HL Deb 02 July 1968 vol 294 cc283-312

8.36 p.m.

House again in Committee.

Clause 60 [Users of certain goods vehicles to hold operator's licence]:

LORD BURTON moved Amendment No. 147L: Page 85, line 35, after ("a") insert ("public")

The noble Lord said: I am confident that there is a small drafting error in this case, but one that could have substantial repercussions. I hope that the Government will accept this Amendment or, failing this, will give a satisfactory definition of "road" which we can add to the Bill when we reach Clause 149. At the moment in this definition Clause there is no definition of "road". One of the most recent Acts on licensing is probably the Vehicles Excise Act 1962. This Act repeats the word "public" in defining "roads" in very many places. One of the largest Acts on vehicles licensing and roads is probably the Road Traffic Act, 1930. This refers to "road" but defines it as any highway and any road on which the public has access; and in another place I find that the definition of "highway" is roads which are repairable at the public expense.

If the Bill is allowed to pass as it stands, I can see endless complications. For instance, what is to prevent fork-lift trucks in factories or builders' yards requiring supervision by someone with an operator's licence? Cranes in sawmills and certain agricultural vehicles are subject to various Amendments which follow and which I hope will be pressed. It may be that some wording could be devised to confine the operators' licence requirements to vehicles requiring licences under the Vehicles (Excise) Act 1962, and if this were the case I dare say that some alteration could be made. Meanwhile, as it stands, the Bill is not satisfactory and I believe that this small Amendment would improve it. I, therefore, beg to move.


I am afraid that this Amendment is misconceived. The phrase "public road" has no defined or precise meaning. One meaning which does attach to it is a road which is maintained at public expense. It certainly is not a definition of a road as that type of road to which the public have a right of access. So that if we were to include it in the Bill as is suggested it would create uncertainty in place of present certainty in the use of the word "road". The word "road" is defined by virtue of Clause 91(1), page 121, lines 19 and 20, as in the 1960 Road Traffic Act. Section 257(1) of that Act defines a road as: any highway and any other road to which the public has access, and includes bridges over which a road passes. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Burton, has in mind a point which is already covered by this definition, and that is that licences should be required for all vehicles used on roads to which the public has access. This is a principle with which the Minister would agree, especially when the emphasis of licensing is being charged to ensure higher vehicle safety standards.

I know that the noble Lord also has in mind the question of roads in forests and on private estates. It is not possible to generalise about this: each case would have to be examined separately. If the road were a highway—that is, if it were a road which the public can use as of right, or one to which the public has access—then licences would be needed for the use of pods vehicles on that road for hire or reward, or use on own account. If difficult cases arose in practice the Minister would, in appropriate circumstances, consider whether an exemption ought to be made.

I might also add that the word "road" has been used in a similar context in relation to the existing carriers' licensing system since the passage of the 1933 Road and Rail Traffic Act, and in all that time it has not given rise to any difficulty whatsoever. If we did what the noble Lord is asking us to do, we should definitely be exchanging for the present certainty attaching to the word "road" the uncertainty which must inevitably attach to the use of the words "public road".


I am not at all satisfied with the Minister's answer. He referred to the 1960 Act, but if we were still going on the 1960 Act why is the position so different in 1962, since the Vehicles (Excise) Act makes constant reference to "public road"? If it is valid for that Act, then it is surely valid for the Bill which we are now discussing. I am afraid that I cannot follow the Minister's reasoning. I have searched through the Bill, but I can find no definition of "a road". Could the noble Lord help me?


It is defined in Clause 91(1), on page 121, in lines 19 and 20, as in the 1960 Road Traffic Act. Section 257(1) of that Act defines a road as any highway and any other road to which the public has access, and includes bridges over which a road passes".

8.42 p.m.


I thank the noble Lord for trying to elucidate the position, but I think that my noble friend has a point. I have been looking at the Vehicles (Excise) Act 1962 which is, of course, subsequent to the 1960 Act to which the noble Lord referred. I agree that the 1960 Act is very clear in its definition of road ", but Section 24 of the 1962 Vehicles (Excise) Act defines "public road" as being a road which is repairable at the public expense. My noble friend may have a point when he says that these definitions in the Acts of 1960 and 1962 may not necessarily completely coincide. Cm the noble Lord clear up this point?


I pointed cut that the definition of "a public road" is a road which is maintainable or repairable at the public expense. There are roads on which the public have rights, and roads to which the public have access, which are not repairable at public expense. If we use the term "public road", we confine the operation of the Bill to those roads which are repairable or maintainable at public expense. That is all that the 1962 Act concerns itself with in this definition of "a public road". A road, in the sense in which the word is being used in this Bill, is a road where it is important that safety provisions shall apply, and it is a wider definition that "a public road" is in the 1962 Act.

Nothing would please me more than, just for the sheer fun of it, to accept that the Conservative Government had been inconsistent in what they did in 1960 and in 1962, but I must acquit them of any such defect. They knew what they were doing in 1960 when they defined "a road", and they knew what they were doing in 1962 when they defined "a public road". They were perfectly well aware then what the position was. I appreciate the motives of the noble Lord in seeking to make the matter clear since one would have thought that "public road" was a better definition than "road", but, because of the way these things work in law, it is not so.


This is a licensing operation, and the 1960 Act is not. The Vehicles (Excise) Act definitely relates to licensing. The noble Lord has said that it is reasonable for licensing in one sense. Surely it is reasonable for licensing in another sense. I cannot follow the arguments on this. I know that there is a good deal of difficulty over public roads. It also applies where district councils have to repair roads. This is a great difficulty because there is no definition. It is probably time that there was a strict definition of what "a public road" is.


All I can add is that the 1962 Act is an excise Act. Excise is traditionally raised on roads which are maintained at the public expense. It is because of that that the term "public road is used in that Act but is not used in any of the other Road Traffic Acts. The word" road "goes back to 1933, and has presented no problem whatsoever during all these years. We should be foolish to abandon something which has worked when it is quite unnecessary to do so.


