Stodart, Anthony||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Peel, John||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Ripon)||Mr. Timothy Kitson and Mr. Hector Monro.|
|Abse, Leo||Crawshaw, Richard||Cinsburg, David|
|Albu, Austin||Cronin, John||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Gregory, Arnold|
|Alldritt, Walter||Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Grey, Charles (Durham)|
|Allen, Scholefield||Dalyell, Tarn||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)|
|Anderson, Donald||Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Gunter, Fit. Hn. R. J.|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hamling, William|
|Bames, Michael||Davies, Ifor (Cower)||Hartnan, William|
|Barnett, Joel||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Harper, Joseph|
|Beaney, Alan||de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)|
|Betlce, Cyril||Delargy, Hugh||Haseldine, Norman|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Dell, Edmund||Hattersiey, Roy|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Dempsey, James||Hazelil, Bert|
|Bidwelt, Sydney||Dewar, Donald||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Bishop, E. s.||Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Henig, Stanley|
|Blackburn, F.||Dickens, James||Hilton, W. S.|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Dobson, Ray||Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, Ktown)|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Doig, Peter||Hooley, Frank|
|Booth, Albert||Driberg, Tom||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Dunn, James A.||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)|
|Boyden, James||Dunnett, Jack||Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exe er)||Howell, Denis (Small Health)|
|Bradley, Tom||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th A C'b'e)||Howie, W.|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Eadie, Alex||Hoy, James|
|Brooks, Edwin||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Huckfield Leslie|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Edwards William (Merioneth)||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Ellis, John||Hughes Emrys (Ayrshire S)|
|Brown,Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.)||English, Michael||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen N.)|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Ewor, David||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Buchan, Norman||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Faulds, Andrew||Hunter Adam|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Fenryhough, E.||Hynd, John|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Fletcher, Raymond (likeston)||Jackson, Co, n (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)|
|Cant, R. B.||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)|
|Camichael Neil||Foley, Maurice||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Carter-Jones Lewis||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Jeger,Mrs.Lena(H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.)|
|Castle, Rt Hn. Barbara||Ford, Ben||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)|
|Chapman, Donald||Forrester, John||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)|
|Coe, Denis||Fowler, Gerry||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Coleman, Donald||Fraser, John (Norwood)||Jones, Rt.Hn.SirElwyn(W.Ham,S.)|
|Concannon, J. D.||Freeson, Reginald||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Gaipern, Sir Myer||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Gardner, Tony||Judd, Frank|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Garrett, W. E.||Kelley, Richard|
|Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)|
|Lawson, George||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Shaw, Arnold (llford, S.)|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Sheldon, Robert|
|Ledger, Ron||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Lee, John (Reading)||Murray, Albert||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Lestor, Miss Joan||Neal, Harold||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Newens, Stan||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Norwood, Christopher||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Oakes, Gordon||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Lipton, Marcus||Ogden, Eric||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Lomas, Kenneth||O'Malley, Brian||Slater, Joseph|
|Loughlin, Charles||Oram, Albert E.||Small, William|
|Luard, Evan||Orme, Stanley||Snow, Julian|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Oswald, Thomas||Spriggs, Leslie|
|McCann, John||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|MacColl, James||Owen, Will (Morpeth)||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|MacDermot, Niall||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Swain, Thomas|
|Macdonald, A. H.||Paget, R. T.||Swingler, Stephen|
|McGuire, Michael||Palmer, Arthur||Taverne, Dick|
|McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Thornton, Ernest|
|Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Park, Trevor||Tinn, James|
|Mackie, John||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Tomney, Frank|
|Mackintosh, John P.||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Maclennan, Robert||Pavitt, Laurence||Varley, Eric G.|
|Macmillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|McNamara, J. Kevin||Pentland, Norman||Wallace, George|
|MacPherson, Malcolm||Perry, Ernest C. (Battersea, S.)||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)||Weitzman, David|
|Mallalieu,J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.)||Price, William (Rugby)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Manuel, Archie||Probert, Arthur||Whitaker, Ben|
|Mapp, Charles||Randall, Harry||Whitlock, William|
|Marks, Kenneth||Rankin, John||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Marquand, David||Rees, Merlyn||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Marsh, Rt. Mn. Richard||Reynolds, G. W.||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Rhodes, Geoffrey||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Mayhew, Christopher||Richard, Ivor||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|Mendelson, J. J.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Mikardo, Ian||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Winnick, David|
|Millan, Bruce||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St.P'c'as)||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Miller, Dr. M. S.||Robinson, W.O.J. (Walth'stow, E.)||Woof, Robert|
|Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Yates, Victor|
|Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Roebuck, Roy|
|Molloy, William||Rose, Paul||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Moonman, Eric||Ross, Rt. Hn. William||Mr. Neil McBride and Mr. Ioan L. Evans.|
§ Mr. Swingler
I beg to move, in Amendment No. 214, in page 81, line 29 to leave out 'of operating vehicles of any description' and insert:'in the course of which vehicles of any description are operated'.This is a drafting Amendment. The Clause as it stands would appear to exclude the requirement for information to be given on experience of former "C" licence operation, which would obviously be necessary. This Amendment makes that requirement quite clear.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. G. Campbell
I beg to move Amendment No. 215, in page 82, line 9 after 'may', insert 'reasonably'.
