HC Deb 17 October 1968 vol 770 cc676-85

Lords Amendment No. 63: In page 88, line 25, after "centres" insert: or an applicant with operating centres in more than one licensing authority area shall be permitted to make application to one licensing authority in respect of all his operating centres

Read a Second time.

Mr. Swingler

I beg to move, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

The Amendment would allow an applicant for an operator's licence under the quantity licensing system who had operating centres in the areas of more than one licensing authority, to make a single application to one authority for a licence to cover all his operating centres rather than having to make separate applications to each authority concerned. It is on the lines of Amendments which were discussed in Committee on 28th March, when an Amendment was withdrawn without division.

We have considered this question with care, but my right hon. Friend finds it impossible to accept this proposal, which seriously under-rates the genuinely local elements which are involved in the quality licensing system. The assessment of past records of operators, for example, could not possibly be achieved by mere reliance on the submission of paper. The licensing authority's own knowledge of operation in the area, often built up over a period of years, is vital.

This hardly affects present A and B licence holders, because they already have to apply for carrier licences on a regional basis. We recognise that it affects present C licence operators, and those operators will have to give to the licensing authority separate information about each of their operating centres, about the licensed transport manager, about their maintenance facilities and arrangements, and about the vehicles which are stationed there.

If we are to treat the quality licensing system in a serious way, and if it is to be a serious check on the standard of maintenance facilities, it is essential that it should be dealt with in each region by the licensing authority on the basis of applications made to him.

Looking at the proposal from the other point of view, it would inevitably take longer to issue a licence in cases where one licensing authority had to consult several other licensing authorities because the applicant had operating bases in several areas but was, nevertheless, making a single application to one licensing authority to cover all those operating centres. It would not necessarily in any way expedite the system to say that it could all be dealt with by a single application. It would seriously reduce the value of the consideration by the regional licensing authority of the maintenance facilities and the character of the operating centres in each region.

Therefore, after very careful examination, we cannot agree to the centralisation of the system in this form. I hope that the House will agree to our original proposal that there should be separate applications to the licensing authority in each region.

8.0 p.m.

Mr. John H. Osborn (Sheffield, Hallam)

The Minister's reply will give immense disappointment to operators of fleets, particularly those who have been running C licence fleets in the past. As I see it—this aspect of the matter was raised in the other place and the argument was very well put—this is not, as the Minister suggests it is, a problem of geography. Most of C licence operators run fleets, as A and B licence holders have done. Hitherto, the fleets have been managed as whole, as part of one company. The most important factor is that a fleet operator, that is, a manufacturer operating his own fleet, should maintain the standard of the fleet as a whole regardless of the geographical location of the vehicles or the depots and other centres. This is of particular importance in the consumer and retail trades. Hitherto, it has been the reputation of the fleet which counted.

As Lord St. Oswald said in the other place, and as their Lordships agreed, it would be possible for one fleet operator to apply for a licence not only for the central depot but for all the depots. This would not debar the authority issuing the licence from proceeding through the other licensing centres concerned in order to secure an assurance that the fleet was maintained to an adequate standard throughout the country.

The system of operators' licences calls for a great deal of paper work, and the consequence of the Government's proposal will be to put a great deal of further administrative work on to the operators. It will be one more example of Parkinson's Law operating, with creeping bumbledom and bureaucracy; but the brunt of it will not fall on the licensing authority.

I say again, as I have on earlier occasions, that the licensing authorities have conducted themselves in exemplary fashion in the past. There is a very good relationship, and I see no reason why it should not continue. But the Government's system will mean that the licensing authorities avoid the extra work; it will fall on the operators of vehicle fleets, particularly those who have been C licence holders.

Although I recognise that the Minister has a point of view on this question, I am appalled that he has not looked at it the other way round and asked the licensing authorities to adjust their arrangements rather than ask operators to adjust theirs in order to fit the scheme under the Bill. I shall urge my right hon. and hon. Friends not to accept the Minister's Motion to disagree with the Lords Amendment.

Mr. G. Campbell

At earlier stages the Government's argument was that it was necessary for the different licensing authorities to be able to examine arrangements for maintenance in their own areas. We understand that view perfectly well. What we cannot understand is why the Government could not arrange for one licensing authority to receive the application and deal with the other licensing authorities on matters such as inspection of maintenance arrangements arising in their own areas.

