HC Deb 20 February 1992 vol 204 cc487-9

'.—(1) In section 4 of the Metropolitan Public Carriage Act 1869 (interpretation) in the definition of "hackney carriage", for the words "not a stage carriage" there shall be substituted the words "neither a stage carriage nor a tramcar". (2) In section 4 of the London Cab Act 1968 (display of signs etc) in subsection (5) in the definition of "private hire-car", after the words "public service vehicle" there shall be inserted the words "or tramcar". (3) In section 80 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 (interpretation) in subsection (1) in the definition of "private hire vehicle", after the words "London cab" there shall be inserted the words "or tramcar".'.—[Mr. McLoughlin.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. McLoughlin

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to consider Government amendments Nos. 88 to 92.

Mr. McLoughlin

The proposed new clause and amendments deal with a topic that has not so far been considered in connection with the Bill—hackney carriage legislation. The Joint Committee, in its report on private Bill procedure, said that tramway legislation needed considerable updating and revision to meet modern requirements. Elsewhere in the Bill we have been able to do that in relation to safety. Here, we are proposing to deal with the regulatory aspects. The Tramways Act 1870 introduced a system for regulating the conduct of drivers and passengers and for the licensing and operational conditions of vehicles by applying existing hackney carriage legislation that dated from 1847. That legislation covered horse-drawn vehicles and it might well have been sensible to bring tramways under the same controls when trams were horse drawn. However, that seems wholly inappropriate in the context of modern tramcar and light railway vehicles.

It could also lead to some bizarre circumstances. As the letter of the law stands at present, a constable who was convinced that a tram driver was behaving erratically could take over the tram and its horses and drive them to the nearest livery stables. The law would also impose on the driver of the tram in, say, Croydon, if that scheme succeeds, the need to pass the taxi drivers' knowledge examination. I do not think that that would be sensible.

The new clause will put trams in much the same position as buses, which is why clause 58 applies to trams some of the provisions of the bus legislation contained in the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981. In the matter of safety, trams will remain under the supervision of Her Majesty's railway inspectorate.

I commend the new clause to the House. With other provisions in the Bill, it will help to update the legislation governing the tramcar.

Mr. Snape

Clearly, this is the last time for a while that we shall approach the legislation in such harmony. We note what the Minister says and, again, it appears to make a great deal of sense.

It is probably out of order for me to ask this, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I shall do so anyway—it is, of course, fatal to draw Mr. Deputy Speaker's attention to such a breach of conduct. It seems that many aspects of the London Cab Act 1968 and previous taxi carriage legislation need to be updated, including not only the definition of tramcars but, for example, the six-mile limit from the Palace of Westminster which appears to be based on the days when cabs were pulled by horses. There certainly appears to be no justification for that legislation to remain in the latter part of the 20th century.

We welcome the attempt to tidy up the legislation. We hope that, in the last few weeks remaining to the Minister in his present post, he will reconsider some of the other and, in our view, greater anomalies of the legislation.

Mr. Fearn

The Minister will recollect that many of us spoke about tramcars when the Bill was in Committee, and many of us mentioned Blackpool. Having spoken to tramcar persons—especially the drivers and conductors in Blackpool—we know that they are worried about any legislation that will alter what they are doing. Will the Minister reassure them that there will be no alteration to the way in which they operate at present?

Mr. McLoughlin

I knew that the Tramways Act 1846, with which we are all conversant, would lead to some debate.

The hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) spoke about what might happen in the next few weeks. He obviously knows something that we do not. I look forward to many more months of further exchanges at the Dispatch Boxes with us both in our respective positions. The hon. Gentleman asked a valid question about hackney carriages and the old legislation. He will know that a working party is currently considering hackney carriages and public minicab regulations in London. I hope that we can reach a common agreement when the report is published.

I assure the hon. Member for Southport (Mr. Fearn) that there is no intention to change the way in which Blackpool tram drivers, whom we see at least every other year—if not more often—operate.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

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