Can the noble Lord think of a type of road which is not covered by "public road" in this definition to which he would wish to extend the implementation of this Bill? My noble friend's point sounds very reasonable to me.


There are many of them. In Scotland we talk about a road which has not been taken over by the local authority, and we call it a private road. There is a totally different term in England and Wales, which escapes me at the moment. But where the local authority have not taken over the road responsibility for its maintenance remains with the frontagers, although the public may have right of access to that road. That is not "a public road" in terms of the 1962 Act; it is "a road" in terms of the 1930 Act. It is a road on which it is necessary that this definition should apply. In my home town there is a road of this kind which has not yet been taken over by the local authority and on which buses run. This can happen in many places, and is one example of the sort of case which can arise.


I would advise my noble friend Lord Burton to accept the interpretation of the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, as it appears in Section 257 of the 1960 Act. The 1960 Act makes its definition in terms of a road "to which the public has access" —that is the test; and the 1962 Act "a road repairable at the public expense", and that again is the test. But as the noble Lord rightly says, a road to which the public has access is the wider definition. Although I realise that there will be certain roads in some places where it will be difficult to determine whether the public has a right of access although they use it, this may have to depend on the merits of each case. The general definition is one we should now accept.


Would the noble Lord consider whether, for the avoidance of doubt, it might not be a good idea to put a specific definition of "road" in Clause 91? At present it is covered by the curious omnibus clause at the end which does not refer to roads at all.


But it refers to a definition in another Act which is quite specific. This is quite common practice. Where Parliament has defined something, we do not redefine it in the same terms in every succeeding Act in which it is necessary to make reference to it. We refer to the statute in which it has been defined. The definition is as wide as it could possibly be. We could not improve on the situation by altering the definition. All we could do is to repeat it in this Bill. That has not been the practice up to now.


I do not think that the noble Lord has looked at Clause 91 recently. The point is that "road" is not mentioned in Clause 91. The definition is covered by an omnibus provision which says: …any expression not defined above which is also used in the Act of 1960 has the same meaning as in that Act. It seems to me that it would be for the avoidance of doubt if there were a definition of "road" in the clause.


What I will certainly undertake to do is that if the Bill does not include a proper reference to the definition as it exists in previous legislation, I will ensure that there is a proper reference back to this wide definition. If it is not clearly in the Bill at present, it ought to be and I will ensure that it is put in.


The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, is right. It is referred to only in these general terms: …any expression not defined above which is also used in the Act of 1960 has the same meaning as in that Act. Perhaps, in all the circumstances, it would be just as well if "road" did have its own definition by direct reference to the 1960 Act.


I should like to thank the noble Lord for at last conceding a little on this, and I hope that when he is drawing up this definition, as I hope he will, he will look at the broader definition of the word. I think he gave two different definitions. This being a licensing matter it is tying people down, and the broader we can make it the better. As regards his remarks about Scottish roads, if in fact such a road as lie mentioned was to be considered the district council would have a right to spend money on it. It may not be taken over by the county council, but they would in fact have that right. Therefore, I think it would be a road on which public expenditure could be legally made. Consequently. I think that argument is not quite valid, but in view of his assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.52 p.m.

LORD ST. OSWALD moved Amendment No. 147M:

Page 86, line 3, at end insert— ("() to the use of tractors and machines registered under the Vehicles (Excise) Act 1962, at the agricultural rate of duty and used within the conditions specified therein; or () to the use of any mechanically propelled vehicle exempted from the duty chargeable under the Vehicles (Excise) Act 1962 in accordance with the provisions of section 6(6) of that Act; or").

The noble Lord said: We are now on Part V of the Bill, the clauses on quality licensing, and we on these Benches open with an Amendment in fact far less complicated than it reads in the nature of things on the Marshalled List. I should make it plain, as has been done before, that we on this side approve of quality licensing in principle and where it contributes to road safety. We have certain differences with the Government as to some of the methods they have selected, and sometimes as to the extent of the measures they propose to bring in. We do not oppose in itself the idea of an operator's licence. The effect of this Amendment would be to exempt from the requirements of an operator's licence certain vehicles which scarcely ever use the public roads. They scarcely do so, either because they cannot be usefully employed on a road or because they are strictly limited already by existing law as to the distance they are permitted to travel on public roads.

These exemptions would be, of course, in addition to those listed, in equally and inevitably complicated form, under paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of subsection (4) of this clause, and in addition to any others which might be brought in under the present paragraph (b) of this subsection. I also have with me a copy of the Vehicles (Excise) Act, which we have quoted this evening. I trust no noble Lord will wish me to quote extensively or descriptively. The first class which we would wish the Government to exempt under this Amendment is described in the Third Schedule of that Act. Those vehicles which are not purely and exclusively useful as working rather than travelling machines—digging, hauling, threshing, mowing, lifting and other earthy activities—are only permitted to travel a maximum of 15 miles along a public road to another property, normally another farm in the occupation of the vehicle's owner. These pay a £5 tax, and they are in a clearly defined category. They cannot sensibly be equated with the types of vehicles for which an operator's licence is designed.

The second class of vehicles referred to in this Amendment comprises those which might use the public roads with somewhat greater frequency but which are also strictly limited to passing from one piece of land in the owner's occupation to another and for a distance not exceeding a total of six miles in any one week. The owner already has to satisfy the county council under Section 6(6) of that Act that this is the purpose for which the vehicle is used. If it should be otherwise used, the exemption from road licence is withdrawn, and with that withdrawal would come also the withdrawal of the exemption conferred by this Amendment.

This may appear at first sight to be mainly for the benefit of farmers, but in fact it wilt also assist other types of vehicle—dumpers and cranes, for instance, crossing a road from one construction site to another. This would seem a sensible and natural alliance. I cannot think that the Government will have any great objection to it, and I do not suppose the Committee would therefore wish me to argue it any further. I beg to move.


