HC Deb 29 October 1985 vol 84 cc877-9

Lords amendment: No. 46, after clause 24, insert the following new clause—. . —(1) After section 14 of the 1981 Act (Grant of licences) there shall be inserted the following section "Objections to application for PSV operators' licence 14A.—(1) Where an application is made for the grant of a PSV operator's licence under this Act any chief officer of police or local authority may object to the grant of the licence on the ground that one or more of the requirements mentioned in section 14(1) and (3) of this Act are not satisfied in relation to the application. (2) An objection under this section shall be made within the prescribed time and in the prescribed manner and shall contain particulars of the ground on which it is made. (3) The onus of proof of the existence of the ground on which an objection is made shall lie on the objector. (4) In this section "local authority" means

  1. (a) in England and Wales, the council of a county, district or London borough or the Common Council of the City of London or a Passenger Transport Executive, and
  2. (b) in Scotland, a regional or islands council.
(5) This section does not apply in relation to any application for a special licence (within the meaning of section 12 of the Transport Act 1985).

Read a Second time.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

I beg to move amendment (a) to the proposed Lords amendment, in line 6, after 'authority', insert or any individual resident living in the area of the relevant traffic authority'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take the following Lords amendment: No. 55, in clause 30, page 28, line 33, at end insert— (2A) Where an application for a PSV operator's licence is granted under this Act and a person who duly made an objection to the grant under section 14A of this Act is aggrieved by the grant of the licence he may appeal to the Transport Tribunal.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Amendment No. 46 tends to put together some of the ingredients which were found in the Bill as it first came before the House. It highlights the absurdity and, indeed, farcical quality of much of the debate that has taken place.

Clause 22 of the original Bill included the perfectly sensible undertaking that those who wished to make representations to the traffic commissioners could do so where they had reason to believe that those who were being considered for licences were not suitable. We then had an extraordinary element of humour in the Committee because, half way through Committee, Conservative Back Benchers discovered that the clause was dangerous and had to be taken out of the Bill. Ministers agreed with astonishing alacrity. It is obvious that they reconsidered the position and appreciated that there would be those who wished to give evidence to the traffic commissioners. After much humming and hawing, we have a milder, much weaker undertaking that provides that those who are involved with local authorities and the police can object. We think that is excellent.

Where there are environmental matters, it is important that local authorities should have a say. It is quite possible that the police will know something about prospective operators and their past records. However, those who may still be in the best position to weigh up the real impact of an application are other operators, members of the public or business men and professionals with local knowledge. They will be unable to object.

The Government repeatedly said that the Bill is about protecting the interests of the public. We know that that claim is totally hollow and that their aim is to break up efficient public enterprises so that their friends can take the profits on the good routes while casting the remainder to the winds and the few crumbs of subsidy that will be left.

If the Government really are a caring Administration who mean what they say, let them accept the amendment.

6.45 pm
Mr. David Mitchell

The amendment to the amendment is undesirable—

Mrs. Dunwoody


Mr. Mitchell

If the hon. Lady will allow me, I shall explain. The amendment is undesirable because we must keep to the minimum the number of people able, by appealing against the grant of a licence, to prolong the time during which a new operator is uncertain whether he has a stable business or not. It is unnecessary, because if anyone—operators, suppliers or private individuals—has reason to know that an applicant for a licence does not satisfy the requirements as to good repute, financial standing and professional competence, and tells the traffic commissoner, the commissioner is bound to consider what he is being told. He cannot ignore the facts, if they are relevant, merely because the person has no formal status as an objector.

We considered this matter fully in Committee and there is nothing further which can be said. I have explained that the amendment is not desirable because it will cause delay and uncertainty. We want to encourage new operators. We do not wish to erect barriers to bar them, as the hon. Lady would. The hon. Lady would regulate everything out of existence if she had the opportunity to do so.

Mrs. Dunwoody

I think it will be noted by the general public that at a time when there are considerable worries about the safety of public vehicles, the Minister feels that there is no need to give the general public the right to make representations on important matters such as new operators and their suitability for licence.

Mr. Mitchell

I want the hon. Lady to be quite clear that she is completely wrong in what she has just said. There is nothing to stop the people to whom she is referring from making representations—

Mrs. Dunwoody

They have no standing.

Mr. Mitchell

They do not have the status of objectors which enables them to appeal against the traffic commissioner's findings, but they do have the right to make representations. The hon. Lady is entirely wrong to suggest that they have no right to do so.

Amendment (a) negatived.

Lords amendment No. 46 agreed to.

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