HL Deb 05 July 1961 vol 232 cc1359-61

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill, which relates only to a temporary diversion of route, be read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Chesham.)


My Lords, I do not intend to oppose this Bill in any way, and my sole reason for rising to my feet to address your Lordships on this, what may seem to many, a small matter, is to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will give consideration to the point I am about, I hope, to make. I appreciate the fact, as stated by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, when replying for Her Majesty's Government on July 21. 1958, that it is fitting that the approval of Parliament should continue to be required for new trolley-bus routes. No doubt in many cases—possibly the majority of cases—that is right, as the extension of such routes may affect the lives of ordinary citizens. Moreover, certain local authorities who operate trolley-buses no doubt appreciate the discretion which they have at the moment under local Acts and Orders, and may possibly view with alarm any curtailment of this discretion by the Traffic Commissioners.

But, my Lords, a Bill like this one does, in the main, go through Parliament "on the nod". In fact, this Bill went through another place—the Second Reading was on May 31 and the Third Reading on June 8—and no comments were made upon it whatsoever. I should therefore like to take this opportunity of asking Her Majesty's Government whether it would be possible to look into this whole question of the time that it takes for such a Bill to become an Act. In other words, could there not be a drastic reduction in the whole process of obtaining such a Provisional Order?

As my noble friend is surely aware, that process is set out in a very closely-typed form on four sheets of foolscap. I have it here, my Lords, and I can assure you that it is a very lengthy and detailed procedure which is involved—such things as a Special Resolution of the Council, Notices of Intention, and also the lengthy and expensive procedure of going through Parliament. There may possibly be grounds for objections with regard to new routes or the extension of existing routes, and I was wondering whether these objections could not be treated on the same basis as the extension of omnibus routes. I am referring purely to objections by other bodies who may be affected, for I appreciate that, purely from a technical point of view—that is, those questions involving engineering and route proposals, such as the electricity supply feeder installations, the overhead equipment and so forth—the matter should still remain within the purview of the Inspecting Engineer's Department of the Ministry of Transport.

Finally, my Lords, I should like to mention, not with regard to this Bill which is before your Lordships to-day but with regard to another Bill, that from the time that the transport manager's proposals were approved to the day a copy of the printed Act was received by the transport department from the town clerk's department, fourteen months had elapsed. I am just wondering whether it would be possible for Her Majesty's Government to look at this whole question of the delay, and to see whether the time could not be cut down where local authorities wish to extend existing routes. I trust that I may be able to hear something on this matter from my noble friend.


My Lords, I am, of course, aware of the points that my noble friend has made, and he is quite right in referring to this matter which, to sum up what he said, I might call rather a rigmarole for doing a small and simple thing. The legislative position (if I may call it that) of trolley-buses is that of the successors to tramways, Which of course required special treatment by being in the nature of railways running on the road; and it is for this reason that the legislation is somewhat complicated. This method is the only one by which such minor matters can be dealt with because of the statutory position. This is the only way it can be done.

My noble friend made, I think, quite a convincing kind of case for something to be done to simplify the procedure, but, quite honestly, I do not think it is worth it. It would require legislation to change the procedure, and I do not think the matter is of sufficient importance to warrant the Parliamentary time and effort. Whether you approve or whether you do not, the flaw in my noble friend's argument is that, on the whole, trolley-bus routes are not likely to be extended; they are more likely to be curtailed because, generally speaking, trolley-buses are giving way to other forms of transport. I do not think that legislation to alter this procedure would be worth the powder and shot at the present time. This is the first Order of this kind which has appeared for something like five years, and normally where there are diversions of routes these are over other routes which are already authorised. I think it is taking rather a large hammer to crack a small nut to indulge in legislation to change the procedure at this stage.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to an Unopposed Bill Committee.