This Amendment, of course, is in two parts. May I just add a word to what the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, has said? The sort of agricultural vehicles to which the noble Lord has been referring and which are over 30 cwt. unladen are most of the tractors of the large manufacturers—Massey Ferguson, David Brown, Fordson and Nuffield; certain four-wheel drive tractors, which are generally conversions; and, indeed, crawlers, just before they become (I think it is) 7¼ tons and become a locomotive. It is true that under subsection (2)(b) of this clause the Minister has power to exclude certain vehicles, but the Thirteenth Schedule of the Road Traffic Act, 1960, excludes agricultural vehicles from carriers' licensing, so I feel the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, has been consistent in proposing this exemption from the new licensing.

We are not attempting to write an exclusion into the Bill for farmers' goods vehicles, although it is to be hoped that the Minister will consider them favourably for regulations. But agricultural machines, as the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, has pointed out, really are an exception, and their exclusion would not jeopardise the real aim of quality licensing as outlined in the White Paper, paragraph 44—namely, road safety. The maximum speed of tractors is low; the distances travelled compared with the rest of the motoring public are short; and these vehicles, although not subject to the Ministry of Transport test, are covered by an absolute host of Construction and Use Regulations. This latter point is a small one to which the noble Lord did not refer.

The second half of the Amendment, if I may say so with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, takes on a considerably more serious attitude in the light of what has just gone before on Lord Burton's Amendment. I echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald. I cannot imagine that the Government wish to include vehicles exempted from licensing in Section 6(6) of the 1962 Act in quality licensing. We shall only know this now if the noble Lord will kindly give us some kind of assurance from the Government Front Bench about it. It would mean, if this was not accepted, that a farmer with something like a mobile slurry tank for pumping out pig and cow houses would require the whole paraphernalia of an operator's and transport manager's licence. I suppose a combine would be included: it has a goods carrying capacity.

The acceptance of this part of the Amendment will, as the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, said, help not just agriculture but forestry, horticulture and industry. To my great surprise. I discovered about two days ago (I believe this is correct) that of the major interests availing themselves of Section 6(6) agriculture makes the fewest applications. This Amendment really would not alter the Government's main objective in quality licensing—road safety—and perhaps in this spirit the Amendment may be acceptable.


The Government are aware that when this Bill was in another place, and when it left another place, there was very much concern among farmers and timber growers, even more than in other industries, that Parts V and VI would add seriously to the costs of their operations and to the movement and delivery of their produce. Many representations have been made to the Government by organisations on their behalf, stating clearly how this would be and the effect on costs and prices and on competition with imports from overseas. I should like to ask whether Her Majesty's Government have fully considered the various objections and recommendations which were submitted to them, and whether they are able to give an assurance on this Amendment and on this Part of the Bill which will be helpful to the industry.

On the matter of obtaining licences to own and use vehicles for farm and forestry requirements and production, I should like to know that the Government agree that individuals will be put to much more trouble than before—and to trouble which seems to be needless; and to trouble for people who are already very hard worked on all the details of their businesses and in keeping within the laws which already affect them. I do not wish to take up the time of the Committee on Parts V and VI; but I think that at the beginning of the discussions on them it would be helpful if we could have some recognition from the Government of the serious anxiety among persons in agriculture and forestry and if they would give some assurance about modifications in the Bill.

9.2 p.m.


The Government are very conscious of the fact that there is anxiety on the part of farmers and others engaged in agriculture about the possible effect of this clause, although I would submit, having regard to what was said in another place when an Amendment similar to this was discussed, that there is no cause for that anxiety to continue on the scale that it does. When this was discussed in the Commons Standing Committee on March 27 (cols. 2233 to 2237) the Amendment was withdrawn after an assurance had been given by my honourable friend the Minister of State to the effect that representations for exemptions would be considered when regulations under Clause 60(2)(b) were being drafted.

I would not quarrel with the way in which the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, stated the classes to which his Amendment would apply. It is true, as has been said, that both of these classes of vehicles have been exempted from carrier licensing: the first under paragraph 1 of Schedule 13 of the Road Traffic Act 1960 and the second class under the Road and Rail Traffic Act Exemption Regulations 195'7. But it by no means follows that they should be exempted from quality licensing; for this is a different thing from carrier licensing. Quality licensing is related to safety, which is different altogether from the provisions from which exemptions were given in the past.

I would re-emphasise, for it has been pointed out already, that all those vehicles which do not exceed 30 cwt. unladen weight, or 3½ tons gross, will be exempted under the Bill. Secondly, despite what has been said, some farmers' vehicles are used to carry goods substantial distances to market. It is at least doubtful—we ought to look at the question—as to whether there is justification for excluding such vehicles from quality licensing. It may be that few or none of these would be covered by the Amend- ment proposed by the noble Lord. Lord St. Oswald.

But, finally, I would point out that quality licensing will not apply to specialised farm vehicles unless they are goods vehicles. If some of the specialised pieces of farm equipment are in fact being used to carry goods—a purpose for which they are not designed—then there can hardly be argument if in so doing they place themselves in the position of being regarded as goods vehicles. But so long as they are being used for their primary purpose, the purpose for which they were designed, they are not covered by quality licensing at all.

I would repeat what my honourable friend the Minister of State said in another place: that the question of the exemptions from quality licensing which should be given to farmers' vehicles is a matter for consideration in the light of the factors to which I have referred, and in connection with the drafting of any exemption Regulations, for which there is ample provision in subsection (2)(b) of Clause 60. I will give this definite assurance: that in preparing these regulations account will be taken of representations made by organisations representative of the users, including farmers. Beyond that, it is not possible for me to go; beyond that it is not reasonable for me to go; because the regulations are the place where this should be done and not the Bill.


