§ 1.—(1) Any order under clause 9(2) of this Act shall be subject to a notice published—
- (a) in the London Gazette, the Edinburgh Gazette or both, according as the scheme effects England, Scotland, or both; and
- (b) in such local newspapers, and in such other ways, if any, as appear to the Minister best suited for bringing the notice to the attention of persons concerned, and shall specify a place where the draft of the order may be inspected, and copies hereof obtained at all reasonable hours and the time (not being less than forty days from the publication of the notice) within which, and the manner in which, any objections to the draft may he made to the Minister, and the Minister shall consider any objections made within the time and in the manner specified in the notice.
§ Provided that the Minister shall not be required to consider any objection unless i[...] comprises or there is submitted therewith a statement in writing setting out the specific grounds for any amendments, additions or modifications asked for, or any objection which in his opinion is frivolous.
§ (2) Any such objection as aforesaid may ask for amendments, additions or modifications to or of the order which amount to amendments, additions or modifications to or of the scheme.
§ 2.—(1). If there are no objections which the Minister is required to consider, or if all such objections are withdrawn, the Minister may make the order either in the terns of the draft or subject to such amendments, additions or modifications, if any, as he thinks fit, being amendments, additions or modifications which in his opinion do not effect important alterations in the draft as published.823
§ (2) Where any such objection is made and is not withdrawn, the Minister may cause in the case of a scheme under Part IV of this Act, a public local inquiry, or, in any other case, an inquiry to be held with respect thereto, and the Minister may, after considering the report of the person by whom the inquiry was held make the order either in the terms of the draft or subject to such amendments, additions or modifications as the Minister thinks fit.
§ (3) The amendments, additions or modifications referred to in this paragraph may amount to amendments, additions or modifications to or of the scheme.
§ 3. The Minister may, with the consent of the Treasury, pay out of moneys provided by Parliament to any person appointed to hold an inquiry for the purposes of this Schedule such fees and allowances, and to persons giving evidence such allowances, as he may with the consent of the Treasury determine."—(Lord Drumalbyn.)
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I do not accept the desirability or need of this Amendment. but, having regard to the decision which your Lordships have already expressed, obviously it can stand or fall with the other.
LORD HUGHES moved Amendment No. 15:
Page 15, line 7, leave out ("hover vehicles") and insert ("hovercraft").
§ LORD KINGS NORTON
My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to make a point here which I intended to make on the first Amendment, but I was not then quick enough on my feet and I apologise for my slowness. In the Hovercraft Act which became law just before the Summer Recess, the term "hovercraft" was given a precise but narrow definition. In short, it was defined as a vehicle which maintained itself above but in close proximity to the earth's surface by means of a cushion of air. But there are other ways of maintaining a vehicle floating in the air in close proximity to the earth than by an air cushion, and I suggest that the term "hover vehicle", which is in the Bill, is appropriate and that "hovercraft" is not 824 appropriate any longer since the passing of the Hovercraft Act.
It is possible that a form of hover train which does not fall within the definition of hovercraft will be built and that the Freight Corporation will wish to use it. The Bill as at present drafted would permit this, but if it became law with the change that is now proposed then that would be prevented. If it is still possible, I would urge that the broad term "hover vehicle" be retained in the Bill and that the narrow term "hovercraft" be not inserted in its place. If this were agreed, there are other Amendments on the list which would have to be taken into account. I would ask that this should be seriously considered.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I must admit that this is possibly the last Amendment on which I thought I should be presented with a formidable problem, but my noble friend has done so. I would ask him to agree that this Amendment should be made as it stands. In due course my advisers will be considering what he said, and on the next Amendment of this kind, because they crop up fairly frequently throughout the Bill, either I or one of my noble friends may be able to provide him with an answer to his query. In the meantime I hope that he will agree that this Amendment should be made. If it turns out that we are wrong, we can stop doing it later in the Bill and then we shall have only two Amendments to deal with.
LORD HUGHES moved Amendment No. 16:
Page 15, line 12, after ("of") insert ("such another form of").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 16, 17, 18 and 19 are interconnected.
§ A Passenger Transport Executive is empowered by Clause 10(1)(i) to carry passengers by road. Clause 10(1)(ii) empowers an Executive to carry passengers by any other form of land transport or by water within a "permitted distance" outside the boundaries of the Passenger Transport Area. The effect of Amendment No. 17 is to reduce this permitted distance from 30 to 25 miles in the case of "other forms of" land transport: for example, rail. In addition, 825 Amendment No. 16 is intended to make it clear beyond doubt that this limitation applies to land transport other than by road; and Amendment No. 19 makes it clear that the permitted distance for water transport applies to any form of water transport, including, for example, hovercraft.
§ It is important to note at the outset that an Executive can only make arrangements with other persons to do things which it is itself permitted to do (Clause 10(1)(xiv)). Thus Clause 10(1)(ii) governs not only what the Executive may itself do; it governs also what arrangements an Executive is able to make with British Rail, for example. The Bill originally empowered the Executive to carry passengers by these means, and thus to make arrangements with other bodies to do this, "in the vicinity of" the area. The Commons thought this insufficiently precise and a permitted distance of 30 miles was introduced on Report stage, the Opposition having earlier suggested 20 miles. In Committee in your Lordships' House, the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, moved an Amendment substituting a distance of 10 miles. My noble friend—Lord Bowles undertook to consider whether perhaps a fifty-fifty compromise —20 miles—might meet the case, and the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, said he would certainly accept this. My noble friend Lord Popplewell pointed out this could be too low and cited the new development at Kingpath, on Tyneside, as being just outside the 20 mile limit.
My noble friend Lord Bowles has already said what I am going to say in a letter to the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn:
My right honourable friend has given this matter very careful consideration and is prepared to accept the contention that 30 miles may well give rather too much latitude. On the other hand 20 miles looks as if it might prove unduly restrictive. For example, it appears that it could prevent the Executive for South East Lancashire/North East Cheshire reaching agreements with the Railways Board for the conveyance of passengers from Blackpool or Southport, and it would similarly prevent the Merseyside Executive arranging for the carriage of passengers from Manchester. But if the limit were 25 miles it would just enable these places to be included, without, it seems, in any of the first four P.T.A.s excluding any others of similar significance. My right honourable friend would therefore be prepared to reduce the limit at present specified in the Bill to the extent proposed in these amendments; but he feels that he could not really go
beyond this without possibly causing difficulties for the P.T.A.s.
§ Towards the end of the discussion in Committee about this limit it became apparent that there had been some misunderstanding about the forms of transport to which it applied. The purpose of Amendment No. 16, at page 15, line 12, is to make it absolutely clear that the limit applies to land transport other than by road—for example, to rail travel and to other fixed track systems, such as monorails. Thus Executives will be able to make agreements with British Rail to provide services up to this limit, but not beyond it. And an Executive will not be able to run a new tracked system of their own beyond this permitted distance. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, will feel that, while we have not been able to go as far as my noble friend Lord Bowles thought at the last stage, might have been possible, we are making the limit 25 miles, rather than 20, for reasons which are practical, and not just because we wish to get as near to the original 30 as possible. I beg to move.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, I am sure the House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for I is explanation of this matter. I am sure that we shall all also agree that it has to be decided in terms of what is likely to be needed. It is, of course, 25 miles from the outer perimeter of the area, and a passenger area itself may be quite large, so that this represents already quite a long distance. I am glad that the noble Lord and the Government have checked up to see that everything likely to be needed is included in this definition. I take it that it applies to Scotland as well as to England. As I say, I am grateful to the noble Lord for the trouble that he has taken about this matter, and we readily accept this Amendment.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
My Lords, my honourable friends in another place were also prominent in urging that there should be some reduction. Criticism of the powers of the Execuitive was put forward because we felt that there was possibly too little regulatory machinery to make certain that these extensive powers were exercised efficiently. It follows that the further outside the area the power is exercised, the less chance there is of regulating and checking 827 with efficiency. We therefore very much welcome this reduction in the distance, even though it is perhaps not quite so large as we should have hoped for.
Page 15, line 13, leave out ("thirty") and insert ("twenty-five").—(Lord Hughes.)
Page 15, line 16, leave out ("thirty") and insert ("twenty-five").—(Lord Hughes.)
Page 15, line 17, after ("of") insert ("any form of").—(Lord Hughes.)
§ Clause 17 [Transfer to Executive of local authority transport undertakings]:
LORD HUGHES moved Amendment No. 20:
Page 30, line 4, leave out ("the management of").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, as printed, the words "the management of" might be construed as imposing a limitation on the powers to duties which were to be transferred. The effect of the Amendment is to make it clear that the clause provides for the transfer to the Executive of all powers and duties conferred or imposed for the purposes of or in connection with the undertaking.
§ The Amendment is proposed as a result of representations by the Public Transport Association, who have suggested that the provision as printed might not be altogether apt. If the words "the management of" were interpreted narrowly there could perhaps be some doubt whether the provision would cover the transfer of, for example, statutory provisions defining or limiting a local authority's powers to run public service vehicles, say on particular roads or in a particular area, and this could suggest that only some of the statu- 828 tory powers and duties of local authorities in the Passenger Transport Area in relation to running public transport would be transferred. The Government's intention is that all the powers and duties of a local authority (or joint board) for the purposes of and in connection with their transport undertaking should be transferred to the Executive. The Amendment removes any possible doubt about this. I beg to move.
§ 4.37 p.m.
LORD DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 21:
Page 31, line 34, at end insert—
("( ) The date to be appointed by an order under subsection (1) of this section shall not he earlier than the date of the publication under section 18(3) of this Act of notice of the publication of the plan describing the proposals of the Executive for the future development of the passenger transport system to he provided for the area.")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in Clause 17 we are dealing with the transfer to the Executive of local authority transport undertakings. The purpose of this Amendment is to ensure that the assets and resources of the bus undertakings are not transferred until the plan is made. What, broadly, the Bill seems to provide for is that once the Authority and the Executive of a Passenger Transport Area have been established by order under Clause 9 of the Bill there will have to he two important exercises. First of all, Clause 18(1) will require the Authority and the Executive jointly to prepare within twelve months, or such longer period as the Minister may allow, a statement setting out in general terms the policies which the two bodies intend to follow and any action which they have taken or propose should be taken to discharge their duties.
Under the Bill, the statement is to include, among other things, the matters set out in paragraphs (a) and (j) of subsection (1) of Clause 18. I would draw the attention of your Lordships to paragraph (a) which refers to:
the organisation, and any proposals for the further development, of the Executive's own undertaking so far as it relates to the provision of passenger transport services within, to and from that area".
The subsection (1)(b) refers to:
any proposals for the organisation of undertakings transferred to the Executive…
Here I should perhaps join with this Amendment the next Amendment, No. 22, which would alter that paragraph to make it read, "intended to be transferred". These, are the two major points in the first exercise.
§ The second important exercise which will have to be carried out will be the preparation within two years from the establishment of the Executive, or such longer period as the Minister allows, in accordance with Clause 18(2), of a plan describing the proposals of the Executive for the future development of the passenger transport system to be provided for the area. This plan will require to be approved by the Authority and, like the general policy statement under Clause 18(1), it will have to be published.
§ So we have first of all the statement, which has to he published within twelve months of the appointment of the Authority, and then we have the plan, which has to be published within two years of the appointment of the Executive. It seems that it is the Minister's intention that as soon as the Executive comes into existence it shall take over the municipal undertakings within the Passenger Transport Area and itself start operating.
Paragraph 17 of the Annex to the White Paper, Public Transport and Traffic (Cmnd. 3481), says this:
During the period of preparation of the policy statement the Executive will operate in conformity with the Road Traffic Act the municipal bus services which have been transferred.
The Minister may argue that the Executive must be allowed straight away to take over the stock, all the buildings, all the staff in any way connected with municipal bus undertakings, since otherwise, he may say, the Executive would be unable to run the show. But if the Executive is to make itself thoroughly familiar with the conditions and needs of the area, and to make plans for the future, who is going to run the show in the meantime? Surely it will be the municipal undertakings, the joint undertakings and the private undertakings which are doing it at the present time.
§ I must ask the Minister to tell us why the Executive should be allowed to take over everything and then decide what it does not need and dispose of that. Surely it is much more sensible that it should 830 first plan what it needs, especially in the matter of buildings and staff, not to mention stock, and let the local authorities retain what it does not need. When it suits their case, the Government like to talk about duplication and overlapping, but surely it is reasonable for the Executive and local author ties together to consider how to make the best use of existing resources before they are transferred. It is only fair that what the Executive is not going to need should remain in the hands of the present owners. But the Executive cannot decide what it is and what it is not going to need until it has studied its requirements and made its plan for the future. So the purpose of this Amendment is to ensure that, before the transfer of the undertaking to the Executive, proper thought and planning takes place.
There is a great deal to he gained by leaving the transfer until the members of the Executive have made themselves thoroughly familiar with both the problems and the potentialities of their area, and the appropriate test of their having done so will be the completion of the plan—the plan, as the Bill puts it,
describing the proposals … for the future development as a passenger transport system to be provided for the area.
By that time the Executive will have worked out precisely what stock, what buildings and, by no means least what staffs of the municipal undertakings are required for the future. Of course, the Minister may say that the Executive will need all the office staffs of the municipal undertakings to help prepare the policy statement under Clause 18(1), as well as the plan under Clause 18(2). But in actual fact the whole concept of the Executive is, if I understand it correctly, that it should be a small professional body, and in any event it will be able to call upon the services of the local authority undertaking's staffs, and the latter's formal transfer into the employ of the Executive would not be necessary merely to ensure that those services were made available for this purpose of preparing the statement and the plan.
§ The Minister may argue—though I cannot believe that he will—that during the period when the plan under Cause 18(2) is being prepared and approved nothing could be done to alter the existing public transport arrangements in the 831 area, if indeed any change was desirable. But surely no sensible Executive would want to make far-reaching changes before it had studied the problems and got out its plan, and any authority would certainly approve any necessary changes the Executive considered were urgently needed.
§ What the Authority and the Executive would be able to do would be to supplement the existing arrangements for co-ordination. This, of course, would be very necessary, and perhaps the Government have not given sufficient credit in the course of this Bill to the arrangements for co-ordination that already exist. But there is no doubt that the Authority and the Executive brought into existence would be able to help with the arrangements for co-ordination and to develop them further in the meantime, even while the statement was being prepared and the plan for the future was being worked out.
§ Finally, it is always possible that the Executive may find that the area as designated is wider than is necessary or desirable. It is always possible that it might decide that a borough with a bus undertaking should not, after all, be included in the area if it was felt to be not in the interests of the efficient working of transport in the area that that should be included; and the Bill, as I understand it, provides for alterations to be made in a designated area. But if the bus undertaking. with all its assets and resources, had already been absorbed by the Executive it would be very difficult to hand it back. Indeed, I would say it is almost certain that in such circumstances good reasons would be found for not handing it back and for having to include that borough in the area, even although the Executive may have come to the conclusion it ought not to be included in the area.
§ I think that these are strong arguments for seeing that the assets are not transferred as soon as the Executive is set up, but rather that there should be a pause until the Executive has worked out a plan—which must be done within two years of the setting up of the Executive—and got the approval of the Authority for that plan. That, I think, is the moment at which the assets ought to be transferred. I beg to move.832
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, these Amendments, Nos. 21 and 22, are variations upon the theme of an Amendment which was considered by your Lordships at the last stage, and I must congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, upon clothing them in words which vary from those used on the previous occasion. My right honourable friend the Minister has already carefully considered the merits of deferring the transfer of assets so as to allow plans to be made, when this was put to him by the chairmen of four transport committees and discussed at a meeting in July this year. He gave his reasons for rejecting the proposal in a letter dated August 22, and this letter was released to the Press. I do not think that I can do better, in putting the arguments against the Amendment, than quote the words which the Minister used in that letter. He said:I believe there are decisive considerations which point to the transfer at the earliest possible date. I cannot believe that it would make sense to leave responsibility for a somewhat indefinite period with the local authority concerned. The uncertainty would not be good for the management of the undertakings. We have inevitably a fairly long period of uncertainty pending the establishment of the Executives. I am convinced that as a matter of good management it is desirable for the Executive to take responsibility for the municipal undertakings as soon as possible after they are set up.This does not mean that the Executive should immediately become immersed in the day-to-day operation, of the bus undertakings.In my view the Executive should, not only at the outset but also later on, concern themselves primarily with policy issues and should leave the day-to-day management of the bus services to local management. The Executive would take over the management of the individual bus undertakings and there is no reason why either the Executive or the Authority should immediately disturb the existing pattern of management.I agree that a first priority for the newly appointed Executive should be the preparation of plans for the reorganisation of transport services in the area.My right honourable friend's letter goes on:I believe this planning process will in practice be carried out more effectively if the Executive is from the beginning responsible for the effective running of the bus undertakings and has available to it the experience of the local management of these undertakings. I have therefore reached the conclusion 833 that the balance of advantage lies in the quick transfer of the municipal undertakings to the Executives. Experience over the years has demonstrated that once a reorganisation has begun it is desirable to carry it through as quickly as possible.That is the end of my quotation from the letter. For those reasons Amendment No. 21 is not acceptable to the Government and, as the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has indicated, Amendment No. 22 is consequential upon No. 21.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 24 [Establishment and General Duties of Bus Company and Scottish Group]:
§ 4.52 p.m.
LORD WINTERBOTTOM moved Amendment No. 23:
Page 40, leave out lines 7 and 8 and insert—
("(b) of the Bus Company, or of the Scottish Group, or of both that Company and that Group (as may be appropriate having regard to where that area is situated)")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in the Committee stage of this Bill the point was made that if a Passenger Transport Authority were to be set up in the vicinity of the Anglo-Scottish Border but wholly on one side of it, Clause 24 as it now stands would make it obligatory for the Passenger Transport Executive to cooperate with either the National Bus Company or the Scottish Transport Group, according to whether the area was in England or Scotland, but not both. Many stage services operated by companies which will become subsidiaries of the National Bus Company cross into Scotland. Other companies which will pass to the Scottish Transport Group have stage services running into England. If a Passenger Transport Authority is established in this area, the Executive would accordingly need to make agreements with both the National Bus Company and the Scottish Transport Group for the continued operation of their services in the Passenger Transport Area. It is therefore appropriate that where the designated area is in the vicinity of the Border the Executive should be required to cooperate with both the National Bus Company and the Scottish Transport Group, and both of those bodies should be required to co-operate with the Executive. 834 This is what this Amendment sets out to achieve.
