HC Deb 26 October 1982 vol 29 cc948-50


Lords amendment: No. 68, in page 58, line 2, at end insert and for the purpose of extending the right to object to or make representations against the grant or variation of such licences to certain authorities, other than local authorities, exercising planning functions

Mrs. Chalker

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

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this we may take Lords amendment No. 108.

Mrs. Chalker

Section 63(3) of the Transport Act 1968 already gives local authorities the right to object in these matters. It relates to objections to the granting or tike variation of an operator's licence by authorities exercising planning functions. The amendment extends that right to other bodies. They now include the Lake District special planning board, the Peak park joint planning board and the Merseyside and London dock development corporations, which also exercise planning functions. It is beneficial to allow those bodies to object.

Mr. Ronald W. Brown

The Minister kindly invited me to be present when we discussed this matter. The granting of operators' licences includes schedule 4 with which I should like to deal. This matter has been a problem for years in my constituency. Our difficulty was an operator who worked from an unsuitable area in Hackney, South. It would appear prima facie that, under schedule 4, it is easy to cope with someone who is operating in an area that is unsuitable or unsatisfactory for that operation. An authority has the right under section 69B(6) to refuse a licence if it is satisfied that, in the operator's statement for his application, the area is not suitable.

The problem arises when the operator applies for his licence in another area and specifies in his statement in that area exactly what he owns and where he is operating from. The planning authority will examine that statement and determine whether that operator has suitable premises. I shall give an example that occurred in my constituency and that we discussed ad nauseam two years ago.

An operator applied for a licence to operate in a designated area of Tower Hamlets. I have no idea whether it was good, bad or indifferent. Nevertheless, Tower Hamlets gave him his operator's licence. But he never operated from there. He operated in my constituency, in a residential area. He was a bone of contention. He had leased a site from the Crown Estates. The Crown Estates seemed unable or unwilling to do anything about him because it said that, legally, he had a contract to operate from those premises. The operator put his lorries and trailers all around the residential area concerned and we were unable to do anything about it. I was told that he possessed his operator's licence, albeit from another area, and section 66 did not allow anyone to do anything about it, so I patiently pursued ways to alleviate the problem.

Schedule 4 looks all right. However, it is all very well giving additional bodies the right to object but I and others in my constituency could not object because we did not know that an operator was making application somewhere else. I am anxious to see whether there is any way to ensure in the Bill that no operator can operate in any area without having obtained his licence in that area. The planning authorities assure me that as long as the operator has a licence they cannot intervene.

Subsection (6) of schedule 4 provides that the authority may, instead of refusing the application, issue the licence specifying in it only such place or places referred to in that statement as are not unsuitable for use as an operating centre. How would that affect the case that I have cited in which we did not know that the operator had obtained a licence, how he obtained it, and the operator did not specify the area in which he intended to work?

Mrs. Chalker

I can genuinely say that I have good news for the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Brown). I know that the new section 69A in schedule 4 is complicated but it encompasses all that he asks for. If he studies it, he will see that the operating centre will have to be specified in the operator's licence. Therefore, someone who applies to the metropolitan licensing authority—the metropolitan traffic area—must say where he will operate. It is specifically intended to get over the problem that the hon. Gentleman's constituents and others have had to suffer for too long, and I am sure that it has much to do with the campaign that the hon. Gentleman and some of my hon. Friends conducted for some time.

Applications for licences will in future have to be advertised by the operator. There is, therefore, no question of an operator going for a licence on the quiet. Licensing authorities, not local authorities, issue licences. Because licensing authorities receive advice from the Department of Transport, we can ensure that the provisions in schedule 4 are carried through.

We are altering the definition of an operating centre. That will cope with the hon. Gentleman's point about operators nominating a centre in one area and then operating from another where he leaves his lorries in unsuitable places. I hope that the hon. Gentleman's anxieties are allayed and that the House will accept the amendment.

Lords amendment agreed to.

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