A great number of items have to be considered or be the subject of information provided in applications for licence—particulars of the numbers and types of vehicle, the financial resources of the applicant, the question of observation of drivers' hours, overloading, the previous activities of the individual or company, names of directors, and so on. Information on those matters can be supplied in one application and be dealt with by the licensing authority in which the headquarters or main operating centre of the company is based.

The smaller amount of information regarding arrangements for maintenance could be sought and looked into by the simple procedure of the licensing authority which receives the application referring to its neighbours or other licensing authorities in order to have those points looked into. To ask the firm to put in applications of this kind and to require a great deal of information to be given to all the licensing authorities concerned, and then to ask those licensing authorities to process it separately, is to waste a great deal of time. It will tend to make the firms concerned distrust the system as thoroughly bureaucratic and demanding a great deal of unnecessary paper work.

Mr. Swingler

I hope that no one will accuse me of wanting to multiply bureaucracy or bumbledom. One of the things we are doing under the Bill is to free licensing authorities from a great deal of work by abolishing licensing altogether for 900,000 vehicles, all the smaller vehicles, thus liberating them to concentrate on what we regard as the more important task of raising standards of safety and maintenance in other respects.

Hon. Members have still not grasped the essence of the system, which is the concept of the unit, the operating centre with a transport manager who takes responsibility for it, with local control in the form of a licensing authority having knowledge of the character of the maintenance facilities, the efficiency of the operating centre and the standard of management.

As regards the big firms, it all depends on how many operating centres they have and how many managers they have to appoint under the terms of the quality licensing system. That will depend on the degree of concentration of their operations and the extent to which they are spread throughout the country. I recognise that hon. Members opposite have a view here. We have thought about it very carefully, but we just do not see that there would be any saving of time if their method were adopted. An element of local knowledge and local control is necessary.

If the system were centralised, with applications going to one point, all that would happen would be that, after they had gone through that mail box, so to speak, the licensing authority receiving them would have to contact licensing authorities throughout the country which, in their turn, would have to consider standards of maintenance facilities and the qualifications of managers in their areas. Then, presumably, it would all come back through the chain of command to the first central mail box. I cannot see that that would give any advantage. The licensing authority in the area is the appropriate body. It will work on a regional basis.

Mr. J. H. Osborn

Will not the Minister's method lead to utter confusion? Let us suppose that one licensing authority does not grant a licence to one operating centre. This will play havoc with the fleet of vehicles, will it not? If one licensing authority is unfair or, perhaps, establishes a different standard from that adopted by another, the fleet will be affected and one will find, perhaps, two or three operating centres knocked out. There will be no way of co-ordinating operations from the operator's point of view. I readily acknowledge that the Minister has a point on administrative convenience. I am putting the point of view of the operator. He has enough troubles anyhow, and he will find his position greatly weakened if two traffic depots are put out of action because of what different licensing authorities do.

Mr. Swingler

I see the hon. Gentleman's point, which is undoubtedly serious, but it is the basis for rejecting the proposal. The implication of what he says is that if an applicant shows that he has one efficient operating centre, with proper maintenance facilities, and one competent transport manager, he should get a licence for the lot, however inefficient his other facilities may be, or however incompetent may be the rest of his managerial staff.

That is something that we cannot accept if we are to have an effective quality licensing system, and that is why I stressed the element of local control. I know that it is a challenge to the trade and the operators, but I do not think there will be a very large number of these cases.

It is very important that if an organisation has several operating centres it should be challenged to show that they all come up to the standard required, and that if it has several managers they are all competent to take the responsibility with which they are charged. That is the purpose of saying that firms should make applications to the appropriate licensing authority where they have an operating centre. That is how the system will work, and I am convinced that the licensing authorities will work very closely with the leading people in the industry to make sure that uniform standards are applied in its application.

I am convinced that that is at any rate the way in which we should start if we are to show that we are determined to have an effective quality licensing system. It may well be that with experience we shall in the course of time devise other and more streamlined ways of dealing with the matter. I certainly do not count that out, but we should be wrong not to insist on that local unit, the operating centre, dealing with the regional licensing authority, the proper body to apply the standards and criteria, and to insist, therefore, on the requirement to make an application in each licensing area.

Question put, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment:—

The House divided: Ayes 248, Noes 193.