During the Committee stage the Minister indicated that this Amendment was likely to be accepted. I have just received a communication from him indicating that there are difficulties about it, but this will give him an opportunity to accept the 1662 Amendment if the Government are able to do so.
§ Mr. Carmichael
The effect of the Amendment would be to provide that the licensing authority must act reasonably in specifying the form in which the information to be given to it must be supplied. As the hon. Gentleman the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Gordon Campbell) has said, this was discussed at length in Committee and my hon. Friend the Minister of State undertook to consider the point.
It was pointed out in Committee that the word "reasonably" appeared in subsection (4) and ought, therefore, to be in subsection (5) also. But, on further consideration my hon. Friend the Minister of State feels that the parallel is false. In the former instance, the word relates to the information which a licensing authority may ask for—for example, it must be such as it may "reasonably" require for the discharge 1663 of its duties. This is a sensible and desirable limitation to preclude any possibility of irrelevant and unnecessary information being demanded.
But to require the authority to be reasonable in specifying a form is quite a different matter. Such an Amendment seems totally unnecessary. Licensing authorities are appointed by the Minister and are persons of commonsense and integrity and would not normally act unreasonably. There is in any case a safeguard against their doing so in this connection by the Minister's power to give them general directions on the exercise of their functions under Clause 55(2). Licensing authorities consult together informally at frequent intervals and in practice a common form for all areas would be drawn up.
With this explanation of the safeguard, I hope the hon. Gentleman will accept that, although my hon. Friend considered this, it was found that it would not be possible to accept the Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. G. Campbell
I beg to move Amendment No. 216, in page 82, line 9, at end insert:'and shall not be made public without the agreement of the applicant'.We come now to one of the points in the Bill where there is a dilemma because information is required by the licensing authorities—reasonably so—in order that they can check on safety and maintenance and ensure that vehicles are kept up to the standards which we all think necessary. At the same time, however, some of the information provided may, if made public, be damaging or embarrassing comercially to those providing it.
It must be remembered—because in dealing with an earlier Amendment the Government seemed to be ignoring it— that this part of the Bill does not just refer to the road haulage industry. Many more vehicles will come under the licensing system because they are under three and a half tons plated weight or thirty hundredweight unladen weight which belong to businesses such as those of traders, manufacturers and farmers. Thus, this provision will be concerned not only with road haulage but with those who use vehicles for taking their own goods from place to place.
1664 It is, therefore, important that the question about the information of a commercial nature which they provide the licensing authorities being made public should be considered. The objective of the Amendment is to ensure that this information will not be made public without the agreement of the applicants. Under subsection (4,b) we have been debating the question of demand for services. We wanted that provision to come out but it is now staying in the Bill, for the moment, and such information could be valuable to a competitor. In subsection (4,g) there are provisions relating to financial resources and here again is information which, if made public, might be of commercial interest to rivals.
Again I emphasise that I am not talking about the road haulage industry. The sort of business concerned could have nothing to do with that industry at all. If the system of quality licensing is to be fair and as acceptable as possible to everyone whose vehicles will be subjected to it, we must ensure that they regard the system without apprehension and anxiety.
When this point was raised in Committee, the Government acknowledged that there was a difficulty. They told us that they were consulting the Council on Tribunals to see how this question could be tackled. In Amendments, we have suggested various points at which the wording of this Amendment would go a long way to dealing with the situation. I hope that the Government will take the opportunity to tell us how far they have got in their consultations with the Council on Tribunals and that they can accept this Amendment and similar Amendments in other places in the Bill.
§ Mr. Swingler
On 2nd April, I gave an undertaking in Committee that we would consult the Council on Tribunals on the question of confidential information given to licensing authorities in connection with applications and the holding of hearings in camera. I regret that our conversations with the Council have not been completed in time to bring forward an Amendment at this stage. But there is broad agreement on suitable arrangements for hearings in camera and for safeguarding the confidentiality of information. It is important that the detailed 1665 arrangements should be absolutely correct and in accordance with what the Council considers proper.
Therefore, in fulfilment of our undertaking, I trust that the hon. Gentleman will be prepared to wait until we produce detailed arrangements in another place for ensuring the protection of confidentiality.
§ Mr. Peter Walker
We are most grateful to the Minister of State for giving consideration to this matter. Naturally, we look forward with interest to the Amendment to be moved in another place.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.