HL Deb 31 July 1962 vol 243 cc191-7

After Clause 16, insert the following new clause:

Relaxation of duty of holders of C licences to keep current records

(".—(1) Current records shall not be required to be kept as mentioned in subsection (1) of section one hundred and eighty-six of the principal Act as respects—

  1. (a) any journey made by a vehicle to which this section applies, if no point of the journey is more than five miles from the place where the vehicle is normally kept by the person by whom or on whose behalf it is used; or
  2. (b) the work or rest of any person during any period, by reason only that during that period he is employed in driving such a vehicle on a journey fulfilling that condition.

(2)This section applies to any vehicle if, and only if,—

  1. (a) it is authorised to be used under a C licence; and
  2. (b) its weight unladen does not exceed sixteen hundredweight.

(3) This section shall continue in force for a period of two years and shall then expire, unless before the end of that period an order is made under subsection (4) of this section and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.

(4)The Minister may by order made by statutory instrument provide either—

  1. (a) that this section shall cease to have effect at such earlier date as may be specified in the order; or
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  3. (b) that this section shall continue in force indefinitely, subject to such modification, if any, of the distance of five miles referred to in subsection (1) of this section, and to such modification, if any, of the weight of sixteen hundredweight referred to in subsection (2) of this section, as may be specified in the order.

(5) This section shall be construed as if it were included in Part IV of the principal Act.")

5.30 p.m.


My Lords, what this new clause, Amendment No. 13, does is to provide that for an experimental period not exceeding two years drivers of C licence vehicles of an unladen weight of not more than 16 cwt. operating within a maximum radius of five miles of base shall be exempted from the obligation to keep current records of hours of work, and of journeys and loads, as the Road Traffic Act, 1960, requires; and licence holders will be similarly exempted from causing such records to be kept. Secondly, by an Order made before the end of the two-year period, and confirmed by Affirmative Resolution in Parliament, the clause can be continued in force indefinitely and the 16 cwt. and five mile limits can then be modified.

The clause is mainly an alternative to a clause which was moved and subsequently withdrawn at an earlier stage by my noble friend Lord Derwent. His proposals were not felt to be satisfactory, as what he suggested would, we thought, have been confusing to both employers and drivers and would make enforcement more difficult. In these limited circumscribed conditions, I think that there is a prima facie case for complete exemption from record-keeping on, as I say, this very limited scale and for an experimental period. It does not go as far as my noble friend Lord Derwent would have liked, but in the circumstances, and very cautiously, I think that this is an experiment which the Government are justified in making. I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.

Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.—(Lord Chesham.)


My Lords, we are very uneasy about this new clause, first of all, because it seems to leave the way open to quite a degree of possible exploitation with regard to the number of hours worked. We appreciate that it is for only small vans, and within only a five-mile radius for local delivery, but that does not mean that there will not be cases where there can be extremely long hours worked, and where man can get just as tired and just as overworked—therefore, increasing their liability to accidents—as if they were on long runs. I wonder whether the noble Lord can tell us the extent to which the unions have been consulted about this.

Another thing that occurs to me is that the Government are going to agree under this clause that the keeping of records of journeys and hours worked will be suspended for a period of two years, and at the end of that period the Minister will decide to let it lapse—in other words, to return to the present position—or he will decide to continue it for a further period, or he will decide to continue it indefinitely. What occurs to me is this. If operators are not going to keep records, what kind of reliable evidence will there be available to the Minister for deciding that the Order should lapse—in other words, that records should continue to be kept after the expiry of two years—or to prompt him to go on for another trial period? It would seem to me that there are no reliable criteria at all. No one will know how long the man are working, because the records are not being kept. I should not think there would be any reliable criteria, by which you could judge whether in fact such vehicles worked over that limited area would be involved in accidents. Therefore, the provisions which are going to guide the Minister's future judgments in this matter cannot have very much value, because his future decisions will be based virtually on nothing at all.

I should like the noble Lord to deal with this point, which seems to me to be going back, and seems to be a very unsound basis from which to proceed. It is virtually based on the assumption that these are small local journeys in little vans, and, therefore, the keeping of a log is not going to tell us much as the journeys will be only from one end of a small town to the other, or from a country district into a town, and that kind of journey. They are not going to tell us very much. But, surely, if there is going to be any control at all over this kind of journey, the pre-sent situation is very much better than the proposals under this new clause, which will entirely deprive the Minister of any reliable information on which to base future judgments.


My Lords, if my memory is not at fault, this is a matter which has been under discussion between the Ministry and those concerned for quite a long time. The argument that was put forward was that it would surely be possible to have some very much simpler way of keeping the records in the case of these vans that were travelling round just locally within a short distance—perhaps it was a shop that was sending them out—and not to have the same kind of elaborate records that were necessary for longer distances. I think that the Ministry has generally been sympathetic to this idea, but has sought in vain to find some simpler way of keeping these records. I think that, for that reason, demands that this should be done have been resisted in the past.

If my memory is correct about that, it appears that on this occasion it has been decided to give way completely, but only for an experimental period. That may be the best thing to do, but I should like to support what has been said from the Front Opposition Bench that, before this is continued beyond the experimental period of two years, it is very important that we should know how the Ministry could find out whether it is working in a satisfactory way. I agree that it is not going to be easy to find out, because there are going to be no records at all. But I think we should have some assurance from the Government, that this will really be regarded as an experimental period and that, before anything is done to make this a permanent provision of the law, Parliament shall be informed of the result of that inquiry.

Many of these vans are not in a very satisfactory condition, the hours worked are frequently very long, and it is quite possible that there may be accidents, even within a radius of five miles from the starting point. I am not at all satisfied in my own mind that this concession is really wise, and I am most anxious that, before it becomes a permanent feature of the law of the land, we should know whether it has proved in practice to be satisfactory.


My Lords, I think that what has been said from both sides of the House has a considerable basis of reason. It is clear that this is the subject of a very limited experiment, which shows that the Government do not entirely believe that it is a thing that can be done but it is a thing worth trying. I say mo more than that. Of course, I think it goes without saying that there must be evidence produced upon which to base any decision about the future. Otherwise, when it came to any possible extension in the future the Minister could not vary well come to the House and say nothing, because if he had no evidence collected he would have nothing to say as to why it should or should not be continued. So I think that will definitely show what is going on, and there will be evidence available, not in the form of records but in the form of accident records, and other representations will no doubt be made if they are appropriate.

On this subject of consultation with the unions, I rather wondered at one moment whether the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, was speaking from the point of view of working conditions of the drivers employed or from that of road safety, in so far as they are separate issues. At one moment I thought he was approaching it rather from the viewpoint of one, and at another moment from that of the other. Of course, I cannot give the noble Lord chapter and verse of exactly which union was consulted on which date, but I do know that there was full consultation about it with the unions; and I know that the union view was, to say the least of it, that they were uneasy about the matter.

If—and I have said this before to your Lordships—we thought that because of this move any great harm was going to come to the principle which is protected by hours of work and rest periods, we would not want any of it; but, without going into all the arguments it seemed that there was a case at least for this experiment. The noble Lord used the word "exploited" in this connection, but I would have thought that if there was anything of that kind going on it would be a matter for the unions to arrange in the normal course of negotiations on working conditions. Out of that would arise evidence—and, after all, the unions are as free as anybody else to make representations in the usual way during the course, or at the end, of the two-year period of this experiment. If there were evidence (I will use the noble Lord's word) of exploitation in that regard, I would have thought it would come to light fairly quickly, and before the end of the period, and that there would have been the accident records, if any, to go by. I can tell your Lordships that the licensing authorities will also be watching this position, and I think it is something that at the moment we ought to agree to do.


My Lords, I am comforted to some extent by the obvious fact that the noble Lord is himself uneasy about this provision. He asked what I had in mind about union representation. So far as these drivers are in a union, it would mainly be the Transport and General Workers Union, and I do know that they are uneasy about it. The noble Lord put the point as to whether I was concerned about the working conditions of hours, or was concerned from the point of view of road safety. One cannot put a dividing line between them. Unhappily, the position is that a very large number of the men who drive these small vehicles are very badly paid, very badly paid indeed, as compared with the general body of workers. The consequence of that is that, in order to live at all reasonably, they themselves welcome working a lot of overtime, and they themselves, very often unhappily, have been parties to the faking of records that are kept.

I will go so far as to say to the noble Lord that, unless the Government propose to institute a quite new process of recording accidents, it is quite impossible for the Minister, at the end of two years, to have any reliable evidence at all of the effect of this new clause. The reason is this: that at present accidents involving motor vehicles are recorded in classifications of various tons unladen weight—up to one ton, two tons, five tons and over; that is the classification. But that classification means, of course, accidents in which such vehicles are involved anywhere in the country and on any length of journey. There is absolutely no classification for road accidents which is related to the length of journey. I do not see that the Government can possibly go to the relatively fantastic amount of trouble which it would take to find out, first of all, the numbers of such vehicles engaged within this five-mile radius under 16 cwt.; to disect from the accidents involving vehicles under one ton those under 16 cwt.; and then to disect from those again those which are only doing the five-mile journey. With the best will in the world, the suggestion that the noble Lord has put up—that that is how the Government will gat their information at the end of two years—will not work; that horse will not run at all.

The plain fact of the matter is that this clause has been introduced as a first step towards doing away with records. It is another step towards exacerbating an evil of which we are all aware: an evil which arises from low wages for this class of work; the consequent exploitation, to which the men are a party; and the further consequence of a higher incidence of road accidents which arises from it. I think this is a most regrettable move; and the explanations given by the noble Lord, which do not satisfy him, certainly do not satisfy your Lordships' House.


My Lords, I did not interrupt the noble Lord, for reasons which I hope he will appreciate, but I think I should just say that we are not in Committee and, therefore, it is not strictly in order to speak twice on a Motion, unless one has moved it, except by leave of the House.


My Lords, I am sorry. I would have asked the leave of the House, but so far those who have spoken twice have not asked leave, and this is the first time I have intervened.

On Question, Motion agreed to.