Division No. 299.] AYES [8.13 p.m.
Alldritt, Walter Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)
Anderson, Donald de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Archer, Peter Delargy, Hugh Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Armstrong, Ernest Dell, Edmund Hunter, Adam
Ashley, Jack Dempsey, James Hynd, John
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Dewar, Donald Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Dickens, James Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Dobson, Ray Janner, Sir Barnett
Barnes, Michael Doig, Peter Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Barnett, Joel Dunn, James A. Jeger, George (Goole)
Baxter, William Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Jeger, Mrs.Lena(H'b'n&P'cras, S.)
Bence, Cyril Eadie, Alex Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Edwards, William (Merioneth) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton) Ellis, John Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)
Bidwell, Sydney English, Michael Judd, Frank
Bishop, E. S. Ensor, David Kelley, Richard
Blackburn, F. Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) Kenyon, Clifford
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)
Booth, Albert Faulds, Andrew Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)
Boston, Terence Fernyhough, E. Kerr, Russell (Feltham)
Bottomley, Rt. Hn, Arthur Finch, Harold Lawson, George
Boyden, James Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Leadbitter, Ted
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Foley, Maurice Ledger, Ron
Bradley, Tom Foot, Rt. Hn. Sir Dingle (Ipswich) Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)
Brooks, Edwin Ford) Ben Lestor, Miss Joan
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Forrester, John Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)
Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper) Fraser, John (Norwood) Lomas, Kenneth
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Freeson, Reginald Loughlin, Charles
Brown, Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Galpern, Sir Myer Lyon, Alexander W. (York)
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Gardner, Tony Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)
Buchan, Norman Garrett, W. E. Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. McBride, Neil
Butter, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Gourlay, Harry MacColl, Jamos
Cant, R. B. Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) MacDermot, Niall
Carmichael, Neil Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony Macdonald, A. H.
Carter-Jones, Lewis Gregory, Arnold McGuire, Michael
Coe, Denis Grey, Charles (Durham) McKay, Mrs. Margaret
Coleman, Donald Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)
Concannon, J. D. Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Mackie, John
Conlan, Bernard Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J. Mackintosh, John P.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Maclennan, Robert
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)
Crawshaw, Richard Hazett, Bert McNamara, J. Kevin
Cronin, John Heffer, Eric S. MacPherson, Malcolm
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)
Cullen, Mrs. Alice Hilton, W. S. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Dalyell, Tam Hobden, Dennis Manuel, Archie
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Hooley, Frank Mapp, Charles
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough) Marks, Kenneth
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Howie, W. Marquand, David
Davies, Harold (Leek) Hoy, James Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Mayhew, Christopher
Mendelson, J. J. Price, Christopher (Perry Bar) Swingler, Stephen
Millan, Bruce Price, Thomas (Westhoughton) Symonds, J. B.
Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test) Price, William (Rugby) Taverne, Dick
Moonman, Eric Probert, Arthur Thomson, Rt. Hn. George
Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Rankin, John Thornton, Ernest
Morris, John (Aberavon) Rees, Merlyn Tinn, James
Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Reynolds, Rt. Hn. G. W. Tomney, Frank
Moyle, Roland Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy Urwin, T. W.
Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.) Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Neal, Harold Robinson, Rt.Hn.Kenneth(St.P'c'as) Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Newens, Stan Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.) Wallace, George
Oakes, Gordon Roebuck, Roy Watkins, David (Consett)
Ogden, Eric Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) Weitzman, David
O'Malley, Brian Ross, Rt. Hn. William Wellbeloved, James
Oram, Albert E. Rowlands, E. Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Orbach, Maurice Ryan, John Whitaker, Ben
Orme, Stanley Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.) Whitlock, William
Oswald, Thomas Sheldon, Robert Wilkins, W. A.
Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn) Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E. Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Padley, Walter Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney) Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Palmer, Arthur Short, Rt.Hn.Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne) Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford) Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Park, Trevor Silverman, Julius Willis, Rt. Hn. George
Parker, John (Dagenham) Skeffington, Arthur Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Parkyn, Brian (Bedford) Slater, Joseph Winnick, David
Pavitt, Laurence Small, William Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Spriggs, Leslie Woof, Robert
Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Pentland, Norman Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.) Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. Mr. John McCann and
Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.) Swain, Thomas Mr. Joseph Harper.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Lane, David
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Errington, Sir Eric Langford-Holt, Sir John