I must thank the noble Lord for the answer that he has given to us, and for referring us to what was said in the Committee stage in another place. I am bound to say that I did not myself feel satisfied by what the Minister of State said there. I feel that these categories that are dealt with in our Amendment No. 147M really should be in the Bill, as, indeed, they have been in previous legislation. The kind of assurance which the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, gives us, with regard to quality licensing not applying to agricultural vehicles unless they are goods vehicles, really does not get us out of the difficulty; because many agricultural vehicles, like agricultural trailers or dung-spreaders, are carrying goods; they are being used as trade vehicles; and they may run on the road for a short dig Lance. The kind of exemptions to which my noble friend Lord St. Oswald referred and which occur in the Vehicles (Excise) Act 1962 are really essential for the working of the farms.

The other point the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, referred to was about farmers' vehicles going to market. This is a different point. If the vehicle is under 30 cwt. then we are not concerned with its exemption; if it is larger, say, a vehicle of 3½ tons plated weight or over, then, in my judgment, it should come in as any other road vehicle comes in. We are concerned here with taking out of the Schedule to the 1962 Act the farmers' vehicles going about the business of the farm or, as my noble friend mentioned, working several holdings. This is, after all, on the Statute Book now; and for the sake of certainty it should be on the Statute Book here. It is not good enough to ask the farming world or the forestry world, or the world of builders and contractors, who are governed by these matters, to wait and see what the Regulations say because the Minister has power to give them exemptions. As the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has had to say, the Minister could not permit himself—and the noble Lord could not permit himself—to do more than to say that these things will he considered and representations from farmers and others will be considered when the Minister is drawing up the regulations. I must say that I do not think that is good enough. In previous Acts this has been a provision. It has been recognised that these categories of vehicle need this exemption. Many of these vehicles could not begin to conform with the safety considerations of the quality licensing that we are concerned with here. We are really in a special category. For that reason, we feel that this ought to be in the Bill.

I recognise the noble Lord's difficulty that these are what he told us are the limits of his brief; but we feel strongly about this. For the sake of certainty and for the sake of the clarity of the Bill, it ought to be in the Bill. That would be better than waiting for it to be put in regulations afterwards, with all the uncertainty that goes with it. I would ask the noble Lord to take this away and discuss it with his right honourable friend in another place and point out the cogency of this case and how strong the precedents are. This should not be left to regulations but should be in the Bill. If the noble Lord would say that he will do that, then I would advise my noble friend Lord St. Oswald that we should return to this on the Report stage.


I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, about this. I think the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, betrayed a slight inconsistency in his case. He seemed to be relying too much on the necessity for applications for exemption under the regulations. I could see the logic of his case if there were not considerable exemptions in this Bill already. The mere fact that small goods vehicles, very intricately defined, are excepted seems to strengthen the case, where you can find two classes of vehicles, such as are in this Amendment, which seem to me would come equally clearly into exemption clauses, as to why they should come into the Bill and not just be liable to representations from interested parties and the will of the Minister. I sincerely hope that we shall be able to have this put either by the Government or by ourselves at Report stage.


The noble Lord, Lord Nugent, has put forward what I admit is a reasonable plea. If I thought there were any prospect of my being able to say something different at Report stage then I would certainly take it back. But I would be misleading the Committee it I were to have you believe that it would be any different at Report stage. Having had this discussion, if noble Lords feel strongly, then the Committee might as well divide now as do so later.

This is a matter related to quality licensing, and the Government believe that the primary consideration is that of safety. They will have regard to that primary consideration, and in doing so will so seek to frame regulations as to exempt anyone who can properly be exempted. Under past Acts that has been done frequently. This is a matter which is better done by regulation, with the flexibility of regulations, than by being included in the Bill itself. I do not think that if I were to wait until the next stage, and were to attempt to persuade noble Lords again that this is the case, I should have any better success. They will still be of the same opinion as now. If they feel strongly about it, then we might as well save time by dividing now.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for the kindness with which he has treated my Amendment. It has really been rather an unproductive form of kindness from our point of view. I think that his firm and quiet refusal to accept the Amendment would

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

9.18 p.m.

LORD ST. OSWALD moved Amendment No. 148: Page 86, line 14, at end insert ("or is a dual-purpose vehicle with an unladen weight not exceeding two tons").

The noble Lord said: This is another exempting Amendment. It is designed to

leave the owners of these categories of vehicles with a quite unnecessary and heavy burden on them. I think that, almost on the noble Lord's invitation, I should like to divide the Committee.

9.12 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 147M) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 82; Not-Contents, 35.

Ailwyn, L. Falkland, V. Newton, L.
Airedale, L. Falmouth, V. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Albemarle, E. Ferrier, L. Oakshott, L.
Amory, V. Foot, L. Penrhyn, L.
Arbuthnott, V. Gage, V. Rankeillour, L.
Ashbourne, L. Gisborough, L. Redmayne, L.
Auckland, L. Glentanar, L. Rochdale, V.
Audley, Bs. Greenway, L. Sackville, L.
Bannerman of Kildonan, L. Grenfell, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Barnby, L. Grimston of Westbury, L. St. Helens, L.
Barrington, V. Harcourt, V. St. Just, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Headfort, M. St. Oswald, L.
Belstead, L. Henley, L. Sandford, L [Teller.]
Boston, L. Horsbrugh, Bs. Selkirk, E.
Bridgeman, V. Ilford, L. Simon, V.
Buccleuch and Queensberry, D. Inglewood, L. Sinclair of Cleeve, L.
Buckton, L. Kilmany, L. Stamp, L.
Burton, L. Latymer, L. Strange of Knokin, Bs.
Carrington, L. McCorquodale of Newton, L. Strathclyde, L.
Conesford, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V. Swinton, E.
Cork and Orrery, E. Merrivale, L. Terrington, L.
Craigmyle, L. Mersey, V. Tweedsmuir, L.
Cranbrook, E. Mills, V. Verulam, E.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Milverton, L. Vivian, L.
Dilhorne, V. Monk Bretton, L. Wade, L.
Ellenborough, L. Mottistone, L. Wakefield of Kendal, L.
Elliot of Harwood, Bs. Mowbray and Stourton, L. Ward of Witlcy, V.
Windlesham, L.
Addison, V. Henderson, L. Rhodes, L.
Arwyn, L. Heycock, L. Rowley, L.
Beswick, L. Hill of Wivenhoe, L. St. Davids, V.
Blyton, L. Hilton of Upton, L. [Teller.] Serota, Bs.
Bowles, L. [Teller.] Hirshfield, L. Shackleton, L.
Brockway, L. Hughes, L. Shepherd, L.
Champion, L. Kilbracken, L. Snow, L.
Collison, L. Milner of Leeds, L. Stonham, L.
Gaitskell, Bs. Peddie, L. Strabolgi, L.
Gardiner, L. (L. Chancellor.) Phillips, Bs. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Hall, V. Plummer, Bs. Walston, L.
Raglan, L Winterbottom, L.

