HL Deb 03 July 1962 vol 241 cc1196-225

Report stage resumed.

Clause 4:

Railways Board's road services

4.—(1) Subject to this section, the Railways Board shall have power— (a) to provide transport services by road—

  1. (i) for the carriage of goods which have been or are to be carried by rail or water by the Railways Board, and
  2. (ii) for the carriage of goods where a railway service has been temporarily interrupted, and
  3. (iii) for the carriage of passengers where a railway service has been temporarily interrupted, or has been discontinued,
and to carry goods and passengers by those services;

4.20 p.m.

LORD STONHAM moved, in subsection 1 (a), to omit sub-paragraph (ii). The noble Lord said: My Lords, with the permission of the House, I would deal with Amendments 6 and 7 together as they are on the same point. I think the point can be dealt with quite briefly because a similar Amendment was fully debated on the Committee stage, when the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, was able to give assurances on at least half the case I put forward. The point at issue—it is still at issue—occurs in relation to the difference between sub-paragraphs (ii) and (iii). In sub-paragraph (ii) the Railways Board shall have power to provide transport services by road for the carriage of goods where a railway service has been temporarily interrupted".

On the other hand, in sub-paragraph (iii), they will have power to do so for the carriage of passengers where a railway service has been temporarily interrupted, or has been discontinued". Our Amendment seeks to delete the section dealing only with goods and to amend the other section, so that, whether it be passengers or goods, the Railways Board shall have power to carry them by road not only when a service has been temporarily interrupted but when it has been discontinued.

We visualise the position—I think this is generally recognised—where quite considerable distances of railway track, goods stations and goods yards which are now in use will no longer be used when the proposals of the British Transport Commission or the Railways Board are approved by the Minister. When we discussed this on the last occasion I pointed to the increasing practice in the railways of discontinuing shunting at small stations and conveying goods by lorry from the remaining railhead or junction. The noble Lord, Lord Chesham, assured me that what he called "the normal delivery services" would continue, and therefore there is no difficulty there. Indeed, Clause 4 (1) (a) (i) says that they should be able to provide transport services by road for the carriage of goods which have been or are to be carried by rail or water … ". Therefore, if goods have been conveyed a certain distance by rail under the Railways Board they may be carried by lorry. But it is visualised on the railways that major marshalling yards for goods may be at least 50 miles apart—in other words, 25 miles from the centre either way. That really envisages transport by lorry of something which can scarcely be called "the normal collection and delivery services" which we discussed in Committee. We are afraid, therefore, that unless this Amendment is accepted and it is made clear that the Railways Board shall have power not only to carry passengers but to carry goods by road when a railway service has been discontinued, it will interfere with the kind of service which is projected on the railways in future and which in some areas is now beginning to become a fact.

The Government may say, "Well, it is quite all right. The kind of carriage you are thinking of will still be covered by the clause as it now stands because the goods have been, or will be, carried by rail." In other words, they are being collected together, perhaps over a 50-mile radius, to go to a railhead, and therefore it could be argued that that would be covered by this clause—although I should like to hear from the noble Lord who is replying whether that is the case. I think it is clear that, as the clause now stands, the Railways Board would be able to carry goods by road—assuming it was a new service—only if they were either coming from or going to a railhead. I can see conditions in which that might not only be uneconomic, or not as economic as it could be, but deprive traders and manufacturers in the area of a goods service which they would very much like to have. What we should like to see is power given to the Railways Board to provide, by road, a service for the conveyance of goods to take the place of a goods service which was provided by rail and has been discontinued. The only way we can see of achieving this is for the Government to accept this Amendment. I hope I have made the point clear, and that it will prove acceptable to the Government.

Amendment moved— Page 5, leave out lines 28 and 29.—(Lord Stonham.)

4.28 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has moved his Amendment in an eminently reasonable and clear fashion, and I am grateful to him for that. Despite doubts which remain in the noble Lord's mind from things I said in Committee, I still think that I can allay his fears considerably and show why we ought not to accept his Amendment.

First of all, I ought to say a word or two as to the reason why the clause is drafted as it is, and why there is this distinction of treatment between passenger services which are to continue to be provided by the railways after a closure, and the goods services which are not provided and which the noble Lord thinks should be provided. In the case of the passenger services, of course we know the facts of the matter about bus services. That is not something I am going into at the moment, but that very fact must be admitted, if nothing else is, by the proposals which have been written into the Bill to cater for alternative passenger services where the rail services are discontinued. I need say no more about that, except to emphasise that in many cases where there are closures the bus services may that is the reason why provision is made well prove to be inadequate. As I say, in the Bill to replace them.

But, my Lords, that is not so in the case of goods services. I do not think anyone has ever claimed that there is any lack of road haulage facilities in the country. Therefore the problem here is not in the least bit the same as it is with the bus services. I think it is quite safe to feel, where a railway service is discontinued, that so far as goods are concerned road haulage facilities will be easily available from what already exists to cater for that need, if, in fact, a need such as the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, described exists. I think someone will very soon fulfil it.

On this point of the railway collection and delivery services, I should like to reassure the noble Lord, because, as he said, they operate those where the goods are to be transported or have been transported by the Railways Board, and they collect and deliver them in their own lorries. No doubt if there are closures, various railheads, from and to which goods have previously been despatched, may disappear as well. But I want to assure the noble Lord that it will be perfectly possible to continue the collection and delivery services, even -though the new railhead is considerably further away than was the one they were accustomed to use. There is no bar within any reasonable limit on the Railways Board's developing those services in order to meet the needs of the traffic they have to carry.