Astor, John Eyre, Reginald Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Farr, John Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Awdry, Daniel Fisher, Nigel Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)
Baker, Kenneth (Acton) Fortescue, Tim Loveys, W. H.
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Foster, Sir John Lubbock, Eric
Balniel, Lord Fraser, Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'fford & Stone) McAdden, Sir Stephen
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Galbraith, Hn. T. G. MacArthur, Ian
Batsford, Brian Gibson-Watt, David Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Gilmour Ian (Norfolk, C.) McMaster, Stanley
Bell, Ronald Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Maddan, Martin
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm) Glyn, Sir Richard Maginnis, John E.
Berry, Hn. Anhony Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest
Bessell, Peter Goodhart, Philip Marten, Neil
Biffen, John Goodhew, Victor Mawby, Ray
Black, Sir Cyril Gower, Raymond Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Blaker, Peter Grant, Anthony Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Grant-Ferris, R. Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Bossom, Sir Clive Grieve, Percy Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Gurden, Harold Miscampbell, Norman
Braine, Bernard Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Montgomery, Fergus
Brinton, Sir Tatton Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) More, Jasper
Bruce-Cardyne, J. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Bryan, Paul Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Murton, Oscar
Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus, N&M) Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere Neave, Airey
Buck, Antony (Colchester) Hastings, Stephen Nicholls, Sir Harmar
Bullus, Sir Eric Hawkins, Paul Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Burden, F. A. Hay, John Nott, John
Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.) Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Onslow, Cranley
Campbell, Cordon (Moray & Nairn) Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward Osborn, John (Hallam)
Carlisle, Mark Heseltine, Michael Page, Graham (Crosby)
Channon, H. P. G. Higgins, Terence L. Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Chichester-Clark, R. Hill, J. E. B. Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)
Clark, Henry Holland, Philip Percival, Ian
Clegg, Walter Hordern, Peter Pink, R. Bonner
Cooke, Robert Hornby, Richard Pounder, Rafton
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Howell, David (Guildford) Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Cordle, John Hunt, John Price, David (Eastleigh)
Corfield, F. V. Hutchison, Michael Clark Prior, J. M. L.
Costain, A. P. Iremonger, T. L. Pym, Francis
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Quennell, Miss J. M.
Crouch, David Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Crowder, F. P. Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Rees-Davies, W. R.
Currie, G. B. H. Jopling, Michael Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Dalkeith, Earl of Kerby, Capt. Henry Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Dance, James Kershaw, Anthony Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Dean, Paul Kitson, Timothy Ridsdale, Julian
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) Knight, Mrs. Jill Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Doughty, Charles Lambton, Viscount Robson Brown, Sir William
Eden, Sir John Lancaster, Col. C. G. Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Royle, Anthony Teeling, Sir William Wells, John (Maidstone)
Russell, Sir Ronald Tempts, John M. Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Scott, Nicholas Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret Williams, Donald (Dudley)
Scott-Hopkins, James Tilney, John Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Sharpies, Richard Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) van Straubenzee, W. R. Winstanley, Dr. M. P.
Silvester, Frederick Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Sinclair, Sir George Waddington, David Woodnutt, Mark
Smith, John (London & W'minster) Walker, Peter (Worcester) Wright, Esmond
Speed, Keith Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek Wylie, N. R.
Stainton, Keith Wall, Patrick
Summers, Sir Spencer Walters, Dennis TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Tapsell, Peter Ward, Dame Irene Mr. R. W. Elliott and
Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart) Weatherill, Bernard Mr. Hector Monro.
Taylor, Frank (Moss Side) Webster, David

Lords Amendment No. 64: In page 89, line 10, leave out paragraph (b).

Mr. Carmichael

With permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I suggest that this and Amendment No. 65, which are both Government Amendments, might be taken together.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)

So be it.

Mr. Carmichael

I beg to move, That the House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

The purpose here is to give power to licensing authorities, in the very few cases where it may be necessary to inquire into a company's financial ability to sustain a satisfactory level of maintenance and to observe other road safety regulations.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. G. Campbell

We need not spend much time on this, although it is an important Amendment, because this is one of several occasions that we are now reaching where the Government have, I am glad to say, at last seen the light. This Amendment and the ones associated with it were proposed from this side of the House during the various stages of the Bill when it was going through this House and they were rejected by the Government.

Although it has taken time for the penny to drop, we welcome this conversion, although it is late, and so will the industries affected. It is now clear beyond any doubt that there is no element of quantity licensing in this part of the Bill, which should, of course, be devoted entirely to quality licensing.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendment agreed to.

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