complete one which was moved by the Government at the behest of the Opposition in another place. The concession made then was to describe a small goods vehicle, inter alia, for the purpose of paragraph (a) of subsection (2) of this clause, as having a carrying capacity not exceeding 3½ tons and an unladen weight of not more than 30 cwt. My noble friend and I had considered widening this Amendment to raise the carrying capacity to 4 tons, in addition to the concession on unladen weight which we are seeking. But in view of the Government's earlier help in another place we agreed between us not to touch the laden weight but to restrict ourselves to making one consistent with the other, in a way which we think the Government themselves would wish. At the moment, under the concession granted the 30 cwt. limit excludes certain farm vehicles which, because of the nature of the land over which they work and the type of work which they are designed for have to be more heavily built and include a capacity not required on the open road. At the moment on the market there is, so far as I know, only one obvious category of such vehicle, the long wheelbase 109 ins. or 110 ins., or forward-drive Land Rover. This is a fine vehicle, we all know, of British manufacture, which has proved its worth and won popularity in far rougher and more exotic terrain than we find in these Islands. But it is extremely popular, and indeed essential, among farmers in Britain, for its dual-purpose character enables it to be used in mud and mountain and also on the main road for general runabout purposes.

There is a legal definition of dual-purpose vehicle already, so that this need not be written into the interpretation clause. It means a vehicle constructed or adapted for the carriage of both passengers and of goods or other burden. The legal definition in fact goes a great deal further than that in narrowing the description, but it does in fact also set a ceiling of two tons unladen weight, which we are repeating here. I have said that there is probably only one make of dual purpose vehicle now on the market which falls obviously outside the 30 cwt. limit. In this I may be understating certain others, including the Bedford range of 30 cwt. vans, the Morris 11-ton van, which may all benefit from our Amendment, especially if they have adaptations for special work or heavy work. There have certainly been others in the past, such as the Humber Snipe conversion, once extensively used on farms, and some of which may well be used still to-day. Also other models may be developed and brought on to the market in future of an equally good export potential as the Land Rover. All these vehicles are at present caught by the 30 cwt. limit, and one cannot suppose that this would be the Government's intention, having brought in the previous concession. I therefore beg to move.


I should like to add a word or two to what my noble friend, Lord St. Oswald, has said. He has dealt exhaustively with the vehicles which form the basis of our hopes and fears on this Amendment, but perhaps a brief word on the Government's dividing line of 3½ tons basic weight and 30 cwt. might be in order. It is, I think, perfectly understandable to anyone, on whichever side of the Committee he sits, that the Government are not keen on writing exemptions into the Bill which would upset the dividing line which was described by the Minister of State, Mr. Stephen Swingler, in another place as an equation of 30 cwt. unladen equalling 3½ tons gross which equals 2 tons carrying capacity.

This Amendment would not upset this equation, because a dual purpose vehicle will not carry over 1½ tons. Putting it another way, if a dual purpose vehicle were to be plated, which it will not be, no dual purpose vehicle of 2 tons would be plated at over 3½ tons, because among goods-carrying vehicles dual purpose ones have this unusual construction which puts them over 30 cwt., or, at least, it puts the Land Rover and the vehicles my noble friend, Lord St. Oswald, was talking about over 30 cwt. unladen. But I assure your Lordships that below 3½ tons plated, if they were to be plated, these are the most deserving exceptions, and their exclusion would not give many other interests the opportunity to clamour for exemption as well.

Noble Lords will realise that there would be merit in this exemption. My noble friend, Lord St. Oswald, referred to the fact that the whole idea of quality licensing is to improve road safety. The White Paper referred to excluding light delivery vans and tradesmen's vehicles. This Amendment seeks to help the Government to achieve this, since the goods carrying capacity of dual purpose vehicles does not exceed that of light vans.

Also there is one social reason behind this Amendment. For many people the Land Rover, the old estate car and other vehicles mentioned by my noble friend, Lord St. Oswald, is their sole vehicle, subject to the Ministry of Transport tests and to the provisions which the Government make for construction and use, safety and roadside checks, and indeed everything resulting from road fund licensing. I respectfully suggest that this Amendment does not upset the aims of the Government and that it would remove many well founded fears throughout the country.

9.31 p.m.


I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, and to the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, for the reasonable way in which they have put forward these proposals. It is really a matter of regret to me that I cannot agree with them, for the reasons I stated on the previous Amendment. The Government firmly believe that the place in which this should be done is in the regulations. We are not in fact asking the Opposition to do something in this Bill which they have not themselves clone in the past. In fact now we have come to this Amendment it gives me the opportunity to point out that the existing exemption for dual purpose vehicles—these are dual purpose vehicles, used by commercial travellers for the carriage of samples, or vehicles used for tools, apparatus and so on required by the driver or the passenger for his trade, business or profession, or vehicles used by farmers for agriculture or ancillary purposes—were not defined in an Act of Parliament but in regulations made by the Government in 1957. For the life of me I cannot see why, if it was proper for a Conservative Government to make these definitions subsequently in regulations, it is essential that in 1968 they must be written into this Bill.