That is all perfectly fair and justifiable, but what I think the Railways Board ought not to be free to do, and which they would be free to do if the Amendment were accepted, would be to build up a large, general road haulage system operated by themselves in substitution for discontinued railway services; and which, if the closures indeed turned out to be as widespread as some people anticipate with apprehension they may do, would almost end with their really becoming road haulage operators at large. The reason I think it is wrong for them to do that is that it conflicts with the philosophy of the Bill, and with the duty imposed on the Railways Board to run the railways. It is not their job to run large fleets of motor vehicles.

It has, furthermore, been decided that the nationalised road haulage activities should come under the Holding Company. I do not think it would be right that certain of them should be under the Holding Company, and that a rival fleet, so to speak, should operate under the Railways Board. In addition, my Lords, I think that it hardly seems right, when such very large sums are in any case to be spent on the railways, and if they are going to be in deficit and in receipt of Exchequer assistance for some time at the very least, that they should use their financial resources for this purpose. For those reasons I think that your Lordships should not accept this Amendment.

4.35 p.m.


My Lords, I think the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, went some way to allaying the fears which we had on this side of the House, when he said that in fact the concentration of goods depôts will not preclude the collection and delivery services of British Railways from being extended to cover the area from which the normal facility has been withdrawn. If they will be extended and maintained, I would agree that this Amendment has to a considerable exent been met and, therefore, that it is not so essential. It was not the intention of the Amendment that the railways should enter into the road haulage business. But it is, of course, essential, if we are to maintain the goods traffic which is so necessary if the railways are to make any progress in regard to reducing the deficiency—as it is on the carriage of goods traffic that we are likely to make some money—to provide a service that will, in fact, take the goods from the manufacturer's depôt to the railhead, or from the railhead to the person who is to receive the goods.

The noble Lord, Lord Chesham—and this is one of the reasons why we put down the Amendment—referred to British Road Services. We should have been much happier if we could have secured much greater co-ordination between B.R.S. and the railways. For a very long time I have held the view that there is no reason whatever why B.R.S. should not be the collection and delivery agency on behalf of British Railways. But under the 1953 Act B.R.S. are precluded from increasing their number of vehicles and, therefore, with the withdrawal of railway services and railway facilities, the need will not be met unless it is covered by an expanded collection and delivery service, because B.R.S. cannot increase their number of vehicles.

The noble Lord said that if the railway facilities are withdrawn, there will be road haulage facilities in the area. There may be those facilities, but over quite a large part of the country they are sparse. Although I do not want to be accused of downing the little man, one of the problems of road safety is presented by the one-man or two-man lorry organisation, which is sometimes collecting goods for delivery outside the area of the commissioner's licence which the operator holds. I should much prefer to see goods handled by reputable undertakings, whether road haulage companies or railways, than by a number of these rather free-lance carriers who seem to operate in a number of rural areas of this country—and operate, as one might say, with an extension of their licensed facilities or, at least, a freedom that would not be allowed in many other parts of the country.


My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment, as I feel that the answer given by the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, was a very reasonable and satisfactory one.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 7:

Duty and powers of London Board


(5) Subject to the next following subsection, the London Board shall have power to let motor vehicles on hire to other persons who hold public service vehicle licences under Part III of the Road Traffic Act, 1960, for use by them for the carriage of passengers.

(6) The London Board shall not keep for operation as public service vehicles more vehicles than are in their opinion required for the purpose of providing such transport services as they have power to provide under subsection (3) of this section and under the next following section and, accordingly, they shall not keep for operation as public service vehicles more vehicles than they would keep if they did not possess the power conferred by the last foregoing subsection.

(7) The London Board shall not have power to let motor vehicles on hire to other persons for use by them for the carriage of goods.

4.39 p.m.

LORD TEYNHAM moved to leave out subsection (5). The noble Lord said: My Lords, with the permission of the House, perhaps Amendments Nos. 8 and 10 could be taken together. Both these Amendments are similar to those debated during the Committee stage of the Bill, and I have really set them down again in order to get a clear statement from Her Majesty's Government. During the debate on the Committee stage, I think the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, said that the Holding Company could not set up a subsidiary company for the purpose of operating hired vehicles from London Transport during week-ends when they had a surplus of vehicles. Later in the debate I think the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said he thought they could do that and I believe the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, then retracted his statement, although I am not quite sure. I do not propose to weary the House with all the arguments put forward during the Committee stage as to possible unfair competition by London Transport on contract hire. Perhaps the noble Lord, Who is in charge of the Bill, could now give the House his considered views on the whole matter. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 7, line 39, leave out subsection (5).—(Lord Teynham.)


My Lords, since I can speak only once I shall take my noble friend at his word: that he is not really trying to get this Amendment through but is merely after a statement from me. Therefore, I, too, will not address myself to the same lines of argument that I fired back at him in reply to his own arguments on Committee stage. I accept what he says, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to clarify this matter, because I think my noble friend was right in that I did, perhaps, leave the House without clear guidance on this matter, there being some doubt remaining.

As I said I would, I have, of course, been carefully into this matter, and the fact is that technically the Holding Company could form a subsidiary to operate buses hired from the London Board on this basis. That is the fact of the matter, so let us be quite clear about it. I have really no more to say on that side of it except that I should like to make a remark or two on what the situation would be if it were considered that such a thing should be done. I cannot personally see what would be the point of forming such a subsidiary in order to endeavour to compete with other firms carrying out this work, with an indeterminate number of buses and coaches available at unspecified periods; but if there is any fear of unfair competition In this regard then the safeguards here are in the restriction on the London Board from keeping more vehicles than they require for their own purposes and, in particular, from building up a hire fleet. Therefore they will have only differing numbers of vehicles, no doubt available at different odd periods. I do not want to anticipate discussion on a further Amendment, but I should have thought existing operators would find this service useful, even though it fell far short of a proposition to set up a subsidiary under the Holding Company specifically to operate these vehicles.