§ In the Committee stage, the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, pointed out a deficiency in Clause 24 in the ease of a Passenger Transport Authority established near the Anglo-Scottish Border. On the present wording, if the Passenger Transport Authority were on the English side of the Border there would I have to be co-operation with the National Bus Company but not with the Scottish Transport Group which would almost certainly be running services across the Border and into the Passenger Transport Authority's area. The converse would also apply if the Passenger Transport Authority were on the Scottish side of the Border. Neither the Minister of Transport nor the Secretary of State for Scotland has any present intention of designating Passenger Transport Authority near the Border, but if such a P.T.A. were to be established at some time in the future it is clearly right that the Executive should be required to co-operate with both the National Bus Company and the Scottish Transport Group, and vice versa. This Amendment is proposed in order to make Clause 24 impose this requirement. I beg to move.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord for having moved this Amendment. In fact it was I and not my noble friend who raised this matter, and the noble Lord actually wrote to me about it. In my opinion this is the right course to adopt. Whether or not there is likely to be a Passenger Transport Area on one side of the Border or the other remains to be seen, but in any case it is certainly not correct to make a wrong provision.
LORD STRATHEDEN AND CAMPBELL
My Lords, I was delighted to hear the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, say that there was no intention on the part of the Government to introduce Passenger Transport Authorities into Scotland at the moment, because when this Bill was considered with the Minister of State in Edinburgh we were given the strongest assurance that this would not be done without the fullest co-operation with all concerned
§ LORD WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, may I first apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, for confusing him with 835 his noble friend, Lord Nugent of Guildford. In regard to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Stratheden and Campbell, what I said was that neither the Minister of Transport nor the Secretary of State has any present intention of designating a P.T.A. near the Border, which is not quite the same thing. There are two sides to the Border.
§ Clause 25 [General powers of Bus Company]:
LORD WINTERBOTTOM moved Amendment No. 24:
Page 40, line 43, leave out ("hover vehicle") and insert ("hovercraft").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment, together with Amendments 25 and 26, follows upon Amendment No. 1. They are drafting Amendments consequential upon the passing of the Hovercraft Act 1968. I beg to move.
§ LORD KINGS NORTON
My Lords, may I expect an answer at some later stage on the point which I raised?
§ LORD WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, my noble friend has said that he will say something on this matter at a later stage.
§ Clause 26 [General powers of Scottish Group]:
§ LORD WINTER BOTTOM: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 25.
Page 41, line 43, leave out ("hover vehicle") and insert ("hovercraft").—(Lord Winterbottom.)
Page 41, line 44, leave out ("hover vehicle") and insert ("hovercraft").—(Lord Winterbottom.)
§ Clause 28 [Transfer to Bus Company or Scottish Group of certain securities, rights and liabilities]:
LORD WINTERBOTTOM moved Amendment No. 27:
Page 45, line 34, leave out subsection (7).
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a consequential Amendment to a group of Amendments made to the Bill in Committee on the commencement provisions of the Bill. The Amendment was not proposed for Committee because the Committee had passed Clause 28 by the time the Government proposed the changes. Noble Lords may remember what the Amendments entailed. An explanation was given by me to the Committee and may be found in Hansard of July 22, at cols. 799 to 802. Briefly, the purpose of the changes is to bring together in one place in the Bill, in this case in Clause 161 as it is now drafted, all the provisions which deal with the commencement of various parts of the Bill, and to ensure that the responsibilities of the Secretary of State are properly reflected in the identity of the Minister or Ministers who will make the commencement orders. Subsection (7) of Clause 28 is redundant because its substance is now to be found in Clause 161(3)(a)(iii). I beg to move.
§ Schedule 1 [The new Authorities]:
LORD DONALDSON OF KINGS-BRIDGE moved Amendment No. 27A:
Page 208, line 23, at end insert ("or who are representative of the consumer interests.")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a further attempt to get some attention paid in this vast Bill to the ultimate beneficiary, or perhaps in some cases sufferer; that is to say, the consumer. We tried to do this at the Second Reading and we have made no progress on this particular point; therefore I am at it again. The arguments were pretty well deployed on the previous occasion and I do not think your Lordships will want me to go through them again in detail. The fact is that the consultative system is not working well anywhere. During the Second Reading debate I referred to the Consumer Council's report on consultative committees and the nationalised industries, and to some extent this was based on information provided to it by the transport users' consultative committees.
It is worth turning to their Annual Report, which expresses, in perhaps much more polite words, almost as much
dissatisfaction with their position as I personally feel. They say:
The T.U.C.C.s also considered it unsatisfactory that they should have no power to consider bus services. They thought the embargo on consideration of reductions in passenger services should be removed. They thought it was more difficult to secure the re-introduction of a service than it was to prevent the reduction taking place. In regard to quality of service matters they have expressed concern that the boards tend to go ahead with alterations to the facilities provided, indeed complete rebuilding programmes are sometimes embarked on, without regard to any views users or those who represent them may have.
It is clear that this is something which is not working well at the moment anywhere, and in particular with these consultative committees we have under consideration this afternoon. There is an alternative method, to strengthen the consultative committees. I have a group of Amendments down which are designed to strengthen the consultative committees, but I anticipate some resistance to those and therefore I think it wise to put forward an alternative method, which is to have specific consumer representation in management. This is what this Amendment is about. Personally, I should like to see one of the management figures in each case specifically charged with the duty of representing consumer interests in the day-to-day decisions, and selected for his ability to do so.
§ It will be said that everyone is a consumer. So he is, but he is not charged with this particular responsibility. It will be said that you cannot find a suitable person. This is nonsense. Any man or woman of standing given this job to do could do it, just as he or she can be a rural district councillor or fill any other public office. It will be said that there is no room for sectional representation in management. Yet the Bill, quite rightly in my opinion, makes provision for sectional representation of workers. I need not go on. The arguments are obvious. They seem to me very strong, and the arguments against very weak. I beg to move.
§ LORD WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, for being so courteous as to send me a list of those Amendments on which he proposed to speak. Perhaps at the same time he will not accuse me of discourtesy if I 838 leave the main debate to his Amendments to Clause 54 and for the moment answer the specific point about representation of consumers at management level.
If we take the National Freight Corporation, it must be stressed that this body is in no sense a monopoly. On the contrary, it will be operating in a highly competitive field with the statutory duty to break even. Against this background it will have the strongest possible incentive to be responsive to the needs of its customers, because if its services fail to achieve a proper standard those customers will vote with their feet and go elsewhere, to the many private haulers who will of course have free access to the freightliner terminals. Thus every member of the board will be a representative of the consumer interest in the sense that it is only by meeting the needs of the user that the board will thrive. At another stage, the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, put his finger on the facts of the case, when he said:All the categories indicated in the makeup of the board represent the consumer. The consumer is the customer. This is the board of management. Any board of management that ignores the customer is not only hopelessly inefficient but could not possibly carry on its job.And that is the view of Her Majesty's Government.
I must stress that in our view it would be a considerable disadvantage to appoint to these Boards members specifically representative of the consumer as opposed to members anxious to ensure that the organisation thrives by meeting the consumer's needs. Essentially Board members will not be concerned with detailed day-to-day management. They are expected rather to co-ordinate and control the policies of their subsidiaries, particularly in relation to financial policy and investment, to select and oversee the performance of management and to be responsible for such matters as industrial relations. The noble Lord will remember that in appointing members of the Boards the Minister is already required to appoint members experienced intransport, industrial, commercial or financial matters, applied science, administration or the organisation of workersand to have regard to the desirability of having members who are familiar with the special requirements and circumstances of particular regions and areas. 839 It is really unthinkable that a Board appointed in accordance with these requirements would not very fully represent the interests of consumers.
I must ask the House to reject this Amendment as being both superfluous and misconceived, but at the same time I want to give the strongest possible assurance on behalf of the Minister of Transport and the Secretary of State for Scotland that in appointing members of all the new authorities they will have the interests of the users very much in mind.
§ BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD
My Lords, I find the noble Lord's speech rather disappointing. This is exactly what was said before. When nationalised industries or national committees are formed it is said over and over again that they are going to represent the consumer. In fact they do not—they simply do not. Take a good example at the moment, the Post Office, which has a consumers consultative committee. Do not tell me that they agreed to this ridiculous business of stamps costing 4d. taking five days to reach their destination. Of course they did not. I am not on the committee, but I know the sort of thing that happens. I think the Government are short-sighted in thinking that if they appoint an expert on one kind of transport or another, dealing with perishable goods or non-perishable goods, whatever it may be, that that will necessarily represent the consumer. I think it is most disappointing that we should go through the same old story of having a nationalised industry and having all these committees and having dissatisfied consumers who are not represented. It may be that the mass of the people on the various committees are people who are using transport of one kind or another, but the kind of people you want to sell it to—and you want to sell transport to as many as possible because you want it used—will not be represented. I think it is most shortsighted of the Minister not to ask the Consumer Council or some other body who is studying this from the consumer angle all the time, and put them on the boards. It would pay hand over fist because you would get the good will of people whereas now very often you do not get it. I hope the Minister will 840 think again about this. I find it most unsatisfactory.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, in view of the argument to come, I will not reply to what my noble friend has said. This matter will come up again on the next group of Amendments, and I will put my money on those and beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.8 p.m.
LORD WINTERBOTTOM moved Amendment No. 27B:
Page 208, line 28, at end insert ("and, in the case of the Freight Corporation, with the requirements of overseas trade")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, during the debate on the Committee stage of the Bill the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, moved an Amendment originally put down by Lord Caldecote which would have placed experience of and proved capacity in overseas trade among the qualifications which the chairman and members of the National Freight Corporation and the other new authorities are to be required to have. At that time I undertook to bring the views expressed in your Lordships' House to the notice of my right honourable friend the Minister, and on this basis the noble Lord was courteous enough to withdraw the Amendment. After consideration it was felt that the Government Amendment now put down would meet the important point Lord Caldecote was anxious to see included in the Bill. There can be no one in this House who can have any doubt of the importance of overseas trade for the future economic health or the country, dependent as we are upon exports and a healthy balance of trade. Nor can anyone doubt the vital importance of transport in speeding up the flow of exports. Indeed, one of the prime purposes of setting up the National Freight Corporation is to secure the best possible use of publicly owned freight transport assets, and to make possible the full exploitation of all the latest developments in transport technology.
§ Even if no Amendment were made to Schedule 1 to the Bill I am sure that the Minister of Transport would have these factors much in the front of his mind in making appointments to the Board of the National Freight Corporation. Nevertheless, a number of noble Lords clearly 841 felt that there would be an advantage in including in the Bill a specific reference to overseas trade, and the Government accept that this should be done. The Amendment which I move to-day differs only in detail from the one which the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, moved at the Committee stage. We thought it better to leave paragraph 4 of the Schedule as it stands, seeing that it describes in broad terms the qualifications for the Chairman and members of all the new authorities, including the National Bus Company and the Scottish Transport Group, where of course, as I think the noble Lord will agree, an experience of overseas trade would not be a relevant qualification.
§ The following paragraph, paragraph 5, requires the Minister to have regard to the desirability of having members who are familiar with the special requirements and circumstances of particular regions and areas served by the authority in question, and the Amendment which I now move adds the requirement that in addition the Minister should also in the case of the Freight Corporation have regard to the desirability of having members who are familiar with the requirements of overseas trade. I feel sure that this Amendment accurately meets the wishes of the noble Lord who supported the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, and I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Donaldson for having withdrawn his Amendment in order that we may have the opportunity to work out the best way to incorporate this point into the Bill as it stands. I beg to move.
§ VISCOUNT CALDECOTE
My Lords, this Amendment entirely meets the point which I sought to make in my original Amendment at the Committee stage. I should like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, and to his right honourable friend the Minister of Transport, for the trouble they have taken over this matter, and to express my appreciation that the noble Lord has today moved this Amendment which I hope the House will accept.
§ Clause 33 [Grants towards duty charged on bus fuel]:
LORD WINTERBOTTOM moved Amendment No. 28:
Page 52, line 6, leave out from ("1961") to end of line 12.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is an exceptionally technical Amendment and I hope that noble Lords will take it at its face value. The Amendment is a technical one to take account of the fact that this Session's Finance Bill has since received the Royal Assent, on July 26 of this year. The provisions of the Bus Fuel Grants Act 1966 and of Section 2(1)(b) of what is now the Finance Act 1968, which as from January 1, 1969, will no longer be required because they will be covered by the general power given to the Minister in Clause 33(1), can now both be dealt with by simple repeals under Schedule 18. Amendment No. 143E covers the Finance Act 1968 repeal; the Bus Fuel Grants Act repeal is already in Schedule 18, page 271, line 37. I beg to move.
§ Clause 39 [Grants for unremunerative passenger services]:
§ 5.15 p.m.
THE EARL OF KINNOULL moved Amendment No. 29:
Page 59, line 7, leave out ("three") and insert ("five").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, this is a small Amendment, which I hope from its very size will be acceptable to the Government. It was not, I think, a matter which was raised during the Committee stage. As the House will know, under Clause 39 a new concept produced where the Minister may subsidise, for up to a maximum period of three years, unremunerative but socially necessary lines. As I understand it, at the end of that period a new application has to be made by the Railways Board, and then the whole question of this socially necessary but unremunerative line has to be re-examined. One envisages that all the questions of the costings, the question of the surveys, traffic movement, planning, have to be reconsidered; and during this period of course, as I would suggest, there is a general lack of security in that area which the line serves, and 843 also a general lack possibly of confidence in future developments.
§ I believe that the period of three years is far too short, and in this Amendment I suggest a period of five years. It is not a great concession. I should have preferred ten years, but I am trying to be reasonable. By increasing this period—I think one must accept the necessity for fixing some period—one would, I suggest, avoid uncertainty in any area. It would avoid the cost of these triennial investigations, and increasing the period up to five years would not only encourage investments in that area, but would encourage railway staff who are working on this line. What is also important, it would, I believe, prevent an unnecessary wastage by the Railways Board, completely unintentionally, where they invest in new rolling stock, in new track, in new signalling equipment, the life of which will perhaps be twenty years, when in fact the line may be closed in three years. I hope that the Government will accept this Amendment. I believe that it would do no harm, but only good. I beg to move.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I recognise the interest which the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, has in this matter, and he has put forward an argument which is, on the face of it, most persuasive. But as he knows, the period of three years was adopted deliberately in accordance with the recommendation made by the Joint Steering Group in paragraph 3.11 of their Report. I should have thought that the opinion of this quite objective and technically qualified body was one to which we ought to pay attention. The Group commented that three years would be long enough to provide an incentive to the Board to operate the service in such a way that they got the benefit of any further economies which they were able to secure. On the other hand, in the Board's view, it would be short enough for it not normally to be necessary to include any provision for review of individual cases because of cost escalation during that period. In other words, the period was determined in relation to what appeared to be the balance of interest.
I hope that the noble Earl will accept that this is a considered view put forward by informed people. There may 844 well be a few cases in which a permissive power to pay a grant for a period up to five years at a time may be an advantage. Against this, however, should be set the probable need to have to explain why the many other services with an apparently long-term future cannot be accorded similar treatment. There is of course no reason why at the end of the three years the matter should not again be reviewed and grants paid again. But, on balance, the three years seems to the Government to be about the right time, and I ask the House to say that this be the period in the Bill.
§ THE EARL OF KINNOULL
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for his reply. Naturally, I am disappointed that he will not accept the Amendment. I was of course aware that this was a recommendation of the Joint Steering Group, but I was also aware, as I am sure he is also, that not every recommendation that they have made has been accepted by the Government. However, I do not wish to press the matter any further, and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 49 [Miscellaneous provisions as to powers.]:
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, Amendment No. 30 is to bring the Bill into line with the way in which it now stands. I beg to move.
Page 70, line 14, leave out ("subsections (1A) and") and insert ("subsection").—(Lord Drumalbyn.)
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I accept this is a tidying-up operation, consequent upon another Amendment.
§ Clause 51 [Supplementary and miscellaneous provisions]:
Page 73, line 12, leave out ("section 47A or").—(Lord Drumalbyn.)
§ Clause 53 [Railway closures]:
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF KINNOULL moved Amendment No. 33:
Page 77, line 22, at end insert—
("() Where the Minister refuses his consent to a closure proposal made by the Railways Board of rail passenger or freight services, the Railways Board shall not be entitled to reapply for a similar closure proposal within a period of 3 years from the date of the Minister's decision without special consent being granted by the Minister.")
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, I beg to move this Amendment standing in my name. As the House will see, this Amendment is similar in content to Amendment No. 29 except that it is wider in scope and, of course, different in the number of years. The purpose is to prevent the Railways Board from putting up a closure proposal similar to one that has already been rejected by the Minister within a period of three years from the Minister's decision. I think this is a perfectly reasonable Amendment. The reason again is to avoid what I was describing before; that is, the cost of these public inquiries. It is to avoid the cost of holding T.U.C.C. hearings over and over again. If the noble Lord is not going to accept the Amendment, perhaps he will tell us what these T.U.C.C. hearings cost on average.
§ I think this Amendment would give greater stability to the area. It would avoid wastage on track investment, as I have already described. Perhaps the more pertinent arguments are the actual examples of where proposed closures have been made within eighteen months of the Minister's decision not to accept a closure proposal. First of all, there was the case of the Central Wales line. Here the proposal was made in 1963 (I think this is correct), it was reprieved by the former Government in 1964, and a second proposal to close it was made in 1968. On this particular line certain announcements were made by the Railways Board in which they gave advance notice that changes would be made which would greatly reduce the cost of this line. I believe that nothing has taken place since 1964 to reduce those costs. The second example is the Bolton, Bury and Rochdale line. As the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, will know, this is a very useful line which joins Manchester to Blackpool and Blackpool to Southport. The 846 main line is Manchester to Bradford. The proposal here was made originally in 1964; it was reprieved by the predecessor to the present Minister of Transport, Mrs. Castle, and a second proposal for closure was again made in 1968. That was two years after the previous one.