With great respect to the noble Lord, possibly before the Conservative Government made the regulations, they gave some assurances.


I have given some assurances too. I cannot give an assurance that any particular vehicle will be exempted, and I doubt very much whether any Government in the past gave a firm assurance as to what was to be in regulations. I am certain that the most any Minister would have done previously is what I am doing now, to give a firm assurance that this is the sort of case that would be considered. But it would be wrong for me, particularly when the primary purpose is safety rather than carriers' licensing, to give a firm assurance. I am taking it as far as I can honestly take it, and if I were to go further than that I would cease to be honest with the Committee. We are sympathetic with the objects of this Amendment but I cannot go further than to say that this is the sort of thing which will be considered for exemption in due course.

My main point is that the proper place for exemption is in regulations, and I found that similar regulations which exempt for this particular type of vehicle, were made by a previous Government.


Can the noble Lord say whether in fact any vehicle will be exempted?


I do not think we would have gone to all the bother of making provision for exemptions if in fact we had not intended that there should be exemptions. Governments may be accused of being devious in their ways but surely the suggestion is not being made that we are just plain daft.


The precedent which the noble Lord quoted with approval, of the 1957 Act, does not really quite meet the case here. What we are asking for is something more than that. We are asking for a slight adjustment in the starting point of quality licensing for the purposes of the operator's licence. This is really something of more fundamental importance than actual regulation-making matters to which the noble Lord has referred. This operating licence which we are now discussing in Part V of the Bill is a completely new concept. Noble Lords have not yet had the chance to have a general debate on the Motion, That the clause stand part or any such occasion, but as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, would agree, there are great implications for all trade vehicles in the operator's licence. While we accept the gener21 principle as being a wise one and one which will promote road safety, we still think it is extremely important to set the de minimis level at the right point, and we are not far out, as my noble friend Lord Belstead said, in accepting, as we are willing to do, the 3½ ton plated weight.

After all, if the noble Lord's honourable friends in another place are capable of making a concession, which they did in translating the 30 cwt. unladen into 3½ tons laden, it seems to me not beyond the bounds of possibility that they might make a further concession here. We are not asking for increased carrying power. What we are asking for is an increase in the unladen weight, to the scope of the vehicle; in other words, it covers such an immense range of vehicle, and it does include quite a number in the 30–40 cwt. range.

My noble friends Lord St. Oswald and Lord Belstead dealt with this very effectively and showed that this is a real practical problem. We are really asking for something more than exemptions on regulations; we are asking for a slightly different definition of the starting point, and this is something of rather more fundamental importance than is normally covered in regulations. We do not want to press this Amendment to a Division, but we do want the noble Lord to take this back to his right honourable friend in another place. We are not asking for concession on weight here; we are asking for concession on construction, because we know what a very wide range of vehicles exists in this field. I hope the noble Lord will be willing to look at it in those terms.


Might I ask the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, a question? The noble Lord made great play about safety; it has really been the cornerstone of his argument. Has he got any great evidence that a vehicle of unladen weight of 2 tons is so very much more dangerous than a vehicle of unladen weight of 30 cwt.? I really cannot understand that such a vehicle of 2 tons unladen weight, and particularly a dual purpose vehicle, as regards its goods carrying capacity, is in reality any different from a 30 cwt. vehicle in this connection. I cannot see where the argument of safety comes into it all.


It is not a case of my making great play of safety. This is the primary purpose of this part of the Bill, and the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, has been good enough to say on more than one occasion that in this aspect the Opposition are at one with the Government. So it is not a question of just making use of the argument for the purpose of answering Amendments. I must admit the validity of the part of the argument that is put forward in which noble Lords seek to separate the two things, the unladen weight and the laden weight. As I understand it—I have no extensive experience in these matters at all—the 30 cwt. unladen weight is a figure which has existed as a sort of dividing line now for many years.

In another place this has been tied up with the gross weight of 3½ tons, and I presume that the 30 cwt. vehicle will normally be capable of carrying a load of approximately 2 tons of goods. At that 30 cwt. level almost a million vehicles are exempted because they are 30 cwt. or less. But I accept the point which I think is being made, that this particular type of dual-purpose vehicle also having an unladen weight of more than 30 cwt. is not capable of carrying a load of anything like 2 tons, and that to take it up to 2 tons for this particular type of vehicle would not take it beyond the other limit of 3½ tons gross.

What I am not in a position to satisfy myself about is whether there are any perils in raising it at the one end, and whether we would in fact create an impetus for manufacturers to design vehicles so as to bring them in at less than 2 tons, when in fact it would not be the proper thing to do, simply for the purpose of bringing in something which would get through the regulations. I do not want to avoid a Division on this any more than on the previous Amendment by giving any false promise, but I think it would be wrong, without committing myself in any way, if I refused to look at the question as to whether or not this can be done without creating problems in other directions. If it can be so done, then obviously there is a very special onus on the Government to look at it and to produce, if they so wish, at least some valid reasons for refusing to do it. If, on the other hand, it cannot be done without unwelcome repercussions in other fields, and I so advise the reasons for this, then I certainly would not expect noble Lords opposite to seek to pursue this at a later stage. I think the obligation is definitely on me, if this Amendment is withdrawn, to write to the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, about the matter in ample time for him to consider it at Report stage, and then if we are in disagreement I do not think it would be necessary to waste any time in re-arguing the matter then. We could have a quick Division.


