HC Deb 29 October 1985 vol 84 cc867-8

Lords amendment: No. 4, in page 4, line 17, at end insert— (4A) Where a traffic commissioner holds an inquiry he may, in such circumstances as may be prescribed and subject to any provision made under subsection (4B) below, make such order as he thinks fit as to the payment, by such party to the inquiry as he thinks fit, of costs incurred by him or by the Secretary of State in connection with the holding of the inquiry. (4B) Regulations may make provision, in relation to orders under subsection (4A) above, as to—

  1. (a) the method of calculating the amount of any costs incurred as mentioned in that subsection; and
  2. (b) the maximum amount which may be ordered to be paid under such an order.
(4C) Any amount so ordered to be paid by any person may be recoverable from him—
  1. (a) in England and Wales, as a debt due to the Crown; or
  2. (b) in Scotland, by the Secretary of State.".

Mr. Ancram

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

This amendment gives the traffic commissioner a power to award costs, which will be used to deter delaying tactics and similar abuses, for instance by people called before him for possible disciplinary action.

The amendment gives power to the commissioner to recover only his costs, and those of the Department in providing accommodation and clerical assistance for an inquiry. It does not enable the commissioner to order one party to pay the costs of another. We understand from the commissioners that they would not welcome the responsibility of adjudicating in such a way, and, of course, in many public service vehicle operator licensing cases, particularly the disciplinary ones of which we are primarily thinking, there is only one party—the person whom the commissioner has called to the inquiry.

The regulations we shall make under subsection (4A) will limit the. recovery of costs to cases where the person against whom the award is made has acted vexatiously, frivolously or the like. The vast majority of people appearing at commissioners' inquiries, for whatever reason, need not fear an increased expense. Indeed, they and all licence holders will benefit if the commissioners' costs are kept down because all costs are met from fees. We see that power as a deterrent and, we hope, an effective one—and not a way of raising money.

The regulations will lay down the way in which costs are calculated, and a maximum. That will prevent the commissioners' task from being invidious.

Question put and agreed to.

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