§ I submit that this does not give any security to the railway system. I do not think the Amendment represents a great concession, and I believe it to be a sensible one. If it is not accepted by Her Majesty's Government I would ask the question, what real evidence of a different situation has arisen during the two-year periods to support a fresh proposal. I beg to move.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I should like to help the noble Earl but my advice is that the Amendment which he now proposes is, in fact, valueless. The fact that a proposal for the withdrawal of a rail passenger service has been published under Section 56(7) of the Transport Act 1962 in no way prejudges the issue or presupposes the Minister's automatic consent: it merely invokes the statutory procedure and ensures that the case receives full and detailed appraisal in all its aspects—hardships, economic, regional planning, financial, and so on.
The circumstances affecting a particular rail passenger service can change substantially in a far shorter period than three years, and to place such an artificial barrier on mere publication of a closure proposal seems very inadvisable. The noble Earl asks if I can give an assurance that if there were another a tempt within the three years the reasons would be stated. Offhand, I see absolutely no reason why that undertaking should not be given, because unless there were new reasons it would seem to me quite wrong that another proposal should be put forward. The Board do as a matter of normal administration consult the Minister informally before publishing under Section 56(7), and furthermore the advance notification under Section 54 takes place only after the Minister has received advice from the Regional Economic Planning Council.
There is a further reason why I should have thought it not right to accept the noble. Earl's proposal in this regard. During the next two or three years, in the immediate future, many of the decisions made by the Minister as to closure 847 will of necessity be interim decisions. The situation will be malleable. In many ways we shall see a settling down of the new railway organisation, and it would be advisable for a number of interim decisions to be given so that the matter can be looked at in the light of developments after, say, two years. It would he much better from the noble Earl's point of view to say, "Look, for two years, all right; but we will look at it again after two years". It would be much better to have that approach than to say, "Look, if we don't agree to closure now, we cannot look at it again for at least another three years". On balance, I should have thought the noble Earl's contentions, which I can see are in the interests of the general public and the service generally, would be best served by leaving the Bill as it is.
§ THE EARL OF KINNOULL
My Lords, I should like to examine what the noble Lord has just said about looking at it from a different approach as to whether an Amendment would be involved. I am naturally disappointed. I think it still gives lack of stability to an area. However, I do not wish to press the Amendment, and I beg leave to withdraw it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 54 [Amendments as to Transport Consultative Committees]:
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I wonder if I might ask my noble friend Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, before he rises to move his Amendment No. 34, if he would agree that this Amendment and Nos. 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, and 47 be discussed together. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, who has what I would call a radical, root-and-branch Amendment, No. 48, would also agree that his Amendment might be considered with the others, in order to save the time of the House. Of course, the different Amendments can be put separately if they so wish.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGS-BRIDGE
My Lords, I think that if the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, would agree, we might include Amendment No. 46, which is one that I had down and took out because he put his in.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, may I say that, so far as I 848 understand from this side of the House, my noble friends would be quite happy to debate the general principle in one debate and move the Amendments separately afterwards.
§ 5.27 p.m.
LORD DONALDSON OF KINGS-BRIDGE moved Amendment No. 34:
Page 78, line 44, leave out ("provided by the Waterways Board or")
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for saving me from having to ask for this provision, because it would have been difficult to discuss these Amendments one by one. They are put down with the single object in mind to strengthen the hand and widen the scope of the transport user's consultative committees. We have already heard to-day that the consultative system is working badly, but the transport users' consultative committees themselves are complaining, and the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, gave examples of the falsity of the idea that every manufacturer in commerce will do what is best for the consumer. My noble friend Lord Winterbottom told us, after the Second Reading debate, which was a full one on this subject, that he would consult the Minister and see if he could say anything more helpful. To quote his actual words:
I will do my best to see whether my right honourable friend can move in any direction to meet the wishes of this Committee.
§ My Lords, my noble friend has written me a very full and courteous letter making clear that his right honourable friend is entirely immobile in this context, and will make no gesture of any kind to meet our wishes. Therefore, I feel obliged to press my Amendment.
§ There is a disquieting touch of schizophrenia about the Government's attitude. With one part of their mind they justify the grant—not a very big one, but a substantial grant—to the Consumer Council to watch the interests of consumers, and with another part of their mind they treat the consumers of transport with what amounts to disdain. It is even suggested, as it was suggested to-day by the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, that as the transport organisations are to trade commercially, there is no need for special consumer representation as the interests of the consumer must coincide with the 849 interests of the efficiently-run business. Even Jeremy Bentham, Cobden and Bright were not quite as naive as this. The whole consumer movement on both sides of the Atlantic has grown as a defence against commercial exploitation of the individual by commercial concerns, whether small or large. Monopoly makes the danger worse, but its absence does not in any sense remove it. The alliance of the bureaucracy with business management in the interests of administrative convenience, without consideration of the consumer, is one of the worst abuses that we find raising its head to-day, and in my opinion must be slapped down whenever it is seen. This absence of attention to the consumers' interests in this Bill seems to be a case in point.
§ It is not as if we were asking for powers of veto or of executive action for the T.U.C.C.s. All we ask is that they should have the right to consider all aspects of transport, whether by water, road, rail—and I think we might later include air—in England or in Scotland. In particular I think that we must include the right for them to discuss and consider the quality, quantity and cost to the customer. These are the things which have been specifically excluded from this Bill. They are not allowed to consider charges, or discontinuation of services, or reductions of services. In fact, it is hard to find out what they are allowed to do. They can complain about the lavatories on a station, but, as we have already seen from what I quoted, this usually happens after the alterations have been made. One cannot expect first-class people to serve on bodies with this sort of negligible power. People who run any efficient service must surely want to know where they fail, and must welcome a moderate and balanced group of people who can sift and co-ordinate complaints and present them in an orderly way.
§ I am at a loss to understand these exaggerated fears of interference and delay if a competent body is charged with such duties. There are other bodies charged with part of these duties. The new Inland Waterways Amenity Council can do something. At least it can try to blend the interests of speed boats with those of anglers. The Traffic Commissioners can do something. But they are quite different bodies of men from a 850 consultative committee. They are not consultative at all in the sense that transport committees are because they are essentially licensing committees. They have to act in a semi-judicial capacity and judge between the public interest as they see it and the interests of the bus companies; and not being representative of the bus users the Commissioners, even though they have powers which they can use in the users' interests, have not the same incentive as the consultative committees to press the users' case. My view is that before decisions are made we must give some real power to these bodies in relation to an entirely new set-up. The Transport Bill covers many new activities and creates a number of new bodies, and any continuation of the T.U.C.Cs. in their present condition amounts to no more than an unreal palliative in relation to any defence against exploitation of the public interest. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
My Lords, I should like to support my noble friend Lord Donaldson in his group of Amendments. My remarks perhaps are more appropriate to Amendment No. 40. In my opinion the existing powers of transport users' consultative committees have proved demonstrably ineffective. The railway services have continued to shrink and are still shrinking until they have reached the stage of, to my mind, intolerable inadequacy and inconvenience. The transport users can say nothing and do nothing, and no action which they take or protests which they make can be effective. The noble Lord, Lord Beeching, is not here and therefore I cannot ask his advice, but I myself have spent a long time in business and it does not take a genius to discover that in business one cannot make a profit by standing still, or still less by going backwards. In my view, if we were to carry an Amendment such as No. 40, we should render a service to the Railways Board, if only to save them from themselves.
I cannot see any reason why the Government should resist this approach on behalf of the consumer. To say (as may be said) that the transport users' consultative committees are composed of amateurs poses the question: well, who appointed them? If they were amateurs, then they were appointed as such; if they were professionals, then they were 851 appointed as such. The noble Lord, Lord Fulton, in his recent Report on the Civil Service described some civil servants as amateurs, so perhaps—who knows?—there may be one or two at the Ministry of Transport.
The proposal in Amendment No. 40 that consultative committees should take an interest in fares and charges is, to my mind, of less importance than that they should be armed to deal with services. Services are more a matter for careful watching over by consumer bodies, and I feel that the least the Government could do, if they cannot go the whole distance with my noble friend, would be to accept part of his proposals. The noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, was kind enough to send me a copy of the letter which he wrote to my noble friend Lord Donaldson, and I was very disappointed to read that the Government appear to be immovable on this matter. However, in view of the general support which my noble friend's Amendment appears to have received, I hope that they will have second thoughts, at any rate in regard to some of the points which have been raised.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
My Lords, I should like to ask my noble friend to give favourable consideration to this group of Amendments. I refer in particular to Amendment No. 40. The other Amendments, which seek to bring the scope of the other undertakings within this Bill, are a step in the right direction. The previous procedure was that the transport consultative committees dealt only with railway matters, but now that one accepts that under the Bill there will be a social obligation under which ultimately subsidies will have to be given it is right that they should be extended to the other activities covered by the Bill. The transport users' consultative committees perform useful work, but they have been confined to the old question of hardship. When evidence has been collected about the cost factor it has been deemed inadmissible, and Amendment No. 40 opens up a much wider avenue of approach. If the Government were prepared to accept it, they would give strength and add confidence to the deliberations of the consultative committees.
Most of us will have heard that when closures of lines are being considered 852 the financial facts presented by the Railways Board have been subjected to very great inquiry. I know that the old Scarborough line is about to be closed, but at Whitsuntide its takings were about £20,000 on one weekend. If there is a justification for closing that line, with those takings at Whitsun, then evidence should surely be given to the consultative committee about the material factors that have been taken into consideration by the Railways Board which lead them to say that there will be a terrific loss if the line is continued.
Most people are very sceptical when the decision to close a line has been taken, even though the consultative committee is to hold an inquiry, because the only argument which can be advanced is that of hardship. Noble Lords will know that I support the Bill wholeheartely, but it would be as well to extend its scope to those matters covered by the various Amendments and to embrace Amendment No. 40 in particular, whereby the whole question of charges is taken into account. The Boards of the various undertakings will then have to show why it is no longer a feasible financial proposition to keep a service open.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, rightly said that we were having a general discussion on Clause 54. But he did not mention my two Amendments which refer to charges and their consideration by the consultative committees. Was that the intention of the noble Lord, or should I move my Amendments later?
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I am very sorry; it was not intentional. I quite agree that these two Amendments, which have only just been put down on the Marshalled List, might properly be taken in the same debate, if the noble Lord agrees.
My Lords, I gladly accede to the invitation of the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, that I should speak to my Amendment during the general discussion on this group of Amendments, so as to avoid taking up the time of the House by going over some of the same ground a second time. I should first like to offer my support to the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, in all that he has just said. I think the line 853 he has followed is extremely reasonable and, indeed, I hope that when it comes to the decision on Amendment No. 40 we shall find that the Government are sympathetic.
During the Committee stage we had a very wide debate on what was then Clause 55, and we discussed the general merits of the T.U.C.C.s as well as a number of smaller points which were specified in the different Amendments. There was criticism of a reasonable kind voiced from all parts of the House and there was no Party issue in that discussion at all, any more than there is any Party issue in the discussion this afternoon. This was appreciated by the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, who replied to that debate. He said that there was no doubt that the feeling of the debate was running strongly in favour of the consultative committees, and that he would consult his right honourable friend to see whether he could say anything more helpful. Later on he said words which the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, has quoted, and they are so important that I venture to quote them again. He said:I will do my best to see whether my right honourable friend can move in any direction to meet the wishes of this Committee. I cannot be very helpful, but in one or two minor points some improvement may be made."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2/7/68, col. 257.]That, of course, is as far as any junior Minister, in the rather awkward position that he was in at that time, could have been expected to go. But he was clearly convinced of the case that was put forward from all sides of this House. In fact, the Government have brushed all that aside. They have made the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, look foolish, and I am not surprised that he has gone to cover at this particular time. So would any of us. But, what is worse, I think it shows indifference to Parliament. Why are we here discussing all these points if they are all just to be brushed aside in this way?
During the Recess the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, a letter in reply to the debate. He said at the end that he had sent a copy to other Peers who took part in the debate on Clause 55. He did not, in fact, send a copy to me and the letter does not refer to any of the points which I raised during 854 the Committee stage. That is one of the reasons why I venture to repeat my Amendment and to put it again on the Marshalled List.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord will allow me to interrupt? I have made inquiries as to the reason why the noble Lord did not receive a copy of this letter. I am sorry he has not received a copy, because he should have had one.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I am most sorry that the noble Lord has not received a copy. I ought to make it quite clear that I am replying not because my noble friend Lord Winterbottom feels that the arguments were conclusive, but simply because of the re-allocation of the clauses due to the unfortunate absence of my noble friend Lord Stonham.
My Lords, I do not wish to labour that point. It probably went out on a wide distribution. All the same, I feel that little more care might have been taken. I have a copy now. There is a wonderful sentence at the beginning of the third paragraph about charges, which I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, has studied carefully. It says:The heart of the Government's argument in favour of the exclusion of charge, from the T.U.C.C. lies in the need for untrammelled, vigorous and flexible management in the transport industries.That is wonderful drafting.
I do not want to repeat all the arguments, but I am going to ask the Government, even at this late hour—because we still have the Third Reading to come—to look at the drafting of this cause. I always understood that the setting up of the T.U.C.C.s was part of a plan to bring the railways and their customers closer together, to build up confidence in the transport services of this country, and, in particular, confidence in railway travel—and, surely to goodness! the railways need increased use of their services. Perhaps noble Lords will look at the obscure language of this clause—the first two subsections are enough—and if the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, stands it and is prepared to get up and 855 explain it lucidly he must be much more intelligent than most of us here. It is a major exercise to understand what those two subsections are about, and, in consequence, I should have thought we are much more likely to do the opposite; to weaken the confidence between the railways and their customers.
I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, who said that we have a chance here to give some real power to the T.U.C.C.s. We all know what that means. We are not asking for them to have power to obstruct the railways or to take over commercial direction, but at least to be able to speak with a voice which has greater backing than at the present time. If only we could drop this clause and then before the Third Reading invite the noble Lord to draft a new clause which deletes Clause 56 from the Act of 1962, we should then hope to have one new clause in this Bill which everyone could understand. This is surely not an occasion for legislation by reference.
I ask the noble Lord, too, to explain not only to us, but to the people of this country, what is intended when the phrase "quality of service" is used. I asked this in the last debate, but I was not given any reply. We know that there are very general powers given to the T.U.C.C.s, under the original Act, other than a reference, I think it is, to charges, but we did not hear much of this phrase "quality of service" in those days. Now we hear a lot about quality of service. What exactly is meant?
My Lords, a few days after our debate in the summer a poster appeared in nearly every railway station in the North-West of England—it may have appeared in others parts of the country, too—drawing the attention of the general public to the existence of the T.U.C.C.s. If I remember correctly, the posters said that the T.U.C.C.s were there to help and to serve us, but that people should first approach their local station master; then, if they did not get a satisfactory reply, they should go to the area office; and only then was it most appropriate for them to come to the T.U.C.C.s. My Lords, it is clear that we ought not to expect the T.U.C.C.s to consider hundreds of small and detailed points, but if everything is to be taken first of all 856 to a station master, who probably has no power in the particular matter, and then to an area office, months go by and at the end the point is completely out-of-date before it every reaches the T.U.C.C. And where in any Statute is it required that the T.U.C.C.s should shelter behind station masters? I have not found it in any of the Acts.
Of course, we all understand the commercial responsibility of the railways, and we understand the difficult position they are in. But I, and I am sure other noble Lords feel as I do, dislike legislation to perpetuate a situation where a series of committees have been put in a quite impossible position. I hope that when they come to a final decision on this series of Amendments the Government will show sympathy to some of them at least so that I can feel, in the spirit of "half a loaf is better than no bread", that I shall not have to press my Amendment. If, on the other hand, the Government show less than a reasonable amount of sympathy to the Amendments down in the names of other noble Lords, then I shall have to think again.
§ BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD
My Lords, I should like to support the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, and I am very much encouraged by the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, and the other noble Lords who spoke from the Labour Benches, because I feel that this really is—and I have always treated it as such—a completely non-Party political matter. The T.U.C.C.s are an attempt to get public opinion through to the management of nationalised industries. That is their object. It is an object of which we are all very much in favour. But they are terribly hampered by the fact that they always provide information, or a channel of information, too late. The decisions have been taken: bus routes are changed and railway lines are scheduled to be shut down, and only then do the public realise that they could have approached the T.U.C.C.s and done something about it.
This is most unfortunate. We are all, I think, on all sides of the House, anxious to help the railways. I am a staunch supporter of the railways. I would rather travel by rail than in any other way, and I always travel by rail if I possibly can. 857 But if the railways get taken away, if the people who want to travel by rail are simply forced to do something else—to use either the roads, which we know are very overcrowded, or the air, which is extremely inconvenient if we do not happen to live near an airport—they are absolutely sunk. These are matters which the T.U.C.C.s could channel through to the nationalised Boards in good time if they had the chance; but, as the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, said, the word "hardship" is the only word that they are allowed to refer to, and hardship is not the point. The point is that the public are prepared to support the railways in particular—that is what I am most interested in—but they get no encouragement of any kind at all.
Therefore, on the question of helping the nationalised Boards to serve the public better, I should have thought that one of the best ways was to have excellent representation of the consumer, of the person using that particular nationalised industry, on the Railways Board or on the nationalised industry. There should be a direct communication with the public—not a separation from the public, which is what happens at the present time. This is a great opportunity, and I feel most disappointed, as indeed my noble friend Lord Inglewood has just said, bearing in mind that when we had this debate before we were encouraged by the Mininster on the Front Bench when he said that he would look at all this again and would do his best to make concessions and improve—because that is what it would do—the relations between the users and the nationalised industries, and, in particular, transport.
