HC Deb 01 November 1994 vol 248 cc1530-4

Lords amendment: No. 47, in page 47, line 10, at beginning insert— ("(1A) After subsection 14(3)(b) there shall be inserted— (c) that there will not be any adverse effects on local environmental conditions as a result of the activities of the licence-holder."")

Mr. Norris

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

The amendment is well meaning, but it has not been thought through, and I regret to have to advise the House to disagree with it.

The Government are sensitive to the need to ensure that passenger transport operations do not have adverse environmental effects, but the question is whether the controls envisaged in the amendment are necessary, and how far they would be feasible or effective as currently drafted.

In any situation where a transport service is being provided for the public, a balance necessarily has to be struck between the needs of local people for an efficient transport system and the needs of residents for a pleasant environment in which to reside. There are already quite sufficient powers available to local authorities to ensure that balance. We believe that there is no need to introduce a further raft of controls on environmental grounds into the PSV operator licensing system.

Public service vehicle operating centres are, for the most part, well established and accepted in their localities. Before a new operating centre can be used, the operator must have planning permission, and that provides an opportunity to deal with any potential environmental problem.

Powers are available to traffic authorities under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 to impose traffic regulation orders on various grounds, which include preserving or improving the amenities of an area. Such an order may be used to prohibit or restrict the use of a road by a particular class of vehicle. Thus, if a local authority is of the view that buses are spoiling the local environment, it can ban buses completely or take the lesser step of imposing parking and waiting restrictions.

Suitable safeguards already exist to ensure that smoky vehicles are kept under control. All PSVs are subject to metered checks of emissions when they receive their annual roadworthiness tests and, in addition, spot checks are undertaken by the vehicle inspectorate throughout the year.

The amendment is expressed in general terms, which could be interpreted very widely. For example, it might be taken to mean that there should be no adverse effects in the immediate vicinity of the operator's operating centre. On the other hand, the phrase activities of the licence holder could refer to the operator running local services along new bus routes where there were objections from residents, or it might refer to the adverse effects of smoky diesel engines which are poorly maintained. In short, it is imprecise in meaning.

I remind the House that the purpose of the Bill is to deregulate and reduce the level of unnecessary controls on industry. The amendment would introduce new constraints on PSV operators that are both unnecessary and unacceptable. [Interruption.] I am sorry, but I did not catch what the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Griffiths) said. [Interruption.] Frankly, it probably was not worth listening to. The amendment would not help to improve the environment, and would add needlessly to the hurdles facing those wishing to start a new business in the bus industry.

3.45 am
Mr. Nigel Griffiths

The Minister was uncharacteristically tetchy. For a moment, I thought that, due to the lateness of the hour, he had turned the page and come to that fatal civil servant's note, "It's quarter to four in the morning, you sod; you're on your own."

Mr. Norris

I want to make it perfectly clear that none of the excellent personages now assembled to advise me would do any such thing.

Mr. Griffiths

I certainly would not want to fall out with them, as they will shortly be working for me.

The serious matter before us, which the Minister skirted around, is that, under the Transport Act 1985, there has been an explosion in the number of private bus operators. It is important that the environmental safeguards that currently apply to testing centres for lorries under the Transport Act 1968 should be extended to PSV operating centres, given the large rise in the number of PSV vehicles operating under the 1985 Act. The existing ability to object on environmental grounds to an application to run a lorry operating centre should also apply to bus operating centres.

That argument was put forcefully in the other place, and it carried the day. I believe that the same should be true here, so we shall put the matter to the vote.

Mr. Nick Harvey (North Devon)

I endorse the remarks of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Griffiths). The amendment does no more than bring into line the requirements for PSV operating centres to be the same as those for lorry operating centres. If, as the Minister suggests, the amendment is unsuitable, perhaps he could explain why there is that disparity between the two regimes.

Although the hon. Gentleman referred to the regulations that might cover the highways and the pollution that buses might make, he did not explain how, in a broader sense, any environmental check might be brought to bear.

Question put, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment —

The House divided: Ayes 127, Noes 24.