Now even if that were so, I should like again to refer my noble friend Lord Teynham to something said in Committee, and that is that if there were to be any question of unfair competition—or, indeed, of hiring these vehicles out at ridiculously low rates and undercutting other people who hire out vehicles—there would, I am perfectly sure, very soon be representations to the Minister and a general noise made about it. The further safeguard lies in the fact that the Minister may call upon the London Board to provide him with any information that he wishes from it, and he may also give a direction or even require them to discontinue what they are doing if it seems not to be in the best interest of the public. I would specifically refer my noble friend to Clause 26, where those powers which the Minister has are set out, and he will see that what I say is amply borne out by what is in the Bill. In view of what I have said, I hope my noble friend will feel more satisfied about the matter, because it is going to be difficult for me to amplify it any further if he is not.


My Lords, I believe that this situation rather ties up with something in an Amendment I have put down to Clause 15. What we fear is that the London Board may be able to delegate powers to the subsidiaries of the Holding Company. In the case of my noble friend's Amendment, that would mean, perhaps, being able to let out coaches; and, by delegating powers, it would obviate their needing a road transport licence to cross the London area. When we come to Clause 15 my noble friend will no doubt be able to give me every satisfaction on that subject, but perhaps it might meet my noble friend's point if he could do it also at this stage.


My Lords, may I have the guidance of the House? The noble Lord, Lord Chesham, has said he cannot speak a second time. It has happened during this Report stage that we on this side, certainly, have spoken after the Minister. We have done so mainly because we have wished to hear what the Minister had to say; and, if he has agreed with us, it has proved that there was no need for us to make our speeches earlier on. But I think it is right that the Minister, if he so wishes, can, by leave of the House, reply to any subsequent debate that may have taken place after he spoke in the first place. I should have thought that that would have the approval of the House.


My Lords, may I just ask the noble Lord opposite whether he means only the Minister?


And others.


My Lords, if I may interpret Lord Hawke's remarks as a question, perhaps that would make it even easier, because I think it is justifiable to answer a question. In any case, I am asking the leave of the House, just to make sure. Briefly speaking, I should be glad to reassure my noble friend Lord Hawke on the point he raised, in that there are no means of delegating powers to a subsidiary of the Holding Company (or, for that matter, of any other Board) whereby they could use the London Board's vehicles to operate services for which they would normally need a road service licence. It simply cannot be done. Therefore I am glad to assure my noble friend that his fears about that are completely groundless.


I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, for his full explanation. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.48 p.m.

LORD LINDGREN moved to leave out subsections (6) and (7). The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Amendment of which we have just disposed, which has reference to subsection (5), and the Amendment which I now move, to leave out subsections (6) and (7), show the clash within the House. The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, is anxious to protect private enterprise, and is afraid of competition from public enterprise; and subsection (5), of course, gives the London Transport Authority the right to let to other operators certain of its vehicles which are surplus to it because they are standing idle during off-peak periods. I want to be quite frank with the House. Subsection (6) restricts the London Board to the number of vehicles necessary to operate the public service within the confined area of its operation. That number includes, of course, the vehicles necessary to deal with the peak load. It is the peak-flow vehicles standing idle which subsection (5) allows the Board to hire out. I and my noble friends on this side of the House would far rather see the London Board have a larger fleet, in order that it can go out into the private hire field and get added revenue in the very difficult circumstances under which it operates.

One of the reasons why noble Lords who are associated with bus companies and private hire firms are so anxious not to get London Board competition is that it is recognised that the private hire section of the motor transport industry is the most profitable. A full load from point to point, and knowledge of time of start and completion, are essential for the economic use of a vehicle, and private hire is a very profitable section of the industry. Many other operating bus companies are allowed fully to engage in it.

What we suggest—and this is the purpose of the Amendment; I do not want in any way to hide that—is that the London Board should be equally able to go fully into the private hire business, not only to the limited extent permitted at the moment, but to a greater degree. I move this Amendment not only for the financial reason, which would enable London Transport more easily to meet its costs, but also on the basis of safety. There is not the slightest doubt that one of the biggest factors contributing to road accidents is the unworthiness of road vehicles. Many vehicles are operated on a shoe string, and when there is difficulty in making ends meet financially, it is the standard of maintenance which falls.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but I hope he will produce his authority for his statement. Because it is not what most police forces in the country say.


Which part of my statement?


That it is bad maintenance which causes the majority of road accidents.


My Lords, if I said "majority of road accidents", I will certainly withdraw that; but it is a very big factor in road accidents. Those who are associated with petty sessional courts, and who sit as magistrates, know the number of cases that are brought by the police after an accident has occurred because a vehicle is unroadworthy.

But at least let me say this: I do not think there will be any conflict on the fact that the standard of operation and maintenance in the larger bus companies, and also in London Transport, is exceedingly high. In fact, I should like to take this opportunity of paying a compliment to them. London Transport do not get many compliments, certainly not as many compliments as they really deserve. In spite of the staff difficulties they have had over a long period of years—wages, hours, conditions of service, and the rest; difficulties which have to be faced in any public service—the general standard of care, of efficiency, and of courtesy in the operation of their buses, driving, and the rest of it, has been extremely high.