I received the same letter, very kindly, that was sent by the Minister to everybody else concerned. I found it highly unsatisfactory. It did not give an inch. I hope that now that we have another opportunity to discuss it, the Government will realise that this is not a Party political issue; that it is one with which Members on all sides of the House are deeply concerned; and that the least the Government can do is to accept these Amendments or, if not, to agree that before Third Reading something far more radical in the way of changes should be made, to which we should then all be anxious to give our support.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
My Lords, I rise to support the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, particularly on Amendment No. 40. I join with other noble Lords who have spoken in deprecating the immense faith which the Government seem to have in the price mechanism as a way of ensuring that the consumers will be properly served. I do not think that this by any means always happens with any kind of organisation, whether Government, quasi-Government or private enterprise; and the bigger they are the less it tends to happen. I think that, on the whole question of charges, it is important a at the T.U.C.C.s should be consulted. Quoting from the letter which the Minister so kindly sent, one accepts that charging policy is a complex and technical subject, while T.U.C.C.s are essentially laymen's bodies, but I feel that T.U.C.C.s are the channel by which bodies of consumers should be able to put their views before these changes are made.
I am most interested in one particular sentence in this letter. One of the reasons that is given by the Minister far not accepting this proposal is:Not only would the Board be delayed from introducing new fares, as passengers would no doubt be quick to take opportunities to complain to the T.U.C.C.s, but much work, both by the Board and by the Ministry of Transport, will be entailed by the need to investigate the T.U.C.C.s' recommendation".I quote from the bottom of the first page. Now either the Ministry and the Board know what the consumers want, in which case not much work would be needed, or they do not know, in which case the T.U.C.C.s should inform them. I do not think the Government should have this both ways.
On the question of the reduction of services, I would plead that it is not enough to say, as the Minister has said, that people can complain if hardship is discovered after a service is discontinued or reduced. No doubt there are cases—in fact, I know there have been cases—when services have been restored after they have been taken away, but we all know from experience that when dealing with any kind of body like this the natural forces of inertia, with no ill will on anybody's part, are such that the cards are stacked very strongly against the consumer. It is much better that people should have an opportunity of putting 859 forward their complaints before the services are removed or reduced. For this reason, I very much hope that the Minister will think again about this matter, because I am sure, as we have seen from this debate so far, that many noble Lords feel that this is necessary.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I should like to add my word of support to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson. I believe that in my two Amendments, Nos. 36A and 36B, and his Amendment No. 40, we are trying to achieve the same end: that of adding to the existing and proposed powers of the consultative committees the right to investigate the charges made, and, inferentially, the financial implications behind decisions taken by the Boards (that is, except the Waterways Board) and the Freight Corporation and any subsidiaries it may have. The reason why I put down my two Amendments at this late stage is that the Transport Users' Joint Committee feel, I think rightly, that with the return of a measure of protection to the nationalised railways and also to the National Freight Corporation there should be a strengthening of the consultative machinery—and that is what Lord Donaldson is trying, rightly, to get—as the nationalised industries will no longer be absolutely open to the forces of competition.
The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, may reply that by giving the consultative committees the right to investigate the services and facilities of the National Freight Corporation, the Minister is giving the user all the consultative power that the user needs; or the Minister may say that prior to the 1962 Act there were many criticisms as to the way the consultative machinery operated in practice, when the committees were empowered also to discuss finance. It think it is important at this stage to get the powers right and then to devise ways to see that they are properly exercised. That, I think, was a point very well covered by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson. As the licensing procedure gives the nationalised industries some measure of protection, is it not right now that the powers of the consultative committees should be increased to consider charges? Many of the decisions on removal or reduction of services are taken on financial grounds 860 which relate to items of expenditure which, in effect, may be dubiously costed and on items of receipt which are related to levels of charges.
I am hoping now that the present Government will see the same amount of virtue in consultative machinery as did their predecessors in 1947. When the Socialist Government established the Transport Act 1947 they saw great virtue in ensuring that there was appropriate consultative machinery. At that time there was instituted a strong central committee, and on that committee, as well as on the area committees, were represented the then Federation of British Industries, the National Union of Manufacturers and the Association of British Chambers of Commerce. With the 1962 Act all this was swept away. I hope that the noble Lord will take the opportunity to-day of seeing that charges are once again considered by the consultative committees.
§ THE EARL OF KINNOULL
My Lords. I should like briefly to support the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, but to keep my main fire for my own Amendment. I feel sorry for the noble Lord, Lord Beswick. He seems to be completely friendless on this clause and one wonders whether he fully appreciated the feeling of the Committee during the Committee stage when this subject was discussed. What escapes me is why the Government have not been prepared to make some amendment to the T.U.C.C. powers. The noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, was a little more restrained this time; but I think I am right in saying that on the last occasion she described the T.U.C.C. hearings as a complete farce and went on to say that if the Government did not wish to make the T.U.C.C.s any stronger they should scrap them. The Government do not seem to wish to make them stronger. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, will be able to give us some assurance this afternoon. One would remind him that if he takes the matter back yet again the next stage is the last one.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, there has been remarkable unanimity on this group of Amendments. I believe it is the first time during any stage of this Bill that there have been so many from all sides of the House who have spoken with one voice. I think that for once this Bill, which makes so many major 861 changes in transport, is being too timid. We are on the threshold of what everyone hopes will be the beginning of a new phase of transport history, and one that will be particularly important for the railways and for the movement of large numbers of passengers in the conurbations. So there is a need, and an opportunity, to bring the providers of transport services and the users of transport services, the public, as close together as possible.
Few people claim that the T.U.C.C.s in their present form are fulfilling any very useful function. Some, indeed, like the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, have been much more severe in their language. The T.U.C.C.s patently are not linking the public back to the Railways Board or to the other Authorities. When you come to look at their composition and structure it seems that the reason must lie in part, at any rate, in their limited powers. If there is a committee set up which cannot consider the cost or the quality of a service, then inevitably arid lines of discussion and narrow attitudes of mind are going to result. It is vital—at this time more than any other—when very wide ranging new legislation is coming into force, to attract people of a different quality and with much wider perspectives. There is a danger, it is said, that the T.U.C.C.s could become preservation societies; that they could become no more than special interest lobbies. Yes, they could be, if the wrong sort of people are encouraged to think in the wrong sort of way. That would be a risk. But it is a very timid attitude. At this moment it would be a golden opportunity to strengthen and revitalise these ineffective bodies.
There is one further issue of which the noble Lord who is to reply will be aware. This debate has underlined that we are not just talking about the content of the Amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, and of the Amendments put down by other noble Lords; we are talking about the function of this House. We have spent, during two consecutive stages—Committee and Report—a very substantial amount of time, considering this question. Noble Lords with special knowledge such as the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, have spoken 862 from their wide experience and interest in consumer affairs. Other noble Lords, from all Benches, have given their support. So here is an occasion for the Government to show some responsiveness towards the opinion of the House and some flexibility of mind in the way in which they reply to this group of Amendments.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I appreciate the spirit in which we have had this debate. I only wish that I was in a position to be as forthcoming as the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, invited me to be. I agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, said about this not being a Party matter. It is not a Party matter. The debate that we have had, the arguments going from one side of the House to the other, emphasises that fact.
It is something of a difficulty for me to answer this debate in the negative way I shall have to adopt because I have spent a good many years of my political life advocating the cause of the consumer, and I say, quite readily and without qualification, that in my view this is one field where we in the Labour Party have failed to come up to the standards and objectives which we have set ourselves. I do not believe that in the public service, as an industry which we have established, we have so far found a way of bringing in the consumer and user as effectively as ought to be the case. Nevertheless, having said that, I am bound also to say that I cannot see that we should improve the machinery of consultation with the consumers, or indeed the service to the public, by tacking on to the provisions proposed in the Bill the various Amendments now under consideration.
I do not believe that the present T.U.C.C.s are equipped to carry out the various responsibilities which noble Lords would have them undertake by the acceptance of these Amendments. I am in something of a difficulty, which I am sure noble Lords will recognise. I do not wish to bore the House by repeating arguments which have been rehearsed at an earlier stage of the Bill, and indeed in this famous letter which has gone out to various people. On the other hand, I do not wish to be accused of discourtesy by not setting down again the point of view of the Government and 863 the reasons why they feel unable to accept these Amendments. Incidentally, on the question of this famous letter, I now have a copy of the letter which was indeed sent to the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, and I am sorry that he has not received it. Clearly there is some difficulty.
May I deal now with the headings under which these Amendments have been put down. First of all, there are Amendments Nos. 34 and 41 from the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, which relate to the inland waterways. These have not been pressed with any great enthusiasm and, as I understand it, the House does not feel that this is a very serious point. The fact is that the amenity and recreational use of both the cruising and the commercial waterways will be adequately considered by the Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council. So far as the consumer or user is concerned, my advice is that there has never been any complaint from them which has not been properly considered by the Waterways Board, and the limited number of users do not seem to be pressing for an extension of the consumer committees in that respect. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord will not feel it necessary to press those Amendments relating to the waterways.
The Government do not agree that the T.U.C.C.s should be empowered to consider representations about bus services, whether nationalised or not, for the good reason that the Traffic Commissioners already exercise this function. This is not treating consumers with disdain. Most people with whom I have discussed this matter accept the fact that the Traffic Commissioners carry out their obligations in an efficient and adequate manner. They have experience and the expertise in this field while the consumer committees have not. Furthermore, the Commissioners, being the licensing authority for bus services, have powerful statutory sanctions at their disposal if they feel that the needs of users are not being properly met. By comparison the consultative committees (you may say that this is a criticism of their set-up) are in a comparatively weak position, as they can only recommend. So here again I hope that my noble friend will 864 not feel it necessary to press that Amendment; and that goes, too, for the Amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, and his noble friends. The Traffic Commissioners have the necessary statutory power and the local knowledge. They have independence and good officers over a wide field to make them qualified to defend the interests of the bus users, and there is ample evidence that they do this.
As to the charges, here again at first sight the line which I adopted was that it is impossible to talk about the quality of a service unless one is also empowered to discuss the charge for that service. Superficially this seems a very attractive argument, but when one looks at it from a practical point of view, and in the light of all that is needed in the professional administration, it seems to be quite impossible for a transport users' consultative committee to have a responsibility to go through the whole range of the fare structure and make recommendations and have arguments about this or that fare. It just is not feasible, it just could not be done. It could not physically be done by the T.U.C.C.s as they are set up now. The charging policy, as noble Lords will know if they have business experience in other fields, is a complex and technical subject, and as they are constituted the T.U.C.C.s are essentially laymen's bodies. I will not use the term "amateurs"—it seems to have some pejorative sense about it now—but it is the fact that a good deal more professional expertise would be needed in this field before the committees could judge and criticise fares and charges in an informed and constructive way.
The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, asked me about the quality of services and what was meant by "quality of service". The definition suggested to me as the most brief is: any matter affecting the service and facilities provided by the Boards, other than charges or proposed reductions in service. Any matters relating to the services and facilities are related to the quality of service.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, but I think that he has raised a very interesting point. Who is to determine just what is the quality that 865 the public wants? The Railways Board may consider quality to consist of modernisation, electrification and so on, but the public which uses the railways may consider quite a different thing. I do not remember that the public has ever been consulted as to what it would wish the railways to be like.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, what I am saying is that if the public wishes to make representations to the T.U.C.C.s on these matters, it is entitled to do so, and, on behalf of the public, the committees can make recommendations to the Minister. This is perfectly straightforward. They can do it now. They can make recommendations on anything affecting the service and facilities with the exception of charges or proposed reductions in service.
Now may I come to the point about the service reductions? The Minister has already decided that he will consult the T.U.C.C.s where he proposes to undertake to pay a grant for a rail passenger service under Clause 39. But he considers that on a value for money basis this could be justified only by a substantial reduction in the existing level of services. As the Minister proposes to grant-aid particular services it is right that he should be able to specify in each case the level of service which he thinks represents the best value for taxpayers' money. In order to enable him to decide where the value for money lies he needs to have a comprehensive picture of all the factors which would bear upon the services. One of the most important of these is the needs of users. In the Minister's view the T.U.C.C.s are the bodies best qualified to comment on how far the proposed level of service would best meet those needs.
In the case of other services to be provided by the Board on a commercial basis, both passenger and freight, the Minister is convinced of the need to avoid hampering day-to-day management. I do not wish to repeat that phrase "untrammelled, vigorous and dynamic managements", but, clearly, there is a point beyond which if too many people have to be consulted proper management is hampered. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, will appreciate this. If every proposed reduction in service had to be considered in advance by the T.U.C.C.s, an amount of work 866 would be generated which would make it impossible for the Board to run the services efficiently. If, on the other hand, it is found that people are suffering as the result of a reduction in service it is highly appropriate that the T.U.C.C.s should be empowered, as they are empowered, to consider representations about the service. If they ther make recommendations to the Minister, he has the powers to deal with them.
To sum up, committees can consider the level of train services after a reduction has taken place. To enable them to consider timetable alterations and so forth beforehand would hinder management on detailed issues and lead to delay in effecting either economies or improvements.
I appreciate the fact that my noble friend Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge has dealt with his batch of Amendments in such a concise way, but he used a phrase about "treating the consumer with disdain". I hope that, on reflection, he will not feel it necessary to adhere to that. What we are doing in this Bill is attempting to provide a more efficient service for the consumer. That is the whole reason for the Bill. No one else stands to gain. It is not intended to benefit any small group of people. There is only one person who matters here and that is the user, the consumer. It is the Government's considered view that this form of management is more likely to produce the economic and efficient service which the consumer needs. This is not a matter of treating anyone with disdain, least of all the general public. And I hope that my noble friend, when he goes into all the various aspects of his Amendments, will see that in one way or another the user—the consumer—has a means of ventilating his point of view. Therefore, I hope that on reflection he will be able to withdraw his Amendment.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGS-BRIDGE
My Lords, I believe that on Report it is out of order for me to reply, but with your Lordships' permission I think that it would be helpful, as the situation seems a little confused, if I said what it seems to me I ought to do.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, may I help my noble friend? The mover of an Amendment on Report has the right of reply.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGS-BRIDGE
My Lords, I am extremely grateful to my noble friend. May I begin by saying that, as I should expect, my noble friend has replied with great courtesy to all my points. I have been to some extent reassured about the waterways, but they are a small issue. I think that amenities are more important, but I do not feel that it is necessary to press that point. I am not really satisfied about the exclusion of the T.U.C.C.s attending to the bus companies, but it is the less important of the two remaining issues. I am totally unsatisfied that the substance of Amendment No. 40 should be left out of the Bill and I feel, as this is an absolutely non-political issue and as so much unanimity has been shown on all sides of the House, that I should be wrong not to press this. Accordingly, I propose to press Amendment No. 40. The only other thing I should like to say is that of course I agree with my noble friend that the whole point of this enormous Bill is to give a better service to the consumer, and this is the angle from which we are attacking it on this point.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.868
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 35.
Page 78, line 46, leave out ("47A or section 49(1A) or") and insert ("49").—(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGS-BRIDGE: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 40.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 79, line 7, at end insert—
("() shall include consideration of the charges made for any service or facility and any question relating to the discontinuance or reduction of services provided by any of the bodies named in paragraph (b) above, thereby deleting the relevant reference in section 56, subsection (5) of the Act;").—(Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge.)
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ On Question: Whether the said Amendment (No. 40) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 69; Not-Contents, 45.869
|Aberdeen and Temair, M.||Falmouth, V.||Newton, L.|
|Addison, V.||Ferrier, L.||Oakshott, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Fortescue, E.||Poltimore, L.|
|Audley, Bs.||Gisborough, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Balerno, L.||Gough, V.||Rathcavan, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Grenfell, L.||Rea, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Gridley, L.||Rockley, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Runciman of Doxford, V.|
|Boston, L.||Haddington, E.||Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Hanworth, V.||St. Davids, V.|
|Burton. L.||Hawke, L.||St. Helens, L.|
|Byers, L.||Headfort, M.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Henley, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Inglewood, L.||Sinclair of Cleeve, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Kinnoull, E. [Teller.]||Somers, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Lambert, V.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Crathorne, L.||Long, V.||Stratheden and Campbell, L.|
|Cromartie, E.||Malmesbury, E.||Teynham, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Merrivale, L.||Thurlow, L.|
|Dilhorne, V.||Milverton, L.||Wakefield of Kendal, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. [Teller.]||Monk Bretton, L.||Windlesham, L.|
|Mottistone, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, Bs.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.||Younger of Leckie, V.|
|Archibald, L.||Champion, L.||Hall, V.|
|Balogh, L.||Crook, L.||Henderson, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Crowther, L.||Heycock, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Delacourt-Smith, L.||Hilton of Upton, L. [Teller.]|
|Bowles, L. [Teller.]||Douglass of Cleveland, L.||Hughes, L.|
|Brown, L.||Gardiner, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Hurcomb, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Garnsworthy, L.||Iddesleigh, E.|
|Burden, L.||Granville of Eye, L.||Kennet, L.|
|Latham, L.||Morris of Kenwood, L.||Rusholme, L.|
|Leatherland, L.||Moyle, L.||Serota, Bs.|
|Lloyd of Hampstead, L.||Pargiter, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Phillips, Bs.||Sorensen, L.|
|McLeavy, L.||Plummer, Bs.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Mitchison, L.||Ritchie-Calder, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Morris of Grasmere, L.||Robertson of Oakridge, L.||Winterbottom, L.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ THE EARL OP KINNOULL moved Amendment No. 43:
Page 79, line 26, at end insert—
("()—(a) A Committee with whom an objection has been lodged shall consider the objection and any representations made by the Board concerned and report to the Minister as soon as possible on any of the following matters—
(b) A Committee shall be obliged to make available to any objector a copy of its report on payment of a fee.")
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name. The purpose of this Amendment, again dealing with the T.U.C.C., is to widen the scope of the T.U.C.C. beyond the narrow basis of hardship. As the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, will know, the hardship principle under the 1962 Act is the narrow basis that an objector can be heard. Therefore I am incorporating subsections (2) and (3), which allow the T.U.C.C. hearing to consider, first, the pattern of existing public transport serving the area—and this I suggest they are more than well qualified to do—and secondly, to consider the financial effect on the Railways Board if the closure is not authorised. There is a third point; namely, that the committee shall be obliged to make available to any objector a copy of its report on payment of a fee.