Division No. 337] [03.48 am
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)
Alexander, Richard Kirkhope, Timothy
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Knapman, Roger
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Amess, David Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Arbuthnot, James Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Legg, Barry
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Lidington, David
Baldry, Tony Lightbown, David
Bates, Michael Luff, Peter
Biffen, Rt Hon John MacKay, Andrew
Booth, Hartley Maclean, David
Boswell, Tim Malone Gerald
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Merchant, Piers
Bowden, Sir Andrew Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Bowis, John Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)
Brandreth, Gyles Neubert, Sir Michael
Brazier, Julian Norris, Steve
Bright, Sir Graham Ottaway, Richard
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Page, Richard
Browning, Mrs. Angela Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Burns, Simon Pickles, Eric
Burt, Alistair Richards, Rod
Carrington, Matthew Robathan, Andrew
Cash, William Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Chapman, Sydney Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Clappison, James Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Shaw, David (Dover)
Colvin, Michael Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Congdon, David Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Speed, Sir Keith
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Spink, Dr Robert
Couchman, James Spring, Richard
Day, Stephen Stephen, Michael
Devlin, Tim Stewart, Allan
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Streeter, Gary
Dover, Den Sweeney, Walter
Duncan, Alan Sykes, John
Duncan-Smith, Iain Tapsell, Sir Peter
Elletson, Harold Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Temple-Morris, Peter
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Thomason, Roy
Fabricant, Michael Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Thurnham, Peter
Forth, Eric Twinn, Dr Ian
Freeman, Rt Hon Roger Vaughan, Sir Gerard
French, Douglas Viggers, Peter
Gallie, Phil Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Garnier, Edward Waller, Gary
Gill, Christopher Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Gillan, Cheryl Waterson, Nigel
Gorst, Sir John Watts, John
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Wells, Bowen
Hague, William Whittingdale, John
Hampson, Dr Keith Widdecombe, Ann
Hawkins, Nick Willetts, David
Hawksley, Warren Wolfson, Mark
Heald, Oliver Wood, Timothy
Hendry, Charles Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Tellers for the Ayes:
Jenkin, Bernard Mr. Derek Conway and
Jessel, Toby Dr. Liam Fox
Barnes, Harry Olner, William
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Pike, Peter L.
Godman, Dr Norman A. Rendel, David
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Salmond, Alex
Harvey, Nick Skinner, Dennis
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Spearing, Nigel
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Spellar, John
Jackson, Glenda (H'stead) Welsh, Andrew
Jamieson, David Wicks, Malcolm
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Wise, Audrey
Kilfoyle, Peter Tellers for the Noes:
Martin, Michael J.(Springburn) Mr. Jim Dowd and
Miller, Andrew Mr. Gordon McMaster

Question accordingly agreed to.

Lords amendment: No. 48, in page 47, line 42, at end insert— ("() In section 17(1) after the words "as to professional competence" there shall be inserted "and the Traffic Commissioners shall also revoke the licence if the holder has shown consistent disregard for drivers' hours regulations."")

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment.—[Mr. Norris.]

Mr. Nigel Griffiths

I am pleased that the Minister, having recognised the weakness of his argument on the previous amendment, has not sought to elaborate on this one.

The amendment was made by the other place to protect the public from PSV operators who have a bad record. It gave the powers to ensure that the licence holder was someone who—at least in terms of treating his or her own drivers, if he or she had drivers—had not breached the regulations. There was particular concern about the disregard for regulations on drivers' hours.

4 am

Their Lordships were considering the matter in the wake of a crash that killed nine American tourists on the M2; driver fatigue was a contributory factor. Their Lordships believe—and we agree—that people who put lives at risk should not be responsible for holding operators' licences. They may advance a case for mitigating circumstances, and such a case would be listened to, but that should certainly be one of the key criteria to be taken into account when granting or refusing a licence to such operators. We shall back up the other place, and put this to the vote.

Question put, That this House doth disagree with the House in the said amendment:—

The House divided: Ayes 125, Noes 23.

Division No. 338] [04.00 am
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Baldry, Tony
Alexander, Richard Bates, Michael
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Biffen, Rt Hon John
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Booth, Hartley
Amess, David Boswell, Tim
Arbuthnot, James Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Bowden, Sir Andrew
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Bowis, John
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Brandreth, Gyles
Brazier, Julian Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Bright, Sir Graham Legg, Barry
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Lidington, David
Browning, Mrs. Angela Lightbown, David
Burns, Simon Luff, Peter
Burt, Alistair MacKay, Andrew
Carrington, Matthew Maclean, David
Cash, William Malone, Gerald
Chapman, Sydney Merchant, Piers
Clappison, James Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Neubert, Sir Michael
Colvin, Michael Norris, Steve
Congdon, David Ottaway, Richard
Conway, Derek Page, Richard
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Pickles, Eric
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Richards, Rod
Couchman, James Robathan, Andrew
Day, Stephen Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Devlin, Tim Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Dover, Den Shaw, David (Dover)
Duncan, Alan Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Duncan-Smith, Iain Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Elletson, Harold Speed, Sir Keith
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Spink, Dr Robert
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Spring, Richard
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Stephen, Michael
Fabricant, Michael Stewart, Allan
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Streeter, Gary
Forth, Eric Sweeney, Walter
Freeman, Rt Hon Roger Sykes, John
French, Douglas Tapsell, Sir Peter
Gallie, Phil Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Garnier, Edward Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Gill, Christopher Temple-Morris, Peter
Gillan, Cheryl Thomason, Roy
Gorst, Sir John Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Thurnham, Peter
Hague, William Twinn, Dr Ian
Hampson, Dr Keith Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Hawkins, Nick Viggers, Peter
Hawksley, Warren Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Heald, Oliver Waller, Gary
Hendry, Charles Waterson, Nigel
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A) Watts, John
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Wells, Bowen
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Whittingdale, John
Jenkin, Bernard Widdecombe, Ann
Jessel, Toby Willetts, David
Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr) Wolfson, Mark
Kirkhope, Timothy Wood, Timothy
Knapman, Roger Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Tellers for the Ayes:
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Mr. Andrew Mitchell and
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Dr. Liam Fox
Barnes, Harry Olner, William
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Pike, Peter L.
Godman, Dr Norman A. Rendel, David
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Salmond, Alex
Harvey, Nick Skinner, Dennis
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Spearing, Nigel
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Spellar, John
Jackson, Glenda (H'stead) Welsh, Andrew
Jamieson, David Wicks, Malcolm
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Wise, Audrey
Kilfoyle, Peter Tellers for the Noes:
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Mr. Gordon McMaster and
Miller, Andrew Mr. Jim Dowd

Question accordingly agreed to.

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