Subsection (6), which we ask to be removed, is the subsection which limits the size of the fleet vehicles required, and the reason we should like to increase that fleet is, as I said, to enable the London Board to go out into the public hire side of the business. As regards subsection (7), I will be quite open and say that I am not so anxious, at least, about the withdrawal of that. London Transport never have gone into the business either of owning or of hiring vehicles for the carriage of goods. They are not in the road haulage business on that basis. But what I am concerned about is the fact that they should be precluded by legislation from hiring out a goods vehicle which they have, which may be a vehicle necessary for their own purpose of carrying materials or parts from one depôt to another. If it is available, if someone wants to borrow or hire it, that should be possible. But I move the Amendment mainly, I agree, because of subsection (6); I am not so definite about subsection (7). My Lords, I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 8, line 1, leave out subsections (6) and (7).—(Lord Lindgren.)

4.55 p.m.


My Lords, I have listened with great care to the moving of this Amendment by the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, because I thought that perhaps he might have some fresh line to pursue which he did not pursue in the Committee stage. But that did not turn out to be so. I must admit that I am just a little confused about the purpose which the noble Lord stated he had in mind in moving this Amendment—I am now talking about subsection (6); I will come later to subsection (7). I think I recollect that we said the same kind of thing on Committee.


Very largely.


The noble Lord told us that it is his desire that the London Board should be able to go out and pick out this profitable business— what he said was the cream of the contract carriage business. That is why I am a little puzzled. Because if his Amendment were to be accepted—which I hope it is not—it would not achieve the purpose which he has in mind. What the Board are empowered to do in this clause is to let out vehicles on, hire to operators who hold the necessary licence to operate them, and thereby, of course, to earn a little more money from the asset which they have to possess for the purposes of their business, which is running buses in the London area, and to help with the duty that is on them to do the best they can for the public purse.

But, my Lords, all the noble Lord's Amendment would do, if it were carried, would be to allow the London Board to invest money in further vehicles, vehicles which they did not need for the purposes of their undertaking and which they would hold purely and simply for the purpose of hiring out to other people. The Amendment, in fact, would not allow them to go into the contract carriage business; it would allow them to go into unrestricted business as hirers of vehicles for other people to operate. So to start with, the Amendment would not do what the noble Lord wishes, and I hope that on that account alone he will not wish to pursue it. I do not think it is right or proper that the London Board, whose job it is to run and to operate a good bus service in London, should be going into business as vehicle hirers at large. Again, I would think that it was the wrong use of their financial resources to put them into a large number of buses which they do not require, for the purpose of hiring them to other people in connection with that business. I repeat, the object of this power is to enable them to make better use of the asset which they are required to have.

Now, my Lords, if I may move on to subsection (7) and the question of goods vehicles, the noble Lord more or less agreed with what I said last time: that London Transport had no power previously to do what he suggests. They had no number of vehicles which would be suitable for hiring for the carriage of goods. Their vehicles were mostly specialised maintenance vehicles and the like; and they were not surplus to the same extent because they are not subject to peak and off-peak demands. The noble Lord queried why it should be expressed in legislation that they should not be lent as breakdown vehicles at a charge of "a couple of quid". The reason is that it is desirable, so far as possible, in a Bill of this kind to make it abundantly clear what each Board can and cannot do, in pursuance of the set task which the Bill gives it. Judging from what I have heard, that is the opinion held in various quarters of the House. What the noble Lord put forward about the odd individual case does not amount to strong enough grounds to alter the Bill from its present state of clarity on this subject. Therefore, I hope that he will not wish to press his Amendment.


My Lords, London Transport are all the time putting into service new-style buses of the latest type. Under the Bill as it is, for every 100 new buses they bring into service, they will be expected to scrap 100 of their older vehicles, yet these may be perfectly roadworthy and if they could be used for hire, that would bring in some remuneration for the Board.


My Lords, surely they can sell some of these vehicles, not only in this country, but abroad. There is a market.


My Lords, if I may answer, by leave, the answer is, No. They could not retain vehicles for hire purposes only. I must make it clear that we shall expect the Board to act as they normally would be expected to act to carry out the functions which they have placed upon them. This hiring out of vehicles at times when they are not busy is to be regarded as "a little bit of bunce". As my noble friend Lord Stuart of Findhorn says, if the vehicles are in good condition, there must be a market for them somewhere. This also would have the effect of improving the finances of the Board.


My Lords, their resale price would be a good deal lower than their value standing in the books.


My Lords, to sell such vehicles to somebody else would go clean against the instructions issued by the licensing authority: that people must make sure, before they acquire any vehicle, that a licence will be forthcoming to allow them to run it. Does it follow that, if London Transport were to sell off some of their vehicles, licences would automatically be given to run them?


My Lords, that may or may not be so. They may not be bought for continued operation as buses. They may be bought for a variety of reasons—even for conversion as dwellings in some cases.


My Lords, the noble Lord is not thinking of building up another slumdom with old passenger vehicles?


No, my Lords, I am not; I am merely indicating to the noble Lord that there are a variety of reasons. He will not disregard the fact that there is a certain overseas market for these vehicles. Those who wanted to operate them as buses would require licences; but if they wanted to use them as contract carriages, that would be another matter.


My Lords, it is the same with British shipping, a great deal of which is sold abroad, not always to our benefit, but to the benefit of other countries. Kipling wrote a poem about the old Clyde-built boat sailing the Aegean, "painted like the whore of Babylon."


My Lords, it would be a pleasure to see these old London buses when one is travelling abroad.


My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8:

London Board's road services outside London

8.—(1) The London Board shall have power to carry 20 passengers outside the London Passenger Transport Area by stage or express carriage— (c) with the consent of the Minister, by any service beyond the limits specified in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this subsection.

The Minister shall not give his consent under paragraph (c) of this subsection unless he is satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances which make it desirable that the Board should carry passengers on a particular route outside the said limits.

5.7 p.m.

LORD STONHAM moved, in subsection (1), to omit all words after the end of paragraph (c). The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Amendment standing in the name of my noble friends and myself, to leave out lines 32 to 35. Clause 8 gives the London Transport Board the power to carry passengers outside the London Passenger Transport area on roads within a radius of ten miles from any point on the boundary of the area or on London Transport Executive routes which go beyond the limits specified in paragraphs (a) and (b). In addition, under paragraph (c), they can, with the consent of the Minister, have power to carry passengers beyond these two limits. That qualification is very satisfactory until we come to the next qualifying paragraph, which says that the Minister shall not give his consent under paragraph (c) unless he is satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances which make it desirable.

When we discussed this matter in Committee on a somewhat similar Amendment, it so happened that the debate had to be adjourned on the first day to allow other business to be discussed, and we resumed the following day, and for that reason we had two replies to the Amendment, one from the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, on the first day, and the other from the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, on the second. It may be that the night's interval for reflection resulted in two totally different replies being given on what are "exceptional circumstances". Obviously, if the Bill says that the Minister is not to give his consent to any extension of services unless there are exceptional circumstances, we ought to have an idea from the Government of what are "exceptional circumstances".

The noble Lord, Lord Chesham, gave his view and said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 240 (No. 84), col. 1122]: In my view, these exceptional circumstances would be mostly where the Board are approached to operate some kind of on-demand service—for instance, to diversionary airports when these serve the London area or are adjacent. … This power might be used for bus services in substitution for railway services where these were suspended due to accident, landslide, major repairs, or something of that kind. I think we should all agree that those circumstances would be really exceptional. In other words, London Transport would not be able to run these extra bus services outside these areas unless there was some kind of disaster, and, therefore, they would have a very limited power.

On the second day, when this matter was further discussed and my noble friend Lord Shepherd had spoken on particular points, the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 241 (No. 85), col. 15]: I should have thought that if nobody else would do it"— that is, nobody other than London Transport would provide a bus service to take the place of some other service that had been suspended— then the circumstances would be sufficiently exceptional. There does not have to be a disaster; there has to be merely a need. That is precisely the view that we put forward: that the London Transport Board ought to be allowed to provide a service if there is a proved need. The noble Bad, Lord Dundee, went even further and said [col. 20]: I thought I had made it plain that we did not intend 'exceptional' to mean 'emergency and temporary'.… We do not regard the word 'exceptional' as having that connotation. We merely think it is reasonable to give the Minister some general guidance as to the manner in which he shall or shall not give his consent.

It is true that a night's sleep had intervened, but this is the same Amendment, and we have two noble Lords on the Front Bench, one saying that there must be an earthquake or terrible accident before the circumstances are exceptional, and the other saying: "You need not have anything like that; it is merely if there is a need—a service is required—and those circumstances would be regarded as exceptional". Then the noble Earl went on to say that the Government wanted these words in the Bill so as to give the Minister some general guidance". It is a curious sort of guidance if these words, "exceptional circumstances", are to have two totally different meanings. The Minister will be rather like the golden dustman in the song: 'e don't know where 'e are ". Neither do we; and that is the important point.

I would just go back to paragraph (c), under which the Board can provide services with the consent of the Minister". We feel that that should be enough. It is inconceivable that the London Transport Board would want to supply a bus service outside their present limits unless there was a need and unless there was a reasonable prospect that it would pay its way. We have already had the procedure explained to us that if the railways want to suspend a service the Consultative Committee will look into the matter first, and if they are satisfied that there will be hardship, then the Minister can require the Railways Board to provide a service or get some other agency—it can be a private agency—to provide a bus service to replace the railway service that has had to be shut down.

If this is in the Home Counties, it will be a natural thing, in view of all the provisions in the Bill for consultation between the Boards, for the Railways Board to say to the London Transport Board: "Will you provide this service? Will you extend one of your existing services to cover this particular area where the line is going to be shut down?". I should have thought that that was most desirable and reasonable, and that the words to which we object in lines 32 to 35, saying that the Minister shall give his consent to such extensions only in exceptional circumstances, are entirely unnecessary. They will be the cause of delay, and of discussions which will not be needed, and, indeed, they will limit the Minister's judgment.

It will be no use for the noble Earl to argue that that is not the case, because he said that the words are to be there to give the Minister some general guidance as to the manner in which he shall or shall not give his consent. If noble Lords opposite are in such complete disagreement as to what the Minister regards as exceptional circumstances, where do we stand? And where do the London Transport Board or the Railways Board stand? Nobody knows. I think the case is unanswerable for an acceptance of this Amendment to delete these words, so that the Minister can exercise his discretion in these matters without these restricting and obviously meaningless words. I ask the Government to accept the Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 8, leave out lines 32 to 35.—(Lord Stonham.)

5.18 p.m.


My Lords, I think this Amendment is not merely similar to, but verbally identical with, that which was moved in Committee and which, after a long and full discussion, extending, as the noble Lord has reminded us, over two days, was rejected on a Division. I do not feel, therefore, that noble Lords will wish to spend much time in going over all the same ground again. The Amendment seeks to leave out a qualification in Clause 8 concerning permission which may be given to the London Board to run services outside their own area. They are permitted to do so in three cases under Clause 8: (a) on roads within a radius of ten miles, or in the county of Kent five miles, from any point on the boundary of the London Passenger Transport area, and (b) on the London Transport Executive's Routes (so far as they extend beyond the limits specified in paragraph (a) of this subsection), and (c) with the consent of the Minister, by any service beyond the limits specified in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this subsection. It is in respect of paragraph (c) that the condition is then imposed that the Minister must be satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances.

I think I fully explained to your Lordships in Committee that, while in the case of applications to run a service within the radius of ten miles all that is necessary is the consent of the traffic commissioners, subject to an appeal to the Minister, if the service is outside this ten miles limit the Minister must be satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances in order to warrant his giving permission for the service to be run, because the London Board is not intended to operate services outside London, or at any great distance beyond it, unless there are very exceptional circumstances which might be held to justify it.

The only new point which the noble Lord has brought up is one where he has mistaken two terms as a contradiction, one of which includes the other. It is as if he were to ask the Government for a definition of a crustacean, and someone were to reply, "A lobster", and the next day somebody else were to say, "Of course, there are crustaceans like the langouste, the crawfish and so on" and the noble Lord were to say, "That is a complete contradiction." But it is not a contradiction. One term includes the other. It includes these emergency and temporary possibilities, of which my noble friend Lord Chesham gave one example.

In his quotation about what I said about "exceptional circumstances", the noble Lord appeared not to have understood the argument which had led up to it. During the debate a number of noble Lords opposite had said that it would be very hard luck if there were a closure of a branch line beyond the ten-mile limit so that there were no proper transport services for the people in the areas between which the former branch line had run, and that for this reason the London Board ought to be allowed to step in and run a bus service. I replied that the procedure under the Bill was laid down under Clause 55. I will not go through it again—we have been through it many times—but under the clause, if the Minister is satisfied that nobody else can do it, he can require the London Board to provide a bus service of their own, even although it should involve them in a loss. Or the Railway Board can get a private bus company to do it. There is no reason at all why the London Board should do it.

What I said was that, in the unlikely event of the Railway Board not being made to run such a service—though they may be required to do so by the Minister—and there being no private individual willing to do it, that would constitute an exceptional circumstance. I pointed out at the end of the debate that "exceptional circumstances" did not mean emergency and temporary circumstances only. I do not think there are any other new points which have been brought up in this debate, apart from those which were pursued at great length in Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, said then that this was a vital point on which he wished to divide. That being so, we gladly agreed to have a Division at the end of a very long discussion, and I do not think any useful purpose would be served in prolonging the discussion now.


Before the noble Earl sits down, would he please deal with this point which I raised? He said that he made it plain that we did not intend "exceptional" to mean "emergency and temporary". But the quotation which I gave from his noble friend's speech says just the opposite. That is what we are concerned about. Would the noble Earl answer that point?


My Lords, of course "exceptional" includes "emergency and temporary", because emergencies are exceptional. We do not live in a continual state of emergency. What I was concerned to point out about the possibility of giving leave to the London Transport Board to run a service was that if, owing to some exceptional circumstance, nobody else would run it, that would not necessarily constitute an emergency. An emergency means something different from that. It is an exceptional circumstance, but it is not the only point which can arise.


My Lords, might I ask the noble Earl this question? There is no definition of "exceptional circumstances" in the Bill. It is not what is said by the noble Earl which will count—it is what is in the Bull. As that is the position, is it possible that the Minister could be challenged in the courts by an interested party or parties in the event of his granting permission to the London Board to do something which some interested party or parties thought was not justified by "exceptional circumstances"?


I do not think the Minister could be challenged in the courts, but if the noble Lord thinks there is any doubt about it he must get an opinion—or, if he likes, I will gladly get it—from the Law Officers. It is not contemplated under the Bill that this should lead to litigation.


It is not what is stated in the Bill; it is what interested parties may do when the Bill is in operation.


In reply to the noble Lord's question, I would say that I do not see how one can give a definition for every kind of exceptional circumstance which might arise. We must leave something to common sense.


But the words "public interest", would be much better than "exceptional circumstances".


Those words might also be challenged in the courts.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

5.27 p.m.

LORD HAWKE moved, in subsection (5), after "instrument" to insert: executed not later than three months after this section shall come into force".

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Bill provides that the London Board can operate on routes over which the London Transport Executive has powers. They are defined in subsection (5) as follows: … 'the London Transport Executive's routes' means such routes as the Minister may by order contained in a statutory instrument certify to be the routes on which the London Transport Executive had, at any time in the period of twelve months ending on the second day of November, nineteen hundred and sixty-one, power to carry passengers by stage or express carriage". This clause is somewhat peculiar in its wording, and nobody has yet discovered the significance of choosing a whole year's span to cover a period of qualification during which they have to have power. Normally, one would expect it to say "over which they had a power to operate on a certain given date," say, the second day of November. To refer to a year like this in the Bill seems to suggest that there is some difficulty in obtaining precise knowledge of what these routes really are.

The process of arriving at these powers to operate is a very complicated one, arising in most cases out of the powers of delegation of the British Transport Commission under the Act of 1947. There may be, and in fact there is, a doubt as to precisely what these routes are. Nevertheless, if one is supporting the application it is advisable to remove all possible doubts and to have a list—and we are agreed on a list, I think. But the first problem to arise is: should the list be of routes actually used by the London Transport Executive during that period, or of routes over which they had power to run over at that period?

On Committee we sought to restrict the list to those actively used during the period. My noble friend Lord Dundee resisted this on the grounds that it is reasonable to re-enact the status quo. But, of course, he was moving from the clearly provable—that is, you can prove whether somebody actually did run on a certain route—to the more nebulous ground of legal right, as to whether the party in question had any legal right to run a route but did not do so. He mentioned that there were 50 routes in the two areas concerned and said that the London Transport Executive used powers to operate on 48 of the routes in both areas, though not on all the routes within those areas. The two odd sections are an emergency way somewhere around Windsor and the other—he wrote to me about it after-wards—is some route near Bunting-ford in Hertfordshire.


Royston, near Buntingford.


Yes, Royston. Those ware the routes he said had not been operated in these areas. Private bus operators naturally find it rather difficult to check these figures and their information is that twelve of these routes were not used during this period and twelve of them were used as to only part of the route. All this should be perfectly possible to resolve around a table should it become necessary through the acceptance of Amendment No. 13.

As there is still doubt to be resolved, we are not in favour of putting the list in the Bill as suggested by my noble friend Lord Conesford, because it would not be ready in time and, in any case, the list would be remarkably unwieldly, as I know from having seen it. So we are left with this statutory instrument procedure as set out in the Bill. But we have one proviso here. The delegation of these powers is most complex and we are dealing with records that go back to 1947 and are, in fact, subject to possible argument. We think that, given the principle of the list, we should insist on a list which cannot be added to in the future by legal delvings in forgotten files and the issue of fresh statutory instruments. In fact, we propose that the problem should be cleared once and for all by the statutory instrument envisaged in this Bill, and we therefore propose that the Minister should make his statutory instrument list within three months of the coming into force of this clause. During those three months it is to be hoped, of course, that any doubt as to what the routes really are can be resolved between the interested parties. I suggest that this is a very reasonable Amendment and I hope that Her Majesty's Government will see their way to accept it. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 9, line 10, after ("instrument") insert ("executed not later than three months after this section shall come into force").—(Lord Hawke.)

5.32 p.m.


My Lords, I would agree with my noble friend Lord Hawke that this is a very reasonable Amendment indeed, and I can see no reason why Her Majesty's Government could not see their way to agreeing to it, because it solely seeks to lay down a time limit during which the Minister would certify the routes of the London Transport Executive by order in a statutory instrument. Subsection (5) of Clause 8 refers to a statutory instrument, but, as I understand the reading of this subsection, there is no limitation to the number of statutory instruments which the Minister could propose or which could be requested by the London Board.

Like my noble friend Lord Hawke, I feel that it is conceivable that the London Board might in a few years' time go to the Minister and seek to prove that certain routes have been omitted in the previous statutory instrument and that the London Transport Executive had had powers to operate other routes during the specified twelve months' period. I feel that this would indeed be, as I say, conceivable in view of the very widely drawn powers in the scheme of delegation of 1947 which delegated certain powers from the British Transport Commission to the London Transport Executive. Also I feel this to be conceivable because under Section 2 (b) of this scheme of delegation the London Transport Executive is empowered to carry on activities in connection with, or ancillary to, activities undertaken by the old London Passenger Transport Board. Therefore I think it could be argued that the new London Board could seek to operate a service from London to Birmingham, for instance, or any other place, subject of course to the Traffic Commissioner's approval, because they might argue that this was in connection with, or ancillary to, the running of London Transport.

However, should Her Majesty's Government not wish to be tied down by this, as it seems to me, innocuous Amendment, would they at least be willing to give an assurance that there would be only one statutory instrument laid down by the Minister? I think it is very reasonable to ask for at least that so that the private operators may know where they stand in this matter.


My Lords, I think that the two noble Lords who have supported this Amendment are right to have paid very great attention to this matter and I could only think, having paid that proper attention, that again they have seen somewhat graver possibilities in this than in fact exist. I hope shortly to be able to set their fears a little at rest, because in looking at this Amendment at its face value I am by no means out of sympathy with the argument put forward by my noble friend Lord Hawke. But the thing that I particularly do not like is the three-month aspect that is laid down in his Amendment.


May I interrupt the noble Lord to ask whether he would accept six months?


Perhaps if I can finish what I was going to say the noble Lord will not find it necessary to ask the question. What will happen in practice, of course, is that the London Board will not be in a position to exercise their powers under Clause 8 until vesting date because it will not be until then that they will have vested in them the appropriate assets of the Commission. Clearly, therefore, the Minister must make his order before vesting date, so that when the London Board become possessed of the assets they can operate them at once, without any dislocation on the routes which will be contained in the order. It will certainly be in the interests of everybody—of the Minister, the London Board, and the public and private bus operators—for the order to be made as soon as possible after Royal assent; and the Minister will therefore make the order as soon as he can after the clause comes into force.

As is usual, the Minister will want to consult various interested parties and associations about it, and therefore the date on which the order can be made may not be entirely under the Minister's control. I think it is quite reasonable to suggest that the order be got right, so far as possible, by consultation, which the Minister is going to do, rather than do what my noble friend fears; that is, to produce more than one order, which might be the case if one hurried the matter and got it wrong. What I should like to do is to give my noble friend Lord Hawke an assurance that the order will be made before vesting day, and as long before vesting day as it is possible to make it. But on that particular ground I should not like to accept a limit of three months, because I feel that it might rather tie the Minister's hands with his consultations and would not be in anyone's interest—and the noble Lord will, I am sure, agree that it is to the interest of everyone concerned that the order should be correct.

On the question of the fact that there might be another order, it is possible as the Bill is drawn that there could be another one. That is, however, very unlikely, provided that there is the possibility of the order being right the first time after the necessary consultation. After all, the order is expressing only what is a fact, and no one is going to have a new idea, or something like that, requiring an endless string of orders; because the routes either are or they are not. The fact that there is the possibility of there being more than one order has no significance. The only thing one can do is to forget one, which seems very unlikely. Therefore, it is not of any particular consequence that it is drawn in this way. I hope, therefore, that my noble friend will see that his three months' period would be a slight handicap, and I hope my firm assurance that the order will be made before vesting day he will find adequate.


In view of the noble Lord's Department's efficiency, would he guarantee that there would only be one order?


While the noble Lord is thinking about that, may I ask him to clear up a litle doubt in my mind also? On two occasions he used the term "vesting day". But in the Amendment which we are considering the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, uses the words, "after this section shall come into force". Was there any significance in the remark of the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, that he expects the order to be made before vesting day (he used that expression), and Lord Hawke's words, "after this section shall come into force"?


No, my Lords, I do not think that there was any significance in that; and, obviously, nothing can happen until the Bill receives the Royal assent. My assurance to him was that I did not want to be tied, or rather the Minister did not want to be tied, to making the order within three months of that date. But I assured him that it will be made before vesting day, because, of course, it must be; otherwise the Board will find themselves left with buses and nowhere to run them. It must be made before vesting day, and I do assure my noble friend that it will be made.

So far as the further order is concerned, if there should be one, I cannot give an absolute guarantee on the matter. But what I do say to my noble friend Lord Merrivale is that the Minister has only one function, and that is to certify the factual position. He has no discretion in the matter; it is not a matter of his opinion or his ideas, or anything like that: he has to certify the factual position. It is his duty to certify that, and normally, with the commendable efficiency of the Department to which my noble friend referred, I should certainly expect that there would be only one order, because after the necessary consultation I should have expected the order to be right. But, of course, I cannot put my hand on my heart and give a personal guarantee at this moment.


My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his explanation and assurances. On the question of date, I certainly would not press him, because I think his argument a very reasonable one. On the question of delving into the past, we all know what lawyers can do when they set their hands to it. I should have thought he might have met me at the next stage of the Bill by putting in some such words as, "the Minister may by order contained in a statutory instrument made before the vesting date"—or his own time period. If he puts that in it means that it is the final and last list, and that there can be no "jobbing backwards" in the days to come. Perhaps the noble Lord would look at that between now and the next stage. If he would put that in, I should have thought it would be perfectly satisfactory from his point of view, and it would meet my point.


I certainly should not want to hold out on that, and I am prepared to consider what my noble friend has suggested, although at the moment I cannot undertake any positive commitment in the matter. However, I will certainly be prepared to look at that.


With that assurance, for which I thank my noble friend, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.48 p.m.

LORD HAWKE moved, in the second paragraph of subsection (5), to leave out "power to carry" and insert: route on which the London Transport Executive were in the said period carrying The noble Lord said: This is the other point. We have argued at some length about the list and how it should be published, and so on, and we still think it more just that "the list should contain the routes over which the London Passenger Executive have actually run during this year, the year in question, rather than those they claimed but did not use. My noble friend Lord Dundee said that he wanted to keep the status quo. If one chooses to split hairs a bit, one can argue that the status quo is the list over which they ran for a year rather than the list for which they had powers but did not run. If the Government accept this Amendment, it will mean merely that the statutory order will contain a list of the routes actually used rather than a list of routes over which power to run is claimed.

I personally believe it is quite possible the Bill, in its first draft, set out on this particular course, owing to the rather queer wording I mentioned, of choosing a period of twelve months as the qualifying period during which the powers existed. I think that it was then found that under that wording, probably an important but seldom used route like the Windsor route would be dropped out; and so it was decided to put in the routes over which there were powers, and the date or time was not altered to conform with the new wording. If the Government choose to accept the routes de facto rather than the routes de jure, I feel sure that we can find some method of including the Windsor route and, if necessary, if it is really vital, the Royston route. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 9, line 15, leave out ("power to carry ") and insert the said new words.—(Lord Hawke.)


My Lords, as my noble friend says, we want to preserve the status quo in this Bill and, so far as the powers of the London Board are concerned, to leave those powers as they are unless there is some good reason for altering them. I should just like to make quite clear what would be the effect of this Amendment. As we have already discussed, under the first three paragraphs of subsection (1) of Clause 8, the London Board are given certain powers to carry passengers both on the routes on which they already have power, and also beyond them; and subsection (5) of Clause 8, which we have reached now, provides that the Minister is to make an order by statutory instrument certifying those routes on which the London Transport Executive had power to carry passengers on stage or express carriage services at any time in the year ending with the date of the publication of the Bill.

The second paragraph, which it is proposed to amend under my noble friend's Amendment, which we are now discussing, expressly excludes from the Minister's certificate those routes on which London Transport were carrying passengers under powers proceeding from working agreements. The working agreements were made under Section 18 of the London Passenger Transport Act, 1933, but they did not depend on the authority of that section; the section merely established the power to make working agreements, and the validity of the service depended upon the working agreement. The effect of my noble friend's Amendment would be to exclude from the Minister's certificates not only those routes, but also all routes on which the London Transport had carried passengers in accordance with a working agreement, whether or not the powers to do so derived from the agreement itself or are expressly provided for in legislation.


My Lords, is my noble friend quite certain that he is not answering Amendment No. 14 rather than Amendment No. 13? I do not know whether I am right or wrong in that.


My Lords, surely Amendments Nos. 13 and 14 hang together. If there is any misunderstanding we have time to correct it, because it is now my duty to move that the House adjourn during pleasure for the Royal Commission.

House adjourned during pleasure.

House resumed.