§ I am not necessarily suggesting that this is the right wording, but I should like to put over the principle of this Amendment. The prime reason for most closures is financial, and it is for that reason that, in my view, the T.U.C.C. should be allowed to comment on the financial situation. I suggest that they should be 870 allowed to certify what figures the Railways Board put up at the hearing; and when I say "certify" I mean to put on record the figures that the Board put up at the hearing. They are obviously not qualified to say whether the figures are correct or not.
§ The reason why I ask for this (I notice the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, frowning) is that there are discrepancies between the figures that the Railways Board put up at hearings and those they put up for the same line to the Minister. I have here one example of this, which is the Edinburgh to Carlisle line. At the hearing the figures which the Railways Board gave to the T.U.C.C. were as follows. They said that the estimated receipts would be £101,800, and direct expenses would be £375,800. Yet when the Minister's consent to the closure of that line was granted it was noted that a social grant of over £700,000 would be necessary, thus increasing the so-called expenditure by over 100 per cent. It is for this reason that I suggest that there should be put on record at the time of the hearing the figures which the Railways Board are submitting.
§ Another matter is the question of social loss of time. Here one gets examples, I think, in the road users, and the Ministry have calculated the loss in time at something like 15s. 6d. an hour. In certain instances, in particular that of the Ashford line recently closed, the estimated social loss in time was costing, at 5s. an hour, over £700,000. This is a very strong factor.
§ The third point I think the hearing should consider is the question of the economies that could be made on the railway lines. Here, of course, I am thinking particularly of the "basic railway" principle. The Government's reply tonight no doubt will be that the Bill gives the railways a new deal, a deal to become solvent, and that the Government must in no way hinder management. If that is the Government's reply, my answer is that this is a new Bill, and here we see the T.U.C.C., who should be given 871 equally a new role. I would suggest, as we have already suggested earlier, that the T.U.C.C.s hearing and procedure is out of date. I believe that the onus is on the Government now to see that the matter is amended. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ LORD MITCHISON
My Lords, I do not support this Amendment, but I earnestly hope that it will be pressed to a Division, because in my opinion it is a quite singularly bad one. It requires a body of people who are the consultative committees—the T.U.C.C. as we call them—toreport to the Minister as soon as possible on any of the following matters…".If I understood the noble mover rightly, that means all the matters referred to—and just look what they are! The first one is thehardship caused by the proposed closure".There is more to be said for that than there is for the next two items. The next one isthe effect any such closure will have on the pattern of existing public transport serving the area".Well, somebody must run the railways after all, and that somebody is not the consultative committee; and somebody must see to the transport in the area, and that somebody again is not the consultative committee. But, in my humble opinion, it is the last matter which really makes the most extraordinary suggestion:the possible financial effect on the Railways Board if the closure is not authorised".What is the difference between a financial effect and a possible financial effect? I must leave that to the mover. I do not know what it is. But we are to be told what in effect it will save or cost, as the case may be, the Railways Board for this closure to be made or not to be made. How can a transport users' consultative committee determine a matter of that kind?
I think the mover recognised the situation. Then he said, "Oh, but they must report on what it is". If I had to report on all my own arithmetical and financial errors the report might be quite a long one, but in this particular case I cannot see what possible purpose it will serve. This is the same business at bottom as trying to get the transport users' consulta- 872 tive committees to determine the charges payable to railways for their services. They are not competent to do it. You cannot get people to serve on committees of this kind, and to do so all over the country, in this way. At the end of the day it is not the business of the transport users' consultative committees to run the railways, or to determine questions about the cost of running them or about the whole transport system of an area. It is putting much too much on their shoulders.
There are consultative committees, of course, in connection with other legislation, and fortunately their duties have been rather more precisely defined and they serve a useful but a very limited purpose. I know that all of us who have served in another place have at one time had to deal with one form or another of consultative committee. They are necessarily not very strong bodies. They may be defended on the grounds that they provide a method of canalising protests and canalising feeling and putting it forward to the board or other authority concerned. On those lines they are defensible. But on the lines that they should decide the sort of question this Amendment appears to contemplate they should decide, or that they should express their opinions in some solemn and recorded form, I suggest they are really rather indefensible.
It is never easy to represent the consumer in anything. It is fabulously difficult to do that, although one attempt after another has been made. In railways the consumer is really the public, and it is the public who are concerned in all these railways matters. I have been listening to the debate with great interest and deference because some of your Lordships know a great deal about this subject, but I did not hear anybody suggest that a Member of Parliament was occasionally the person to take up questions of this kind.
§ LORD WAKEFIELD OF KENDAL
My Lords, I have just listened to the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, and I entirely disagree with what he has said. Some years ago a committee examined the Carlisle to Keswick line and looked at the various points which are set out in the Amendment by the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull. They looked at the 873 points and came to certain conclusions. The conclusions were that some £50,000 per year was being lost on that line, but by efficient administration about £25,000 could be saved; that it was probably advisable to close the line, having taken account of various matters such as are named in this Amendment, and that probably a road service, at a subsidy cost of about £12,000 or so, would serve the public interest extremely well. Moreover, by selling all the assets which were tied up there, a very substantial sum of money could be obtained, the interest from which would about make up the subsidy needed to operate the road service.
That was an actual examination by businessmen which took place some years ago, and the results of that examination showed that it is possible for a committee such as is proposed in this Amendment to function, and to function highly successfully. In this case the committee advised the closure of the line—not the keeping open of it but its closure—after a very careful examination of all the sorts of factors which are set out in the three points of this Amendment. Therefore, I would very much commend to the Government the acceptance of the Amendment proposed by my noble friend sitting alongside me.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Mitchison for his support, although I hope that the noble Earl does not take his advice about pressing the Amendment to a Division. The noble Earl will not, I think, be surprised to learn that I cannot accept the Amendment that he has moved with such force. The effect of a rail passenger closure on the existing public transport in the area is a matter on which the Minister already receives full information and advice from his colleagues in other Departments concerned and from the local authorities involved, as well as from his own divisional road engineers and traffic areas. It is not a case in which the T.U.C.C.s have the background knowledge or expertise to give effective advice. The financial effect of continuing a loss-making service is a matter which can be evaluated only from within the Board. It would be most unreasonable to expect the T.U.C.C.s to undertake such a task, which is evidently quite outside the range and scope of their knowledge or capacity.
874 The noble Earl is in some difficulty about the figures which have been produced for the Edinburgh to Carlisle service. The explanation seems to be that the T.U.C.C.'s figures are restricted to short-term and immediate financial savings, whereas of course the social grants represent the long-term cost of maintaining an unremunerative service. Then again the range of information that is necessary before arriving at the longterm cost is something that is not within the capacity of the T.U.C.C.s, as at present constituted, to assemble and consider.
The noble Earl also suggested that the committee should be obliged to make available to any objector a copy of its report on payment of a fee. I put it to him that if representations made were to become the subject of public knowledge, and if anyone could go along and ask for a copy of the report, which would in fact make it public knowledge, it would mean that many objectors would be much less frank and full in the information they would afford. The committees' reports have always been confidential to the Minister. They have every opportunity to make their case, but some objectors—and especially in written objections—have matters of a personal and private nature which it would embarrass the objectors to have widely known, and I am sure that, on reflection, this is a matter which the noble Earl will appreciate. Therefore I am not in a position to advise your Lordships to accept this Amendment, and I hope the noble Earl will himself see that it is advisable to withdraw it.
§ THE EARL OF KINNOULL
My Lords, I will certainly withdraw the Amendment, because in any case, as I have already said, I do not think the wording is correct. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, that I was surprised at his outburst, because he seems completely to have forgotten that his own Party pledged in 1964 that they would stop rail closures, and that that pledge was broken. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Wakefield of Kendal for his support. He has given the completely reverse argument to that given by the noble Lord Mitchison: that it is possible to get good people on committees, doing a 875 good job. I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF KINNOULL moved Amendment No. 44:
Page 79, line 26, at end insert—
("() Subsection (7) of section 56 of the Act of 1962 shall be amended by the insertion after the words "passenger services" of the words "or freight services".")
The noble Earl said: My Lords, this is a similar Amendment. It was moved at Committee stage, but I make no apology for raising it again because at the time I felt that the reply given by the Government was not satisfactory. The purpose of the Amendment is to allow freight closure proposals to come within the procedure of the T.U.C.Cs. The present position is that the T.U.C.Cs may consider the quality of service in freight under the 1962 Act, and under the 1968 Bill they are again able to consider the quality of freight services for the National Freight Corporation. Therefore it is not a concession at all. However they are still not allowed to consider proposed freight service closures. The reason the Government rejected this Amendment was given in Hansard on July 2, when the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, said:
The Amendment as at presented drafted would place an intolerable and unjustifiable extra burden on the Board's management flexibility.…A new period is opening in front of the British railway system. It is intended that it should become economically profitable and fully competitive, operating under normal commercial conditions. It will no longer be asked to provide our society as a whole with certain social services free."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2/7/68, col. 210.]
§ With regard to the last sentence I would ask the noble Lord, first, is he saying at the present time that the freight services are in fact a social service? I do not believe that an intolerable burden would be put upon the management or the Railways Board if the Government were to accept this Amendment. For instance, if the T.U.C.C. are already allowed to inquire into the quality of services what is the difference if they are allowed to inquire into the closure proposed? I would suggest that the question of delay of decision could easily be overcome by stipulating a certain time within which the T.U.C.C. would have to report.876
§ I have here certain evidence as to why I believe freight services should be considered. Take the case of the Denbigh line, where in July, 1967, the Mayor of Denbigh wrote to the Secretary of State for Wales the complaint that, despite his council's effort to attract industry into his town, the Railways Board had decided to close the line. This seems to be a good case where the T.U.C.C. should have been able to consider this proposed closure. There was another example, of a case at Penzance in 1954. Again it had to do with a manufacturing company which understood that there would be a freight rail service but found, soon after they had invested in new buildings and new equipment in Penzance, that the service was withdrawn.
§ I would request the Government to look at this Amendment again. I do not believe there can be great pride in the record of the Railways Board in regard to freight revenue. In fact during the last year alone receipts were down by £25 million. I do not think this is a good record, and I trust that the Government are prepared to reconsider the point and to allow freight closures to be considered by the T.U.C.Cs. I beg to move.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, it is an essential part of the Government's new policy that freight is a field in which the railways must be fully competitive, fitting the network to the current need. When the Railway "Network for Development" map was published jointly by the Minister and the Chairman of the Railways Board in March, 1967, it was made clear that the future of some lines would lie only in the freight field, and that the future of some of these lines would need to be reconsidered if the source of the freight disappeared or if there were some other major change in conditions. It was always intended that the Board should be responsible for such cases.
It is important to remember that road haulage is not subject to such surveillance as the noble Earl wishes to impose upon the railways. The T.U.C.C. consideration of freight closure proposals and ministerial intervention in them would surely impede the flexibility of the railways and serve no real social purpose. Users of freight services are not usually slow to exert pressure through their 877 various organisations when they are dissatisfied with any aspect of these services, including their withdrawal, and in many instances corporate users have considerable influence and power in such matters. Any general question of the level of services can in any case be put to the T.U.C.Cs.
Here again, the procedure proposed by this Amendment would involve an unsuitable and quite unacceptable interference with the Board's commercial and management responsibilities, and I should have thought the noble Earl himself would have said that Ministerial intervention in such a sphere would be most undesirable. I am sorry I cannot accept the noble Earl's Amendment, but I hope he will understand that the same general policy which is the background of the rest of the clause, which has already been discussed, applies with even more force in the case of freight.
§ THE EARL OF KINNOULL
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I am a little disappointed that he has again trotted out the expression "intolerable burden on the railway management", but he does not explain what this intolerable burden is. He does not say how many closures have taken place in the last three or four years. This information might have helped us. He suggests that no purpose would be served by the freight service being considered by the T.U.C.C.s. I would humbly suggest to the noble Lord that if he went to North Wales where a line was being closed and the only alternative service was a narrow road he would say that there is a social purpose there. I cannot agree with his view, and I cannot withdraw this Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ THE EARL OF KINNOULL moved Amendment No. 45:
Page 79, line 26, at end insert—
("() When the Minister has given consent to the withdrawal of any rail, passenger or freight services under the provisions of Section 56 of the Act of 1962 the Board shall not without the previous written consent of the Minister first being had and obtained—
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, this is my final Amendment on railways. It deals again with the resale of lines where closures have taken place. On the Committee stage the argument got somewhat blurred by the introduction, the very valuable introduction, of miniature railways. The purpose of this Amendment is to ask the Board to offer closed lines to a local authority or responsible body before they break up the track. The reason for this is first financial and the fact that if they can sell the line as a whole it is more valuable to do so, and secondly for the public interest, the fact that the line is saved. In Committee the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, was against this proposal with the argument of the delay it would cause in disposing of assets of the Railways Board, and also because of the question of the future maintenance of bridges. I would suggest, with humility, to the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, on the first point, that the delay in disposing of assets would be only a matter of three to four months; and on the question of maintenance of bridges the sale could be subject to liability for the bridges being the responsibility of the purchaser.
§ At the time of the Committee stage the Government suggested that they considered that the Railways Board would be perfectly entitled to block any bona fide bidder for a railway line as a competitor. I have an example of this blocking which may be of interest. It is a case in 1963 which the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, raised with the Ministry. It was the case of the Truro to Newquay line which a local group offered to purchase to run as a railway, and this offer was turned down in favour of a lower offer by another organisation who wished to purchase the land and use it for another purpose. I do not think such blocking is necessary in the public interest. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, will consider this Amendment favourably. I beg to move.879
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I wish I could advise your Lordships to accept this Amendment. The noble Earl has tried very hard on this and other Amendments, and I think many of us have in mind the possibility of some Bluebell line which might take over a railway which would otherwise be closed. If that could happen I should think it would be satisfactory. But an arrangement already exists under which the Board must obtain the Minister's agreement before disposing of the route-formation of a closed line or any station site. That is to make sure that the route can, if necessary, be retained against the possibility of any future use by passenger services. This arrangement is perfectly adequate for planning and social purposes.
Moreover, it is similarly unnecessary to make any legal provision to prevent the Board from prejudicing the right of anybody to resume the operation of railway services over closed lines. The Railways Board have told me that they are always sympathetic to the wish of local bodies to run a light railway service on lines from which they have themselves withdrawn services. Before any such proposal can be considered the Board would, under the arrangement to which I have already referred, first offer the formation to the local authority concerned. They also face the problem that in may cases a light railway service on a disused branch would need to use lines at the terminal which the Board would wish to use themselves, and this, of course, could create some difficulties. I am, however, authorised to say that if the local authorities raise no difficulties, and if the question of safety can be satisfactorily resolved, the Board would certainly give full and immediate consideration to any serious proposal from any body, local authority or private, wishing to run a light railway. Any such proposal should be made at as early a stage as possible. The Board cannot be expected to maintain loss-making services when closure has been agreed, in the hope that lengthy negotiations may eventually prove successful. Moreover, the ultimate decisions would of course rest with my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport. But the principle which I think the noble Earl has in mind would, I should have thought, be satisfied by the assurance I have given to him, and on that basis I 880 hope he will be able to withdraw his Amendment.
§ The EARL OF KINNOULL
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for the assurance that he read out. It is certainly better than the reply we got in Committee, when the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, said that one could not deny the Railways Board the right to make a blocking response, and that was the reason for opposing these proposals. I think we have obtained a better reply, and I beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, in view of the general debate which has already taken place, I wish not to move Amendment No. 46, in so far as I and my noble friends are responsible for it.
§ 7.7 p.m.
LORD ST. OSWALD moved Amendment No. 49:
Page 83, line 33, at end insert ("or is a dual-purpose vehicle with an unladen weight not exceeding two tons.")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 49 standing in the name of my noble friends and myself. As noble Lords may have noticed, this is an exact word-for-word repetition of an Amendment moved at Committee stage and withdrawn by me on an undertaking by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes. I do not wish to exaggerate in any way what I took to be the scope of the noble Lord's undertaking, but coming from him it was sufficiently persuasive for us to give him a breathing spell until to-day. I will naturally not repeat in full the whole argument I then advanced, but noble Lords who were present may remember that it was an attempt, as it is now, to make the unladen weight of certain vehicles correspond with the laden weight of 3½ tons already exempted by agreement between Government and Opposition in another place.
§ The basic figures involved are extremely simple. The concession already granted to which I then referred was to classify a small goods vehicle as having a carrying capacity of not more than 3½ tons which would exempt the owner from the requirement of an operator's licence. But this carrying capacity of 3½ tons was tied, as it still is, to an unladen 881 weight of 30 cwt. I pointed out that certain vehicles used on the land and on the roads, in particular the long-wheel-base and forward drive Landrovers with this limited weight-carrying capacity are above the at present permitted unladen weight of 30 cwt. They exceed this limit because of their robust construction and because of the capabilities which are required in working over rough land and which are not required on public roads. It looks patently unfair that these useful and essential vehicles, because of the additional necessary weight should not enjoy the advantages under the Bill of other less versatile vehicles.
§ It seemed to us that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, took this point and accepted that our object was to harmonise the unladen weight with the laden weight limit already conceded by his colleagues in another place. He spoke, however, of possible perils and the possible creation of problems in other directions, but he agreed that the onus was upon the Government to produce examples of such perils and problems if they were to maintain their reasoned opposition to that Amendment. As my noble friend Lord Nugent emphasised during the debate on the Committee stage, this is not so much a request for exemption as a request to introduce a starting point in terms of unladen weight which will harmonise with the starting point already agreed in terms of laden weight. I am always happier if I am myself in harmony rather than disharmony with the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, and I hope we can look forward to-day to a practical and helpful response. I beg to move.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, although I am not in a position to accept this Amendment, I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, will be disappointed with the reply which I am able to give him. As he said, there was a full debate on this point on the Committee stage, and he withdrew the Amendment on an assurance from me that the Government were not unsympathetic to the basic idea behind it, but that we wanted to take a closer look at the proposal. This has been done, but unfortunately it took longer than we anticipated and I was not in a position to write to the noble Lord as I had hoped 882 to be able to do. I am even more disappointed, in view of the fact that I thought that what I would have written would probably have saved him the bother of putting down this Amendment.
What I can say is that the Minister of Transport has decided that it would be right to propose in due course, subject to the usual consultations, that dual-purpose vehicles should be exempt by regulations under Clause 59(2)(d) from the need to obtain an operator's licence. We do not want to elaborate on the details of this at the moment since there are a number of practical problems still to be sorted out. But two things I can say. As I think the noble Lord will accept, in doing it in this way we are being entirely consistent, because the Government's view all along has been that exemptions should be given by way of regulations and not substantively in the Bill itself. So in indicating that regulations will be made to exempt these vehicles we are being consistent.
The second point is the technical reason why the Amendment as drafted was unacceptable. First of all, there is the problem of defining the dual-purpose vehicle. Noble Lords who are familiar with the present Road and. Rail Traffic Act (Exemption) Regulations or with the Construction and Use Regulations, will know that it is not an easy task to define something, particularly when you start off with the view that it is quite obvious what the thing is. So we must have some thought given to that problem in forming the proposed regulation. We have also to be quite certain that in doing so we do not create other troubles by creating anomalies in the matter. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord will rest content with the fact that if his object is not attained in the precise way that he has suggested, he has attained it in another way altogether, and that what he wanted was something with which we were most sympathetic. I am quite certain that he will agree with me that what matters is getting his point rather than the way in which it is achieved.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, coming from the noble Lord and in the terms in which he has replied, that is of course perfectly acceptable. The word "will" instead of "may" or "might" or "can" is reassuring. I am most 883 grateful, and beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 61 [Applications for operators' licences]:
§ 7.17 p.m.
LORD HUGHES moved Amendment No. 50:
Page 86, line 36, leave out paragraph (b).
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 50 and 51 hang together. Their object is to remove any false impression which might be conveyed by the existing drafting of subsection (4)(b) that the Government intend to regulate capacity in the road goods transport industry through quality licensing. At the same time, the proposed Amendment to subsection (4)(g) would give powers to licensing authorities, in the few cases where it might be necessary, to inquire into a company's financial ability to sustain a satisfactory level of maintenance and to observe other road safety regulations—that is to say, paragraph (g) will have the same objective as paragraph (b) now has.
§ Noble Lords will remember that during our discussions in Committee on the Amendment to delete paragraph (b) I intimated that the Government would be happy to delete the paragraph provided paragraph (g) were amended in the manner now proposed. Your Lordships agreed to defer further discussion until the text of both Amendments was before the House. I should like to make two comments on the Amendments. First, when the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, proposed his Amendment to delete the present paragraph (b) he said that he took exception to it because it was "a quantity licensing proviso". I want to stress (because there were a number of indications in our debates that there is some misunderstanding at this point) that the Government have never implied that there should be any element whatsoever of economic capacity control through quality licensing. Its objective is the maintenance of good safety standards in the industry. As noble Lords know, quite separate provision is made, in Clauses 70 to 80, for a form of quantity control for the largest of vehicles, while for small vehicles the control of capacity 884 in the industry is to be left to the natural influence of market forces.
§ The second point is that the Minister remains convinced that in some cases, probably rare, it may be necessary for licensing authorities to have some indication of whether a company will be sound enough financially to sustain proper safety standards. It may be that to improve profit margins a company which gets into financial difficulties may yield to the temptation to skimp on maintenance, to overload vehicles or to overwork drivers. So, in those few cases where the licensing authority is not sure about the likely future financial soundness of an undertaking, the Government believe that he must have a reserve power, to use at his discretion, to examine the operators' prospects in this direction. I hope, therefore, that it will be possible for the House to accept these two Amendments. I beg to move Amendment No. 50.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for substantially meeting the point made by my noble friend and myself on the Committee stage. There was indeed an anxiety lest through this subsection on quality licensing, and particularly in the old paragraph (b), there was an intention by the Government to achieve a measure of quantity licensing, and it will be generally welcomed that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has been able roundly to say to-day that the Government never intended this and that he is now moving these two Amendments. I think noble Lords should accept that in some circumstances it may be necessary for the licensing authority to make some inquiry about the financial resources of an applicant, to make sure that there are the resources there to maintain the vehicles to a proper standard. This seems to be reasonable enough.
I should say that I had some difficulty with the proposed Amendment No. 51 in paragraph (g). When I first read it it seemed to me that there was a slight implication of futurity in the words, "which are or are likely to be available to the applicant". I think I should have preferred, on the whole, "which are or may be available to the applicant", but this is purely semantic and I am certainly not going to suggest that the House 885 should divide on it. However, perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, could, by leave of the House, speak again in order to declare roundly that there is no intention of inquiring into the future here but that it is simply in order to ask of the applicant, "Well, if he has not got the means is there some source from which he thinks he can get them". So really it gives him more scope in making his reply, which I suspect is the intention. If the noble Lord can give us that assurance I would advise the House to accept this Amendment.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, with the permission of the House, I would confirm that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, is right. If we restricted it to what the applicant says are the resources he has available it may not be satisfactory, but if he is allowed to bring in what are likely to be available he may be able to satisfy the Authority that he will be able to make alternative arrangements although they are not at that stage finalised. These are extra words in the interest of the applicant.
§ LORD HUGHES: I beg to move Amendment No. 51.
Page 87, line 32. leave out second ("of") and insert ("which are or are likely to be available to")—(Lord Hughes.)
§ Clause 63 [Decision on applications for operators' licences]:
§ 7.24 p.m.
LORD MILVERTON moved Amendment No. 52:
Page 89, line 24, at end insert ("and for their garaging and parking off the highway;")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in the absence of my noble friend Lord Ilford, who is unavoidably prevented from being present here to-day, I rise to propose this Amendment which he put forward so cogently at the Committee stage but withdrew, in the hope that the Government would give it sympathetic attention and be prepared to support it at this later stage of the Bill. I need not detain the House for more than a moment or two in restating the point, which seemed to be only partially 886 covered in the Government reply on that occasion.
§ The Amendment aims at simplification by making it specifically clear to the licensee, at the time when the licence is granted, that certain overall obligations are incurred and accepted; to wit, that the parking, whether by day or night, must not cause a nuisance to residents or danger to traffic, and that this responsibility rests always and unavoidably on the operator. No question arises, as I think was suggested in our earlier debate, of a blanket requirement that an operator must have specific garage accommodation or specific off-street parking at all the multitude of places away from their home base to which his lorries might run in the course of their business operations. Nor, my Lords, is it always necessary that the lorry must invariably be parked at the permanent base depot when at home. All this Amendment emphasises is the need for the continuous application of common sense and public consideration in the avoidance of danger or nuisance to others, whether at home or away. It also emphasises at the very start of things that in the absence of suitable places where safe and inoffensive parking can take place the need to garage vehicles must be faced.
§ I am well aware of the provisions of Clause 68, and the powers given to the licensing authority, and the extended powers given to local authorities in Part IX of the Bill, but I would again invite the attention of the Government to my noble friend Lord Ilford's speech at the Committee stage, when he said that one does not want to multiply the number of prosecutions if the need can be avoided or minimised by discouragement at an earlier stage. This is surely a better way than relying solely on a record of proscutions. I appreciate that the Government are obviously as anxious as anyone else to solve the problems of heavy lorry parking, while showing every possible consideration to the operators. I hope that this Amendment will seem to them a reasonable contribution to that common aim. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ LORD SINCLAIR OF CLEEVE
My Lords, I should like to support the Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Milverton I have a very vivid recollection of the widespread concern expressed at Committee Stage when this 887 point was raised by my noble friend Lord Ilford. I do not want to go over the ground which has been so ably covered already by my noble friend Lord Milverton, but I would particularly call attention to his last point. If this problem—and it is indeed a great and growing problem throughout the country—can be ameliorated substantially, as I believe it can; if at the earliest stage, when application is made for the licence, the operator who is applying for the licence can be made to realise the obligations he is assuming when that licence is granted, then I think we shall have gone a long way to ensuring that the instructions to the operator's employees will be to avoid the sort of dangers—because they arc dangers—from the point of view of unsatisfactory parking, physical dangers to traffic, or nuisance to residents. These dangers and nuisances can be alleviated, if not wholly avoided, by the procedure suggested in the Amendment.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Hilton of Upton, wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, in Augusta very lengthy letter giving a detailed reply of the Government's views on this Amendment and we were therefore quite a little disappointed to find that the Amendment was tabled again, in exactly the same form. My noble friend Lord Hilton wrote because of the undertaking which he gave during the discussion to raise this question with the Minister, though it is true to say that this was not by a long chalk the first time this had been raised with the Minister. The Government are well aware that the parking of commercial vehicles in residential areas can be very detrimental to amenity. Where we differ from the Amendment is in the way the problem should be tackled.
We bclieve—and this is what was said to the noble Lord, Lord Ilford—that there are other and more effective means of setting about it. Part IX of the Bill—Clauses 123(1) and 124(1)—empowers local authorities to prohibit any parking of commercial vehicles which is detrimental to amenity. Surely local authorities, not licensing authorities, are the right people to take decisions about matters of this kind. But, while it seems right to leave the initiative with local authorities 888 in this way, the Government also decided to accept Amendments during the Committee stage in another place which will permit licensing authorities to revoke or suspend operators' licences for persistent disregard of parking regulations. This appears, as the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, showed he was aware, in Clause 68. This means that if convictions are obtained against lorry drivers for parking in contravention of a traffic order, the operator's licence will be at risk. I am sure that this is a practical way of dealing with the problem.
There are, in any case, several objections to asking licensing authorities to ensure that operators have parking facilities both at their bases and elsewhere. The noble Lord, Lord Milverton, said that operators were not being asked to meet a blanket requirement. I am willing to accept that neither he nor the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, intends the Amendment to mean a blanket requirement in all these circumstances, but when one looks at the interpretation of words in the Bill, in fact the Amendment would amount to a blanket requirement. It does not need very much thought to realise that this would place upon the industry an enormous burden, a burden which in certain circumstances could completely dislocate it.
Furthermore, there are many areas where on-street parking is not a safety hazard and is not damaging to amenity, so why should undue difficulties be placed in the way? Secondly, it would often be impossible for an operator to predict in advance whether he would always have off-street parking available for his vehicles when they were away from their home base. Thirdly, much over-night parking by commercial vehicles in residential areas is a result of drivers using their vehicles to travel to and from work, or to get an early start in the morning. It is very doubtful whether this practice would be stopped simply by requiring operators to have parking facilities. For all these reasons, and because we think that we are providing a better alternative that is likely to accomplish the objectives which the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, has in mind, but without the damaging consequences which his Amendment would have upon industry, I quite confidently ask your Lordships not to accept this Amendment.
§ LORD MILVERTON
My Lords, I am very disappointed at the reply made by the noble Lord on behalf of the Government, but I appreciate that we have a difference of opinion on the subject and that the Government are of the view that their alternative is the better one. I am not denying that they can reach the same results, but I think that their method involves far more trouble, a good deal of which is avoidable. The method suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, would be far better. However, I am not prepared to press the point. I appreciate that the Government have their view, and although I do not entirely accept it I am not prepared to go further. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 7.33 p.m.
LORD ST. OSWALD moved Amendment No. 53:
Page 90, line 8, leave out from ("every") to ("on") in line 9 and insert ("licence granted to an operator who at any time has four or more goods vehicles for use for carriage of goods under section 59 of this Act").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in dealing with Amendment No. 53, I should like also to speak to Amendment No. 53A. We come again, at this new stage of the Bill, to the issue of when a transport manager is or is not necessary, desirable or undesirable. This issue was debated at some considerable length on July 3. It might have been debated at still greater length and perhaps pressed to a Division, had it not been for the encouraging words of the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, and also because of an imminent imponderable at that time in the shape of a series of Government Amendments which the noble Lord was due to move immediately following. All we knew was that this series of Amendments would be concerned with different classes of operators' licences, a concept which appeared to hold some promise of reducing our anxieties. In the event, the imponderable factor which we awaited was a little nebulous when presented. We learned that there probably would be different classes of transport managers' licences, or at least that the Minister would be empowered to create such classes. But the noble Lord was not able to be at all specific as to what those classes would be, and to what 890 extent, if any, they would relieve the small operator of the needless burden similar to that imposed, quite justifiably, upon larger operators who can so much more easily carry it. This we did not find altogether heartening. There remained, and there remains, however, the noble Lord's comforting words regarding consultation with industry, upon which he laid great stress and to which he—and we—gave great importance.
§ I hope that to-day the noble Lord will be able to say more about the classes of licences than he could on that earlier occasion—having produced this new element from under some Ministerial hat, a bare few hours before. We look for this with some hope, and I think that he for his part would wish to satisfy us as far as he could. What I am sure he will want to enlarge upon are the consultations with the industry. We know something of them. What we know so far does not set our minds completely at rest—though it carries out the noble Lord's intention in that respect to some extent.
§ We know that a special Committee under the chairmanship of Mr. Joyce has been sitting on the problem during the intervening three months; namely the Transport Managers Licensing Committee. I understand—and the Minister will tell me if I am in error in any important particular—that the composition of the Committee is as follows. Under the chairmanship of Mr. Joyce, who is of course chairman of the Transport Users Joint Committee, there sit representatives of the Industrial Transport Association, the Institute of Road Transport Engineers, the Institute of Traffic Administration, the Institute of Transport, the Road Haulage Association and the Traders Road Transport Association. These form the Committee, and sitting at the same table in the capacity of advisers and observers are two representatives of the Ministry of Transport, one concerned with operating and the a her with engineering, and also a representative from the Road Transport Industrial Training Board.
§ Nobody, least of all I, would wish to underestimate the importance and the stature of this Committee, or its competence to advise the Government over the greater part of the field with which we are here concerned. Moreover, it is 891 a Committee whose recommendations the Government undoubtedly will treat with great respect. It seems to me, and to some others, that it may have one shortcoming. In all the experience and influence which it brings to bear, the small operator is not directly represented. The two instances—and there are, of course, more—which come most obviously to mind are the farmer and the small builder, with one or two or three vehicles using the public roads. As I said earlier, the large operator not only needs but can easily sustain the post of transport manager. A small farmer or a small builder neither needs nor can reasonably afford such an appointment with the responsibilities it carries and the qualifications which it may require. We do not vet know what the qualifications are or how they may he differentiated as between one type of licence and another. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, being as reasonable and understanding as he is, will appreciate that an obligation laid, for instance, on one of the great petroleum companies cannot be properly or deservedly or needfully applied to a man running a market garden or a small milk retailing business.
§ The first of these Amendments would relieve the owner of only one, two or three vehicles of the obligation to appoint and pay a transport manager. I cannot think that the noble Lord will argue that such a small operator will be unable to control a maximum of three drivers, one of whom may be himself and others may he members of his family. The noble Lord may argue, with very real justification, that some sort of check on his maintenance practices should be provided. This we are doing in the second Amendment, which lays upon such an operator the obligation to inform the licensing authority of the place or places where maintenance of his vehicles will be carried out, naming the person or persons who will carry out this service. If the noble Lord can accept these Amendments, he immediately will give great relief of mind to a very large number of small producers and merchants and others who at the moment do not know whether they will be able to carry on their business once the provisions of this Bill begin to bite. I hope that he will see his way to doing this. My Lords, I beg to move.892
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, I feel that I must support this Amendment in so far as the number of vehicles is concerned. Normal maintenance in a small fleet is carried out on a regular basis, and it has been my experience that this usually happens on drivers' days off, when the work is usually put out. It is the number that is of more concern. One might have liked to see the fleet described as having more vehicles. Four is certainly the very bare minimum, and the routine operating of four vehicles is certainly not worthy of anything more than the customary practice now in force; that of day sheets and log sheets. It certainly would not warrant the kind of person one envisages will come into being when transport managers' licences are set out. So from the point of view of the number of vehicles I must express my agreement.
I should be interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has to say about the transport managers' licences. I recall the new profession being likened during the Committee stage to that of an architect or surveyor, or even a lawyer or doctor, and when one thinks of classes, presumably to deal with vehicle fleet sizes, one should not set too low a standard. It may he all very well in the early stages that a licence will have to be granted to people who perhaps in ten years' time would not normally qualify, but I certainly think that the standard at which we should aim should be sufficiently high, so that entrants to the profession of transport management should know exactly where they are going from the outset, and on completion have a qualification worth having.
This requirement certainly does not provide for any representation from, perhaps, the Institute of the Motor Industry who run training courses, where the mechanical aspect of a transport manager's qualifications would have to be dealt with. I hope, therefore, that the technical college or the institute dealing with that aspect will have its interests taken into account.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, there was a long debate on a very similar Amendment in Committee, when the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, sought to exempt operators of only one or two vehicles from the need to have a licensed transport manager, and I think that on that occasion 893 all the arguments in favour of exempting small operators were ventilated. May I say, first of all, that the arguments are not necessarily all on one side. In moving an Amendment one stresses the reasons why it is being put forward. But, after all, the object of a manager's licence is twofold; to contribute to the safe operation of the vehicles, and to make a start at least in getting a more professional approach to management in the vehicle-operating field. In both these respects the licence may have something to contribute, even in small fleets. Indeed, it might be argued that in small undertakings there is a greater need for training and education, but I do not want to dwell on that aspect.
The second and more important point is that when this matter was debated the noble Lord. Lord St. Oswald, withdrew his Amendment on an undertaking from me that I would look at the whole question again. We certainly have been looking at this matter, and the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, has made my task a little easier by the very full way in which he has gone over the circumstances of which he has become aware since the Amendment was last moved. As he has quite rightly said—and he has accurately detailed the composition of the committee which is looking into this matter—and as I must emphasise, this is not an official committee. This is a committee which has been set up by the industry itself to look at this problem, and it is still considering the problem. If it had arrived at its conclusions and put its views to the Minister, it might have been possible for me to be as forthcoming as I was on the occasion of the last Amendment, on which I was able to satisfy the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, but the position is that this committee is still considering the matter, and my right honourable friend the Minister feels that it would be quite wrong for him to come to any firm conclusions on this very important point before he has been able to consider the report which the transport managers' licence committee of the industry will be making in due course.
I should like to go further and say that the Minister will want to take account not only of that report but of the many views expressed in both Houses and elsewhere before he makes up his mind. For these reasons, we think it 894 would be wrong prematurely to force the pace on this important matter by insisting on this Amendment. Clause 64 and Schedule 9 give the Minister full powers to implement whatever decision he finally reaches, and I am sorry I cannot go further than to assure noble Lords that the decision will be taken only after the most careful consideration and consultation.
I think I mentioned on the last occasion that I have a personal reason for being sympathetic to this proposal. I was once a small builder and I can well understand the worries of people of that kind and of small businesses operating one or two vehicles. I think that in many cases —perhaps in all cases—they are worrying themselves needlessly, and they ought to take some comfort, as I think the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, has himself taken, although he is not completely satisfied, from the fact that the Minister is refraining from taking any decision until Le has the views of industry itself.
I accept the point which the noble Lord has made, that the committee is perhaps a bit weighted on the side of the larger organisations, and perhaps it is not easy for a petroleum company to see things from the point of view of a dairyman, a small builder or a farmer. But I think that those who are represented on this committee set up by the industry cover such a wide range that it would be quite wrong for us to assume that they would not take account, and make themselves aware, of the position is it affects the smaller people before arriving at their conclusions. One expects that the report is not necessarily going to consist of just a few lines saying, "Everything can operate in the same way, no matter whether it is a dairyman with one vehicle, or a large industrial enterprise with 10,000 vehicles. "There may Le a fairly wide range of considerations put forward. I ask the House to accept that I cannot go further than this at this stage, hut the Minister is, in fact, leaving the door very wide open indeed for consideration of these points of view.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, it is certainly not my intention to press the Amendment, and I naturally appreciate the understanding which the noble Lord has shown of these problems. He even agreed that this very formidable committee, whose influence none of us 895 underestimates and whose quality none of us underestimates, is weighted on behalf of the larger man. What I should like him to correct is my impression that the small man is really not directly represented at all. Of course, it is not important to set my mind at rest, but what he says to me will be reported widely throughout the country, because the words come from him. I should like to think that this evening he could give more comfort to these people, whose anxiety I share, than he has been able to do up to now. I am not trying to force him, or to put him into a difficult position, but perhaps he could say slightly more about the direct representation of these small men, with whom he says he sympathises—and with whom we know he sympathises—than he has been able to do so far this evening.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, if the House will permit me to speak again, I should have mentioned that in fact the small trader does have some representation, because the R.H.A. and the T.R.T.A. both have in their membership a fair number—perhaps it would not he wrong to say a considerable number—of small operators. Then, beyond that, and outside this committee, the Ministry have been having discussions with the National Farmers' Union, particularly on the position as it affects small farmers. So I think it is fair to say that in those two ways—the influence of these two organisations, which must have regard to the interests of all their members, and the separate discussions with the N.F.U.pretty nearly all varieties of small people can rest assured that their interests are being brought directly to the notice both of the committee and of the Minister.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
I wonder if we could extract just a little more information from the noble Lord. Lord Hughes. Was this licensing committee set up by the industry itself, or at the instance of the Minister? Secondly. I have been listening to what the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has been saying, but there are obviously people who are not represented on this committee. Will the Minister be consulting with people who are not represented on it? I ask that because I am not quite sure that the noble Lord was quite right in his last few remarks. 896 I took the opportunity of telephoning the National Farmers' Union to-day and of asking them whether they had heard from the Minister. Their reply was not quite in tune with what the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has said: it was in the negative.
§ LORD HUGHES
I did not say that the Minister had consulted with the N.F.U. I said that the Ministry had consulted. It may be that the noble Lord got the right answer to the wrong question. If they had been asked whether the Minister had consulted with the N.F.U., the answer might quite properly be "No". If they had been asked whether the Ministry had consulted with the N.F.U. the answer might have been "Yes". But the note to which I referred was passed to me only a few minutes ago, so it is in fact quite up to date. I have not been doing some altering which is not now valid. I said in my opening remarks—and I repeat—that the Minister would be taking account not only of the report but also of the many views expresed in 'both Houses and elsewhere before making up his mind. It is possible that someone or some group of people would feel that they have some point of view to express which has not been covered in the industry and this is not ruled out.
The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, asked about the setting up of this committee. This was not done at the instance of the Minister, but was done on the industry's own initiative. I think that is the only other point which I have to answer. I must say quite frankly that, in Committee, this was a point with which I was very much impressed. One cannot always divorce personal considerations from these matters, and I did look back a year or two. But I think that there is more worry about this matter than perhaps is justified, although it is understandable.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, I must apologise for not being in my place at the beginning of this debate but, as the noble Lord knows, we attach a great deal of importance to this whole problem of transport managers' licences, and, like my noble friends, I also had the impression that the National Farmers' Union had not been consulted on this particular point at official level. I am relieved to hear 897 what the noble Lord has said, and I hope that what it means is that if the N.F.U. have not been consulted on the position of small fleets in regard to transport managers' licences they will in fact be consulted and brought in, with general consultation taking place; because clearly they have tens of thousands of members with small or very small fleets.
I think it is fair to make one general point about transport managers' licences. The idea is a good one, but the preparation for it is woefully incomplete, because what the noble Lord is now asking this House to do is to accept the general idea of it, with the structure of the scheme itself being worked out by consultations between the Ministry and industry to devise the most effective scheme. This is not a satisfactory way of legislating for a quite substantial innovation in the law. It means that in due course regulations will come along which we cannot amend, to which we can say only "Yes" or "No"; and I should have thought this is not the right way to legislate when something completely new is being done.
Of course I welcome the full consultation with industry, but it would seem to me that the right way of doing it would be to have the full consultation with industry before the scheme is laid before the House. However, it is good to know that consultation is going on and that something is going to be hammered out. With the assurances that the noble Lord has given us about the consideration which will be given to the small-man fleets, I think we should accept what is put before us in the hope that in due course, when the scheme comes before us in the form of regulations, it will be something that we can all accept. We should like to see it work.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I also hope that we are right in being as sanguine as the noble Lord who has opposed this Amendment, because I am perfectly certain that if it did not work out as well as he hoped he and we would be equally disappointed. But I certainly beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment would alter the emphasis of Clause 64(3). Unamended, this subsection specifies one operating cent one transport manager, "Unless the licensing authority…otherwise determines". Amended, the subsection would allow one transport manager to cover more than one operating centre, "Unless the licensing authority … otherwise determines". The reasons for seeking this change of emphasis really relate to large operators. I am advised that in the cases of two firms which have contacted this side of the House this clause would require a fleet of 350 vehicles to have over 60 transport managers, and another fleet of 700 to 800 vehicles to have abort 100 transport managers.
§ In column 364 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of our Committee stage on July 3 the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, drew attention to large fleets spread around small depots, each depot containing only few vehicles. I think that perhaps the best example of this is that of the food manufacturers. The man on the spot the local manager, can reasonably be required to be responsible for the movement of vehicles at such depots and for the management of men, but such a manager either sends the vehicles off o a central depot for maintenance or is told by his central transport department when and where the vehicles are to be serviced. In column 378 of the same debate the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, pointed out that Clause 61(3) requires each applicant for an operator's licence to give information as to what transport managers are needed for an operating centre.
§ It may be that the noble Lord will tell me that my argument has led me to recommend that many applicants will choose the sharing of responsibility by two transport managers, one at the centre and one at the depot, provided for in subsection (4). My Lords, some operators will undoubtedly do this, but I hope the Government are not expecting this of the majority, bearing in mind the ratio of vehicles to transport managers which I have tried to show might be required in some cases if this were done. I fear that the Government are heading towards a dilemma here. On the one hand, the penalties of loss of licence under Schedule 899 9 and Clause 68 may force operators to conclude that a transport manager on the spot is the only way to ensure that a firm's ability to keep operating is not jeopardised by a series of technical offences; on the other hand, the qualifications for these on-the-spot managers may have to amount to more form-filling and expense for everyone and they may end up with really no qualifications at all.
§ This Amendment is about a change of emphasis. It is not, I hope, going completely bald-headed against what was said on the last Amendment. If only the Government could have told us a little more about the classes of transport managers, it might be that this Amendment would be unnecessary; but of course we do not know. I hope, however, that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will give us on this side this credit: that without more information it is difficult to refute the argument of many operators who stoutly declare that their principal operating centres and managers are those with the responsibility; that they should continue to be allowed to delegate responsibility to depot managers for the handling of traffic, the keeping of records and other routine affairs but that the depot managers should not be forced under this Bill to be holders of a transport manager's licence. I beg to move.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, my brief starts with a lovely piece of legal wording which I should like to use. We can then go on to define it. My brief says that the effect of this Amendment can he described as a "reversal of the presumption" of subsection (3). At the moment, the subsection provides that a person may not be specified as the transport manager for more than one operating centre unless the licensing authority in his discretion decides otherwise. Now we come to the definition of the "reversal of the presumption". The Amendment would stand this situation on its head, so that the subsection would allow one person to be the manager for more than one centre, unless the licensing authority decided otherwise.
The Amendment is not acceptable to the Government. We feel it is right that the "normal" situation should be one manager for each centre whilst truly recognising that this may not always be necessary or appropriate. The main 900 argument for this view is this. The licensed manager is to be directly responsible (under subsection (4)) for the operation and maintenance of the vehicles normally used from the centre. Now, of course, the way in which this "direct responsibility" is to be exercised will, subject to the approval of the licensing authority, be a matter for each individual firm and manager, but they will no doubt have in mind the fact that the manager's licence could be at risk if anything went wrong with the vehicles at a centre, and will therefore need to consider seriously just how effectively one man could be responsible for more than one centre. For if one manager tried to supervise too many centres, not only would the amount of time he could devote to the affairs of each be correspondingly smaller, but the risk to his licence would be correspondingly greater. It therefore seems likely that, in many cases, one manager will in practice be designated for each operating centre.
The Government believe that this is basically the right arrangement, especially where the centres are of any size, to secure proper control of safety. So the Bill provides for this to be the normal situation. But—and this is very important—it is, we recognise, far from the only possible situation. A firm may have a number of centres grouped closely together which could be controlled without difficulty by one manager. Or the lines of responsibility and the control arrangements within a firm may be such that it would be right for one man to hold a manager's licence for a number of centres. Only an examination of individual cases can decide what is right for each firm. That is why licensing authorities are given full discretion to vary the normal arrangement. They will no doubt be guided by, among other things, their knowledge of the effectiveness of the existing control arrangements within a firm. Certainly there would be little point in forcing a firm to change its organisation if the existing set-up seemed to be producing the desired results in terms of public safety. I wish to emphasise this: there is nothing in the Bill as drafted which will force unnecessary organisational changes upon a firm; but it does give a clear indication of Government policy on this point, and it is for this reason that we believe the 901 Amendment proposed would be of no advantage to anyone.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, I should like to say a word in support of my noble friend Lord Belstead. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, told us that his brief started with a piece of legal wording. I am quite sure I know the word it started with: it was "Resist"! That, of course, is what the noble Lord has done. He has resisted the reversal of the presumption, as he says. I wonder whether this is really sound. The noble Lord has told us—indeed, we were told it before—that the Government have not made up their minds about the transport manager scheme; that the Government are now working this out in consultation with industry. So the Government really cannot know at present what the scheme will he like eventually. Is it really wise to lay down a rigid presumption to start with when it is unknown what the scheme will be like, what sort of flexibility will be needed to cater for the many circumstances that the noble Lord and his advisers cannot know about at present?
Let me give the noble Lord an instance of that. He may remember that in another place on Committee the Minister advocated, as the solution to the problem of transport managers for the small man, having the manager of the local garage take on several managerships for different small fleets. Of course, as soon as this was looked into, it was found that it did not hold water in any way and it has since been retracted. This was an indication, only a few months ago, that the Minister had no idea of what the scheme would be like. This is the point that we are making, and I am sure it is a good one.
Here something quite new is being started; the Minister has asked us not to press our Amendments that we put in earlier to safeguard points which were perfectly sound. He says that they will be safeguarded in the scheme when it is drawn up, but that it is not yet drawn up. It does not make sense to insist on a rigidity of this kind which will hind the licensing authority normally to insist on a transport manager for each centre and only in exceptional circumstances will it be the other way round. It must make sense for this to be as flexible as possible so that when the scheme is eventually 902 worked out in consultation between the Minister of Transport and industry, the framework of the Bill will be suitable to put it into.
This is really all we are asking. The points that my noble friend Lord Belstead made really are cogent. If the noble, Lord persists in these rigidities he is bound to cause exactly what he says he does not want to cause: that is, organisational changes of considerable magnitude in individual firms. A national firm with one transport manager and a number of depots will be obliged, in normal circumstances, to have a new transport manager in each depot. There will be, only one result: increased costs. Surely the Government must be alive to the danger of this. Surely the Government must be alive to the need for the nation to live within its means. Yet here we are committing ourselves to one more action bound to increase costs. Why not take it the other way round? It leaves the Government perfectly free; they can s ill do whichever they like in their new scheme. It gives that little flexibility so that they can take care of the practical conditions when they need to. I urge the noble Lord to think again about this point. If lie is not going to adopt it to-night, perhaps he would like to leave it open for a week; take it back to the Ministry and ask them to look at it again and then let us consider the matter on Third Reading. It is common sense to accept this little bit of flexibility, and I urge the noble Lord to give it one more thought.
§ 8.10 p.m.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford for his very strong support. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, does not think that, as the mover of the Amendment, I was simply trying to be difficult after hearing his reply on the previous Amendment. We feel, as I think my noble friend Lord Nugent made crystal clear, that then are problems which may possibly arise and that there is also something which is unresolved upon which I sought to touch during the discussion on the last Amendment. It is simply that this licensing committee which has been set up is obviously taking time; when you get people together it takes some time. Over the weekend I took the opportunity to read some of the "back numbers" of the 903 Committee stage in the House of Commons and I found that the Minister began to refer to classes of transport management licences as early as April. I wonder what the Minister has been doing since then. I wonder whether he has consulted anybody in the last six weeks. Those who work on the land will know that unless you move reasonably fast you go "bust". I have a great regard for what the Minister has been doing since he began to discuss transport managers' licences at the beginning of April.
I think two points arise from what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes. One relates to maintenance. He pointed out that it will be a matter for each individual firm and manager. Perhaps I might indicate that the whole point of this Amendment is that the maintenance in the big fleets may be done as well as it can be done without it being necessary to have a transport manager on the spot. In fact, the transport manager would have little or nothing to do with maintenance. What makes much more impact on me is that in supervising the avoidance of technical offences people what to have a transport manager on the spot. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, did not put a tremendous amount of emphasis on that point. We have sought to alter the emphasis. The Government do not want it, but I hope they do not think that this has been a wasted ten minutes of discussion. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD HUGHES moved Amendment No. 55:
Page 90, line 38, at end insert—
("() The licensing authority may, if he thinks fit, permit the responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the authorised vehicles normally used from any particular operating centre to be shared between two or more persons and, in any such case, subsection (I) of this section shall have effect—
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 55 and 57 are required to correct a minor drafting fault in the 904 clause. Noble Lords will recall that it is the intention of the Minister that the licensing authority may, where appropriate, allow the responsibility of the transport manager at an operating centre to be shared between two or more persons, each of whom would hold the transport manager's licence, and to be specified in the operator's licence. As the clause is drafted, although the responsibility can be shared between two or more employees it could not be shared between the operator himself and one or more of his employees. It is not the intention of the Government to prevent an arrangement whereby the operator is one of those involved, and the proposed Amendments will permit this arrangement to take place. I beg to move Amendment No. 55.
LORD HUGHES moved Amendment No. 57:
Page 90, line 44, leave out from ("question") to end of line 4 on page 91 and insert ("or such share of that responsibility as may have been allocated to him under the last foregoing subsection.")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, when speaking to the previous Amendment I intended to say that in published comment outside this House it has been suggested that one of the effects of this Amendment would be that where the duties of transport managers are shared only one of the persons sharing the duties need hold a transport manager's licence. This is not the case. To avoid misunderstanding I should like to make it clear that, under the Bill, where transport managers' duties are shared each person will have to hold the appropriate transport manager's licence. This is clearly desirable since cases might arise where it was found necessary to withdraw or suspend the licence of one manager only in view of serious mismanagement within his area of responsibility. With that belated explanation, my Lords, in reply not to anything said by any of your Lordships but to something said elsewhere, I beg to move Amendment No. 57.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I have only one question to put to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes. In the event of an offence being proved do both the transport managers go to prison?
§ LORD HUGHES
If an offence is I proved against both of them; but if only 905 one is involved then only he will suffer the appropriate penalty, whatever that penalty may be.
§ Schedule 9 [Transport managers' licences]:
§ 8.17 p.m.
LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD moved Amendment No. 57A:
Page 229, line 41, leave out ("subparagraph") and insert ("sub-paragraphs 1(A) and")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a drafting Amendment. I beg to move.
§ LORD HUGHES
It is a paving Amendment for Amendment No. 57C. If the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, had been predicting what was on my brief, in the way he did regarding the last Amendment, he would have been correct in saying that it started with the word, "Resist".
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, pointed out, this is a paving Amendment to Amendment No. 57C, which is the substantive Amendment. These Amendments correspond to Amendments moved in Committee on July 3, when the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, in the opening passages of his reply used these uplifting words:I can say quite definitely that the principle is one with which I fully sympathise.His next words were:The noble Lord will immediately know from my having said that that I cannot go much further."—[OFFICIAL REPORT,3/7/68, col. 386]The noble Lord has apparently slightly retreated from that by announcing that this Amendment is directly resisted. Before I embark on my argument I should like to say that I hope nothing said this evening will appear to undervalue the moral comfort of the noble Lord's sympathy 906 which he gave me on that occasion. I have been hoping that he would be able to go a good deal further on this occasion, and I will explain why.
My Lords, the point at issue is the duration of a transport manager's licence. It is now set at a basic five years. In our earlier version of this Amendment we sought to give the licence a basic duration of a lifetime, with enablement to the licensing authority to proscribe shorter periods if that was thought to be appropriate. I will not parade again the arguments that I used before, by which the noble Lord pronounced himself impressed, in particular the analogy with the licensing or qualifying or accrediting of members of other professions. It still seems to me (and it will surprise me if it does not seem to the noble Lord) that if individuals are to be persuaded to accept the very considerable responsibilities of this new profession, with very stiff penalties governing any misuse or neglect of those responsibilities, the profession should be given the prestige which is appropriate to it and which it deserves.
This prestige will be prejudiced of the assumed duration of the licence is held down initially to five years, and to subsequent periods of five years, with a need to apply for a renewal at the end of each such period. These Amendments do not preclude a period of five years or even less, if the authority considers it more suitable. What the Amendments seek to do is to make it simpler and more natural for the Authority to grant a lifetime licence than a licence for the period at present envisaged. The noble Lord may reply, as he did last time, that nothing in the present provisions would exclude, or prevent the granting of, such a licence, but the words suggest that this would be pretty exceptional. While retaining the five-year basic period to suit the Government's preference, our proposed wording explicitly opens up the licensing authority's discretion to grant a longer period. The wording is looser than in our previous proposal, in order to accommodate the Government's approach.
The reason for hoping that the noble Lord will respond in accommodating to our approach is that on the last occasion he said more than once that the views 907 of the industry would be welcomed. Indeed, he said:I should like to re-emphasise the fact that we regard as important the views expressed by the industry on that point. I will let the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, have the reactions of my right honourable friend to these suggestions."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3/7/68, col. 387.]It may be that, with all the other views which the industry have needed to express, and with all the reactions awaited from the noble Lord's right honourable friend, these have only just come through the pipeline in time for him to give them to me to-night. I was perfectly happy about the timing but I had hoped that I should he equally happy about the nature and significance of the reaction. Although the noble Lord has already killed those hopes with an earlier sigh, I beg to move the Amendment.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
My Lords, may I support my noble friend, Lord St. Oswald, because we know that we are going to receive resistance. Despite the fact that the point was made at the last stage that as a transport manager's duties involve the safety of passengers' lives there was an analogy with the doctrine of the master mariner, and the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, said that he was impressed with this, we find to-day that Amendment No. 57B, which has been tabled by the Government, proposes to leave out any variation of five years period.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I do not wish to interrupt the noble Lord, but I do not think he should read too much into what I said: "My brief starts with the word. Resist'."
§ LORD BELSTEAD
We are very disappointed. Possibly it is worth pointing out, before the noble Lord replies, that Clause 68 and Schedule 9 are pretty effective brakes on the licence of transport managers who might threaten to have a bad record. It is also worth pointing out. as my noble friend Lord St. Oswald did clearly at the last stage, that this Amendment caters for different periods covering different circumstances, which would give the Minister a free hand to grant licences for brief periods up to the time of the test. We feel that after taking the test there should be a grant for life.
908 I hesitate to quote the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, but at the last stage he was good enough to say that he would endeavour to let the House know of the Minister's intention on this matter. That was reported in the OFFICIAL REPORT, column 387. We should particularly like to know this now, in view of Amendment No. 57H, whereby, so far as I can see, the Minister may by regulation turn the Schedule upside down and stand it on its head. I think that with this new concept of transport managers as yet unresolved, it is understandable that the Government prudently wish to leave Schedule 9 open to some alteration. But Amendment No. 57H pictures the Government as a man who is so prudent that he wears both belt and braces, and a firm reply to this Amendment would certainly help to dispel that illusion.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I think it would be helpful if I were to talk to the Government's Amendments Nos. 57 B, E, F and H at the same time as to Nos. 57A and C, although in due course I shall be moving them in their proper place. The reason why I cannot accept No. 57A as being merely drafting is because it is a paving Amendment for No. 57C and I do not wish to accept that Amendment. But I would like to reassure the noble Lords, Lord St. Oswald and Lord Belstead, that I am not in any way going back on what I said on the last occasion.
On previous Amendments I have drawn attention to the fact that the industry have set up a committee to consider this question of transport manager licensing and that the Minister does not want to take decisions in advance of receiving their report. I think that I can say quite properly that the Minister will take into account what has been said about the duration of licences. It would be wrong for me, I think, to anticipate what the committee of the industry will say, but I would certainly expect that it would not be unreasonable if they were to say that where a man has certain qualifications which could be regarded as similar to the qualifications in other professions and which he has obtained as the result of examination, he should be given a licence which should last for a lifetime, as in other professions. But in circumstances where a man has been granted a transport manager's licence not as a result of 909 undergoing an examination after a course of professional training, I think that it would be reasonable that his licence should be reviewed from time to time.
Perhaps I may move on to Amendments 57B, E, F and H, which are linked. The unfortunate thing is that the last Amendment is the important one. The effect of this Amendment would be to enable the Minister by regulations to alter any of the provisions in the Schedule, provided that he did not increase the penalties already prescribed or create new offences carrying penalties exceeding a fine of £50 on summary conviction. The House will recall that, during the debate in Committee on what is now Clause 64 and Schedule 9, I explained that subsection (7) of Clause 64 gave the Minister powers to introduce changes into the transport managers' licensing scheme, if any seemed desirable in the light of consultations with the industry or of experience of the scheme in practice. However, while the powers in Clause 64(7) allow the Minister to introduce changes in that clause they do not allow him to introduce changes in Schedule 9, although this also deals with the proposed system of transport manager licensing.
In Committee, however, it was found necessary to amend the Schedule to provide for the issue of different classes of transport managers' licences incase that were to prove desirable, and it may be that other amendments to the Schedule will be found necessary in the light of continuing consultations with the industry after the Bill has been enacted. The present Amendment is intended to provide the necessary flexibility for this purpose. It has been discussed with representatives of the industry who are at present engaged in preparing recommendations to the Minister about the detailed form of transport manager licensing and they have expressed the view that the additional flexibility which this Amendment will provide is a desirable safeguard.
The other Amendments are paving. But the first in this group may give the impression—and this shows how my advisers can read the future, sometimes —that the power to amend the maximum duration of transport managers' licences beyond five years is being abandoned.
910 This is not the case, and the point is one of drafting only. The position is that given the wider discretion to amend any part of Schedule 9 by regulation (and this obviously includes a power to alter the duration of licences) it is no longer necessary specifically to include the narrower power to alter the five-year limit by regulation. Indeed, to continue the narrower power might undesirably suggest that there might be some limitations on the breadth of the new general power.
To sum up, I can see that it is a possibility, and it may be a probability that the committee will recommend that in certain circumstances the appropriate thing is that the man should be given a licence for his lifetime. We certainly envisage that this is much more a probability than a possibility. At the same time, we should also say that there are other cases where if we are to give proper value to qualifications so at wined it would be wrong not to have a shorter period. I hope, therefore, that with that explanation noble Lords will find it possible not to press Amendments Nos. 57A and 57C, and that in due course they will encourage me to move Amendments Nos. 57B. 57E, 57F and 57H.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, the noble Lord has used his counter argument pleasantly and pungently, but before withdrawing my Amendment I should like to say that this is yet another instance of the half-baked condition in which at the very end of the Parliamentary procedure these important matters are still before us. It seems to me that what the Government should have done was very early in the life of this Bid to have set up a committee, and listened to it, and been able to give us the findings of that committee. Instead of that, very late in the day, they take some note of a committee which is set up by the industry, by which they cannot be bound but behind which at this late stage of the Bill they choose to shelter. I do not regard that as a very dignified position for Her Majesty's Government. However, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.911
Page 229, line 43, leave out ("or such other period as may be prescribed").—(Lord Hughes.)
§ LORD HUGHES moved Amendment No. 57D:
Page 230, line 21, at end insert—
("() A licensing authority shall not give a direction under sub-paragraph (1) of this paragraph in respect of any licence unless he is satisfied that, owing to the frequency with which the holder of the licence has been guilty of offences, acts or omissions which are grounds for the giving of such a direction or to the facts of the particular case being for any other reason sufficiently serious, such a direction should be given.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, during the discussion in Committee I undertook to consider whether Schedule 9 could be amended to meet the view then expressed that licensing authorities should not have power to revoke or suspend transport managers' licences except in cases of serious mismanagement. I then explained that the Government were in complete sympathy with the motives lying behind the Amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, moved to that effect, but that if the powers to revoke or suspend were confined solely to cases of serious mismanagement this might create other problems, and I gave the instance that such a provision would prevent a licensing authority from revoking the licence of a person who had obtained it by false pretences.
§ The present Amendment avoids these difficulties and at the same time goes a long way to meet the views expressed by noble Lords opposite in Committee. It would preclude revocation or withdrawal of a licence except where the transport manager's misdeeds or omissions had been so frequent or so serious that such action was justified. I hope noble Lords will accept that this goes a considerable way, although not all the way, to meet the point made by them on the last stage. I beg to move.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for moving this Amendment. It goes some way towards meeting the point which we were making, although, as he knows, not all the way. But we on this side of the House are flexibly minded, 912 anyhow, and are prepared to accept what there is and to thank him for it.
Page 231, line 17, after ("under") insert ("the foregoing provisions of").—(Lord Hughes.)
Page 231, line 19. leave out ("this Schedule") and insert ("those provisions ").—(Lord Hughes.)
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, this is a drafting Amendment designed to secure consistency of expression between the regulation making powers set out in Schedule 9 and those in Clause 64(7)(a). I beg to move.
Page 232, line 11, leave out ("classes of case") and insert ("cases").—(Lord Hughes.)
Page 232, line 15, at end insert—
§ ("Power to modify foregoing provisions
§ 7.—(1) The Minister may by regulations modify the foregoing provisions of this Schedule in any respect, or substitute for any of them such other provisions relating to transport managers' licences as may be specified in the regulations.
§ (2) Regulations under this paragraph may make different provision for different cases and may contain such transitional and supplementary provisions as the Minister thinks necessary or expedient.
§ (3)Regulations under this paragraph shall not increase any penalty specified in the foregoing provisions of this Schedule as originally enacted or create any offences other than offences punishable on summary conviction with a fine not exceeding £50 or any lesser amount specified in the regulations.")—(Lord Hughes.)
§ Clause 66 [Duration of operators' licences and grant of interim licences]:
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, I beg to move Amendment 913 No. 58. This is a drafting Amendment made necessary by the Amendment made to this clause on Committee stage. I beg to move.
Page 93, line 5, leave out ("the next following subsection") and insert ("subsection (4) of this section ").—(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, the Government are prepared to accept this Amendment for purely technical reasons and not because they necessarily agree with the main Amendment which makes it necessary.
§ Clause 70 [Control of the use of large goods vehicles]:
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ LORD MERRIVALE moved Amendment No. 58A:
Page 100, line 21, at end insert—
("() In granting a special authorisation the licensing authority may attach a condition permitting the authorisation to be transferred to one or more other persons.")
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 58A. In doing so, if it is in order, I should like your Lordships to consider certain words being added at the end of my Amendment. The words are:
provided that the overall cost is not greater than that submitted by the applicant when making his application to the licensing authority".
I apologise to your Lordships for raising this matter again, but I hope that with the extra words I have mentioned it may be possible for the noble Lord to accept this Amendment.
§ I believe that on the Committee stage the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, failed to recognise that the person who determines that freight shall move over 100 miles from A to B is the consignor and nobody else. With respect, I think the noble Lord also seemed to believe that it is a natural process for all consignors' traffic to be moved by one haulier, and that if he died or went out of business a consignor could get out of his dilemma by a quick application of the emergency licensing procedure. I should have thought that once the licensing authority has decided that the freight should go by road, then it is reasonable that the licence should be 914 issued to the consignor, and that he should be permitted to use his own transport, or failing that, to give it to a haulier of his own choice. When coming to his decision as to whether the load should go by rail or road the licensing authority must have a set of figures on which to make his judgment. That is why I am asking the Minister to consider the tabled Amendment with the words I have asked to be added. Under those conditions there car surely be no reason for not allowing any haulier to carry the load, for the basic principle of special authorisation is that it is the traffic rather than the vehicles which is being licensed. There is surely no conceivable reason why the licensing authority should not give a transferable special authorisation for such traffic.
§ I should have thought—and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, will agree with this—that transferability would promote flexibility and also save time and money. In other words, to give an example, a manufacturer who uses six hauliers for a certain type of traffic will need to support six separate applications through the licensing courts. With transferability, one application would be sufficient. With transferability a manufacturer would also be able to take advantage, without unnecessary procedure or delay, of hauliers' vehicles that were looking for return loath. I think that was a point which was mentioned quite extensively on Committee stage, and it is a highly important one. I sincerely hope that on reflection —the Government have had several months to consider, not this Amendment but possibly their attitude to my previous Amendment—the Government will now be responsive. With those few words, I beg to move.
§ THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (THE EARL OF LISTOWEL)
My Lords, the noble Lord is quite in Order, I think, in putting down a manuscript Amendment at this stage of the Bill, but I cannot put his manuscript Amendment to the House unless I have it.
§ My Lords, Amendment proposed, as amended by manuscript Amendment:
Page 100, line 21, at end insert—
("() In granting a special authorisation the licensing authority may attach a condition permitting the authorisation to be transferred to one or more other persons provided that the
overall cost is not greater than that submitted by the applicant when making his application to the licensing authority.")
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ LORD WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, the noble Lord is bowling rather fast on a hard wicket, and the balls are flying about a little; but since I am not one, I hope, to try to duck fast bowling I will attempt to reply to the noble Lord's Amendments in two sections: that which I know about, with the star attached, and that which has just been put to me in manuscript form. The noble Lord in fact is very persistent about this particular point. I think it is the third time during the passage of the Bill that this particular Amendment, or something like it, has been debated. I am afraid that as a result of this the Government's arguments against it will no doubt be familiar to everyone by now. But it is most important that the facts are understood.
The main argument put forward by the proposers of the Amendment has been that it is a way of mitigating the alleged inflexibility of quantity licensing. It would. they say, enable a firm to hire alternative transport to carry goods without having to go through a great deal of bureaucratic nonsense. But I wonder whether those who make this argument fully appreciate what the situation is now and how the Bill's proposals will compare with it. After all, at the moment we are not moving from an era of freedom to an era of close bureaucratic control. There is an existing law which does not allow any transfer of licences. A manufacturer running his own vehicles cannot pass on the licences to outside hauliers; nor (and I hope the noble Lord has not forgotten this) can one public haulier pass his licence on to another. This is the situation to-day. So the vaunted flexibility of the present system is not perhaps quite so great as some would like us to believe.
What will happen under this new Bill? The manufacturer and his hauliers will each need a special authorisation for the carriage of goods concerned, but—and this is the point—only if the lorries they use exceed 16 tons gross weight and the journey distances exceed 100 miles. A lot can happen within the limits of 16 916 tons and 100 miles. If one of the hauliers is replaced by another, then the new haulier will need to get a new authorisation if necessary, just as he would need to get an "A" or "B" licence. But if the work is such that an authorisation is not needed, a new haulier can start work right away—something that is not possible under the present situation. And even if an authorisation is needed the procedure for getting it will be no more troublesome than that now necessary to get an "A" or a "B" licence. Indeed, it will often be far less troublesome, since we are getting rid of all the tiresome objections to licence applications which can be made at the moment by other hauliers. Do not let us forget that one of the reasons why many hauliers dislike this legislation is that a very strong element of competition is being introduced. This is a fact of life. So the case for this Amendment is largely hollow.
As I believe I said in Committee, there are positive arguments against allowing transfer. The test for quantity licensing is how the applicant's services compare with rail in terms of speed, reliability and cost. Transferability of quantity licences could allow such undesirable practices as efficient operators transferring authorisations to the inefficient, who would never have got them on their own merits. Finally, in real emergency there is the procedure under Clause 74 for the urgent issue of short-term quantity licences, just as the present Act allows the speedy issue of short-term carriers' licences. That is the answer to the Amendment as printed on the Order Paper.
To turn to the noble Lord's Manuscript Amendment, we believe that the point of this addition is an attempt to demolish the counter argument which I believe I put forward, that efficient operators might pass on licences to less efficient operators. This does not make the Amendment, I am sorry to tell the noble Lord, any more acceptable. As already explained, the new situation will be considerably more flexible than that existing now, even without transfer of the licences. It would be most undesirable to have quantity licences passing around. To prove as a new question that costs are no greater than those of the previous 917 applicant would be tantamount to applying for a new licence. A new element would enter into the argument: that this cost more, or this cost less. We believe that our basic attitude is correct. I have tried three times to convince the noble Lord, and if I have been unable to do so that is perhaps due to my lack of forensic skill; or perhaps it is the noble Lord's unwillingness to accept my argument. Nevertheless, this is the Government's attitude, and I regret that we are unable to accept the noble Lord's Amendment.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for the extra information he has given this evening, which is possibly more detailed than his reply to my previous Amendment. I know that the Transport Users' Joint Committee feel very strongly on this matter, but in view of the tone or tenor of the remarks of the noble Lord this evening I do not feel disposed to press the Amendment. If the Transport Users' Joint Committee are not satisfied, no doubt they will be writing to the Ministry and perhaps contacting me, too. With those few remarks, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 8.50 p.m.
LORD MERRIVALE moved Amendment No. 58B:
Page 101, line 13, after ("trailer") insert ("or the plated weight of the combination whichever is the less").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of this Amendment is to overcome some of the problems which arise from the definition of an articulated vehicle for quantity licensing purposes, as set out in subsection (6)(c). I suppose I should call this a technical Amendment. It is particularly concerned with operators who use heavy semi-trailers, not because of the weight of the load but in order to obtain improved suspension and stability. These requirements of suspension and stability are very important when relatively light, fragile loads are being carried. It can arise, for instance, in the carriage of domestic appliances, furniture and prefabricated building components. May I illustrate my point by quoting the example of a company which carries joinery products to industrial and 918 domestic building sites throughout the country. I am sorry the noble Lord, Lord Hughes is not here at present as he said earlier that he was connected with the building industry, and therefore he might feel great sympathy for this Amendment. