HC Deb 03 August 1976 vol 916 cc1598-600

Lords Amendment: No. 52, in page 44, line 42, after "inspection" insert "and testing".

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.—[Dr. Summerskill.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this we may take Lords Amendments Nos. 54, 56, 62 and 63 in similar terms.

Mr. Graham Page

You called Lords Amendment No. 52, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I did not hear the Under-Secretary of State explain it. I heard a voice further down the Front Bench shout "Formally". I object to this way of proceeding when the Opposition have given notice of the amendments with which they are concerned. We have allowed many amendments on which we did not need a debate to go through, but when we have given notice that we wish to ask questions about an amendment it should not be pushed through in that way.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The amendment has not gone through. It has been proposed.

11.0 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Dr. Shirley Summers-kill)

Lords Amendments Nos. 52, 54, 56, 62 and 63 are of similar effect.

Clause 41(1) provides that a proprietor may be required by a district council to present his vehicle for inspection. It has been suggested during consultation that the word "inspection" alone may be insufficient and that since some testing activity may be necessary it should be made clear that the council is empowered to test as well as simply to inspect the vehicle. The first three amendments and the necessary references to testing where appropriate in Clause 41.

Clause 59 provides that an authorised officer or a constable may at all reasonable times inspect, for the purpose of ascertaining its fitness, any hackney carriage or private hire car or any taximeter fitted to such vehicle. This is an enforcement measure, in the nature of a spot check, but the power to inspect may not in itself be sufficient. Some degree of testing of the vehicle or of the meter may be desirable. The fourth amendment seeks to clarify the position by adding the power to test the vehicle and/ or the meter.

The last amendment makes the like provision with respect to the subsequent presentation, following a spot check at which the authorised officer or constable was not entirely satisfied, of the vehicle or its meter for further inspection and testing.

Mr. Graham Page

I want to question the addition of "and testing" and explore what is involved for local authorities. A large number of clauses deal with the control by local authorities of taxis and private hire cars. The inspection and control of private hire cars will put a heavy burden on local authorities. Time and again the House is blamed for putting more and more duties on local authorities and thereby increasing the cost of local authority work and increasing the rates.

I am fearful that the addition of "and testing" which applies to private hire cars—testing three times a year, according to one clause—will put a burden on local authorities in setting up testing stations. Are they to have their own testing stations for private hire cars in order to test them up to three times a year? If so, it really will be a severe burden and expense to the ratepayers. Is it meant simply as a spot check or as a proper test like the test we know as the MOT test, although those initials are somewhat out of date? On the other hand, is the local authority to have the power to designate garages to carry out these tests rather as the Ministry has designated garages to carry out the MOT tests?

The clauses do not give us a clue as to what is intended by the two words "and testing" which are now to be added. Can the Minister give us a little more information about what is expected of the local authorities and, therefore, what the ratepayers will have to pay?

Dr. Summerskill

I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that merely to inspect a vehicle for fitness is not really an adequate way of ascertaining its fitness, and it is clearly necessary to test it. That is the sole reason why testing was added. If it is the desire of the House to ascertain the fitness of any vehicle, testing is obviously part of that. With regard to the actual procedure of the testing and whether there will be specially designated garages, I shall write to the right hon. Gentleman.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to.

Committee appointed to draw up a Reason to be assigned to the Lords for disagreeing to one of their Amendments to the Bill: Mr. Guy Barnett, Mr. Harper, Mr. Michael Morris, Mr. Speed and Dr. Summerskill; Three to be the quorum.—[Mr. Guy Barnett.]

To withdraw immediately.

Reason for disagreeing to one of the Lords Amendments reported, and agreed to; to be communicated to the Lords.