HC Deb 28 April 1971 vol 816 cc427-9

3.35 p.m.

Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to restore the powers of the Transport Tribunal relating to the control of passenger fares in London. The London Transport Fares Tribunal had its origins in the Transport Act, 1947, and had power, under the general procedure outlined in that Act, to regulate fares. However, its identity and definition emerge via the Transport Act, 1962. The Tribunal was set up by Section 45 of the 1962 Act in the following terms: The Transport Tribunal shall, subject to and in accordance with the provisions of this Part of this Act, have power to make orders as respects the following charges of the London Board and the Railways Board, that is to say—

  1. (a) charges for the carriage of passengers by railway on journeys wholly within the London Passenger Transport Area, and
  2. (b) charges for the carriage of passengers by road on routes wholly or partly within the London special area…"
The authority of the Tribunal was removed by Section 27 of the Transport (London) Act, 1969. The general argument advanced then was that as London Transport's responsibilities were to be handed over to the Greater London Council the councillors of the G.L.C. would be much nearer to the people than the executive members of the former London Transport Executive and therefore there would be no need for the London Transport Fares Tribunal. But it has not worked out in that way. This is no criticism of the members of the G.L.C., who have very heavy responsibilities. The probability is that this is another of those things which afflicts us in local government when people give of their best to serve on authorities like the G.L.C. and at the same time must earn a living and then find that they cannot devote all the time that they would like to devote to their responsibilities, particularly concerning London Transport.

However, that does not deter from the fact that the argument advanced by the then Minister that there would be no need for the Tribunal because people would be able to contact their G.L.C. councillors and be able to submit their views about London Transport and fares in general has not materialised. Therefore, the Londoner feels deprived of his right to have a say about the functioning of London Transport and particularly about decisions concerning the making and increasing of fares. Incidentally, outside the Greater London Council area bus fares are still subject to the Traffic Commissioners, but that does not apply within the G.L.C. area.

The constitution of the Tribunal is based on the Railways Act, 1962, and is incorporated in the Transport Act, 1947. The following quotation will help the House to understand the constitution of the Tribunal: There shall be established a court styled the Railway Rates Tribunal…consisting of three permanent members, with power to add to their number as hereinafter provided… Of the permanent members of the rates tribunal one shall be a person of experience in commercial affairs, one a person of experience in railway business, and one, who shall be the president, shall be an experienced lawyer. The men who have served on the Tribunal have been responsible men with knowledge of commerce and industry and of what is involved in running a great public concern like London Transport. They have always given the greatest consideration to any submission put before them by the travelling public. I have on occasions submitted an appeal to the Tribunal on behalf of certain trade union organisations in Greater London.

The London Transport Tribunal did not always respond to the pleas of those who appealed. It took, as it had a right to do, grave cognisance of the responsibilities of the then London Transport Executive and was in no way been biased one way or the other. When London Transport Executive suggested an increase in fares the Tribunal, having listened to the appeals against these increases, sometimes reduced them. This in turn compelled London Transport to look at other measures to increase its revenue, and the Tribunal has, therefore, caused London Transport in a degree to be more efficient.

The organisations that submitted appeals included trade union organisations, employers' organisations, commercial interests, neighbourhood associations and organisations of ordinary people representing the travelling public of London. Since the authority of the Tribunal has been removed, people in all walks of life have been deprived of the opportunity to submit their views on proposals to increase fares.

e I am asking for the leave of the House to introduce a short Bill to put back the Tribunal and to allow the travelling public of London to have their say in deciding whether a fare increase is completely justified or whether there should be an examination before that fare increase is finalised.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Molloy, Mr. Bidwell, Mr. Thomas Cox, Mr. Weitzman, Mr. Wellbeloved, Mr. Ernest G. Perry, Mr. Carol Johnson, Mr. Hamling, and Mrs. Joyce Butler.