In the light of the noble Lord's remarks, I think it would be extremely churlish of me to do anything but withdraw the Amendment. What we were trying to do was to offer the Government an opportunity to be consistent with what was done in another place, and if the noble Lord finds in the light of the proviso referred to that this is not as reasonable as it looks to us I shall quite understand. I am grateful to him for what he has said.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD ST. OSWALD moved Amendment No. 149: Page 88, line 25, after ("centres") insert ("or an applicant with operating centres in more than one licensing authority area shall be permitted to make application to one licensing authority in respect of all his operating centres")

The noble Lord said: I appreciate this may be a somewhat more controversial Amendment in the eyes of the Government than the previous two I have put forward, but I think it is necessary, to conform with good commercial practice. For that reason, I do not see it as an issue of principle though it may be a contrast in approach. As I see it, Clause 62(1) of the Bill requires an operator to apply for and obtain a licence in each of the areas in which he has an operating centre and an operator's licence. Here is a measure which affects only the larger companies, those with a number of branches and depots, and who for efficiency and administrative convenience, have most of their transport work, and in particular their licensing work, handled within a centralised transport depot. This is what most of them do at present because they find it, logically enough, most efficient.

Under the new system and the "new look", this is to be frowned upon. They are to be prevented from operating as they prefer to do at present, that is under the present system, applying for one central "C" licence. Here, unless we can alter the Bill, they will have to go separately to each licensing authority in whose territory they have a depot. I understand that the Government's case is that licence applications may require investigation by the licensing authority on the ground and that this precludes one central application. But does this make sense? My understanding is that the factors governing the granting or refusal of a licence are not geographical, or are very seldom so. They depend far more on the reputation, the standards maintained, the ability and the record of the company concerned. Such factors can best be investigated, not in widely scattered depots across the country, but in the area of the central depot, where the organisation of command and control is best.

As I have said, this is not an issue of principle; nor is it an issue of practicality. So far as I know, there is nothing to prevent the internal mechanism of a licensing authority from functioning outwards, even if investigation is required, even if it is called for. The issue, I submit, is different. It is a question of whether all administrative work and inconvenience and onus, here created, is to be borne by "officialdom" or unloaded upon trade or industry. This is a sad thing which the Government must watch out for and deny with deeds, not words, if they disagree. It is suspected, even assumed, that if there is going to be extra work imposed by the central Government, as much as possible of that work will have to be done by those on the receiving end of the new legislation, often enough, as in this instance, by those who deem it unnecessary in the first place.

I suggest that a Government which really looks for the co-operation of trade and industry should have regard to their interests. If the Government really require a system, a network to carry out widespread investigation, then let the Government provide the wherewithal, the specialists to do it. We do not consider that it is necessary; but if it is, it could be made a responsibility of Government servants, not an extra chore laid upon the industry. It is because we consider the application methods for transport operators' licences as they stand at present in this clause to be wasteful, and even disruptive, that we have set down this Amendment which I beg to move.

9.47 p.m.


I should like to support my noble friend with regard to this Amendment, and in particular to draw the attention of the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, to the case of an existing "C" licence operator and to the problems of one industry, the construction industry, where new sites are constantly being opened and existing sites closed as work is completed. I feel that possibly the Government might be able to see their way to accept this Amendment, in view of their definition of "operating centre" and because of their allowance in another place that three months may elapse before an application for a new licence may be made by an operator who is moving into a new licensing authority area.

While this latitude of three months is helpful, I feel that it does not go far enough. Let us take the case of a temporary building site which, in effect, for the purposes of the Bill becomes a permanent operating centre. In this case the contract may last ten months. In that case, will the contractor need to apply for a special licence in respect of the lorries on that site, despite the fact that his main operating centre may be in a completely different part of the country? I understand that the particular point I am raising was not satisfactorily replied to in another place, and I thought it appropriate to raise it here again in the hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, can answer the specific point.


Again and again, quite rightly, the Government have stressed the importance of increasing productivity in the country. But here again in this Bill we have another example of the Government acting contrary to the way they urge again and again upon the country. The clause we are now discussing does exactly the reverse, as we have just heard from the noble Lord who has just sat down and who has quite clearly pointed out how, if the Bill remains as it is, productivity will be not increased but decreased. So I urge the Government to have a really good look at this Amendment and see what can be done to stop increasing administration costs, to stop decreasing productivity, and to try to help industry carry out what the Government are again and again urging them to do, namely, increase productivity. If the Government can do this they will then be carrying out in legislation what verbally, quite rightly, they have been urging the country to do.


The noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, asked whether information could not be interchanged between licensing authorities, as is done with "C" Licences on some occasions now. I think it is worth following that point for one second and looking at the Bill and seeing whether, in fact, this can be done. In Standing Committee F in another place, column 2301, the Minister of State said: We cannot have a system whereby licensing authorities on a local or regional basis are given responsibility which would compel them to go ranging on a nationwide scale in making their inquiries and investigations. If one looks at Clause 62 and at the sort of things which the licensing authority may look into, one sees there are particulars of vehicles and trailers, a statement about the transport manager, purposes of the vehicles, particulars of the servicing, and how drivers' hours and normal loading will be complied with, past history of the applicant, and particulars of financial resources. I presume these things will be notified to the licensing authority on paper—on a form. Surely it is not too much to ask that this form should be a standard form, and that it can be done through one licensing authority. The noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, put the difficult point to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, that perhaps his answer may be that there is something of a geographical nature, a local nature, which needs to be inquired into. One realises on looking at the Bill that the appointment of a transport manager, perhaps the most obvious thing that springs to mind, is one of these difficulties. No doubt the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will point this out if he thinks fit.

I do not think it can be said too many times that this Amendment will not upset the procedures which were touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, that there must be different licences for different licensing areas. All we are trying to do is to reduce bureaucracy and expense for both applicants and licensing authorities, and possibly, in those circumstances, the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, may look on this Amendment with favour.


I am tempted by what the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, has said to take part in the discussion on this Amendment, especially guided by what the noble Lord, Lord Wakefield of Kendal, said over this question of productivity. I am lot sure that this Amendment goes far enough, although indeed we may have an opportunity of going further with the point I am going to make when we come to Amendment No. 207. My point is this. There are industries—and there are two in my native city of Edinburgh—which produce products which are very tricky ones to transport. They are products which the producers would on no account agree to send by rail. They are products which —I am talking about pharmaceuticals—are of a delicate character. They are dangerous, perhaps poisonous, and subject to problems which cannot be dealt with properly by rail travel. The other is the bronze wire industry connected with the paper trade, which produces very heavy and very costly and extremely precise material for the paper trade, and is sent all over Britain. I have no interest in either of these business. I am not in the pharmaceutical industry now, and I have no interests in the bronze wire industry, but I am informed that it would be out of the question to permit such products to go otherwise than by road.

This point should be carefully considered in term; of the productivity to which the noble Lord, Lord Wakefield, referred if proper facilities are to be given to the delivery of good order of a delicate, expensive, heavy product. If consideration is to be given to that, then the conditions of this clause which we are endeavouring to amend interfere with that element of productivity. I should be delighted if the noble Lord in his reply would clear my mind on this matter. This is a point which should be considered in the whole context of what we are discussing.


The point which is being dealt with here is relatively simple. I accept what the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, said, that there is no difference in principle between us on this matter. I must disagree with him when he went on to say that there is no difference in practicality. The complete objection to this is on grounds of what is and what is not practical. It is part of a licensing authority's duty to be satisfied that, among other things, adequate maintenance facilities exist at the base or bases of the applicant. The licensing authority cannot fulfil his undertaking because he is not able to do this job at bases throughout: the country for himself. It ca mot be delegated to someone else in some other part of the country. It is for that reason, and that reason alone, that on this aspect I cannot accept the practicability of this Amendment. One must remember that the requirement to make a decision is placed upon the licensing authority. He has to be satisfied as to whether or not the licence should be granted. If it is argued, "You have refused this because the base is not satisfactory, and you have not even seen the base", it would not be accepted as reasonable to say, "I have been told by someone, who did this on my behalf somewhere else, that he is not satisfied that it is a proper base". It is as simple as that, and I cannot accept this Amendment.

The noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, spoke about the difficulties of building sites, as also did the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald. It is true that I used to be a builder. I am tempted to remember that, but even so it does not help me to accept the Amendments. The Government have gone a fairly considerable way to deal with this situation by allowing the temporary base to which the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, referred. The three months is about as far as we can go. The Government are constantly being exhorted by noble Lords opposite and by Opposition Members in another place to cut down the number of civil servants, and that is quite reasonable. I am not arguing that this is a case where we are seeking to save civil servants by transferring responsibility somewhere else. It may have that incidental effect, but that is not the purpose. The purpose is that the job is required to be done where the base is, and not that we are seeking to transfer the cost of the operation to the transport operator rather than to the licensing authority and to the people who will be required for that purpose. I cannot advise your Lordships to accept this Amendment.


Again, I am grateful to the noble Lord for the way in which he has given thought to this matter. He thinks it is simple and I think it is simple, but in fact we see simplicity in different lights. He seems to ask: how can the central licensing authority involved be satisfied that the maintenance facilities are satisfactory in all the depots? I suggest that the standards maintained by the central company should be a touchstone of some kind, and if, in spite of those standards,

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.


I must point out to the Committee that the Marshalled List makes it appear that the Amendment that has just been decided is an Amendment to Clause 60. It is, in fact, an Amendment to Clause 62. I have omitted to put the Questions, That Clause 60 stand part and Clause 61 stand part. I must now put those Questions to the Committee.

the central authority is not satisfied, then there must be means of finding out. But, unhappily, I do not think the noble Lord and I are going to agree on this to-night, and I think I am none the less, despite his persuasion, inclined to divide.

10.6 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 149) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 69; Not-Contents, 32.

Abinger, L. Ellenborough, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]
Ailwyn, L. Elliot of Harwood, Bs.
Airedale, L. Falkland, V. Newton, L.
Albemarle, E. Falmouth, V. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Aldington, L. Ferrier, L. Oakshott, L.
Arbuthnott, V. Gisborough, L. Penrhyn, L.
Ashbourne, L. Glentanar, L. Rankeillour, L.
Auckland, L. Greenway, L. Redmayne, L.
Audley, Bs. Grenfell, L. Rochdale, V.
Barnby, L. Grimston of Westbury, L. Sackville, L.
Belstead, L. Harcourt, V. St. Aldwyn, E.
Boston, L. Horsbrugh, Bs. St. Helens, L.
Boyd of Merton, V. Ilford, L. St. Just, L.
Bridgeman, V. Inglewood, L. St. Oswald, L.
Buckton, L. Kilmany, L. Sandford, L.
Burton, L. Latymer, L. Sinclair of Cleeve, L.
Carrington, L. McCorquodale of Newton, L. Strange of Knokin, Bs,
Conesford, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V. Strathclyde, L.
Craigmyle, L. Merrivale, L. Terrington, L.
Cranbrook, E. Mills, V. Tweedsmuir, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Milverton, L. Verulam, E.
Dilhorne, V. Monk Bretton, L. Wakefield of Kendal, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Mottistone, L. Ward of Witley, V.
Windlesham, L.
Addison, V. Headfort, M. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Arwyn, L. Henderson, L. Rowley, L.
Beswick, L. Heycock, L. St. Davids, V.
Blyton, L. Hill of Wivenhoe, L. Serota, Bs. [Teller.]
Bowles, L. Hilton of Upton, L. Shepherd, L.
Champion, L. Hirshfield, L. Simon, V.
Collison, L. Hughes, L. Stonham, L.
Gaitskell, Bs. Milner of Leeds, L. Strabolgi, L.
Gardiner, L. (L. Chancellor.) Peddie, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Hall, V. Phillips, Bs. [Teller.] Walston, L.
Plummer, Bs. Winterbottom, L.

Clause 60 agreed to.

Clause 61 agreed to.


Although we have not reached nearly as far on with Part V as we might have hoped earlier in the proceedings, I do not think the responsibility for that can be laid on the Committee. Therefore, I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.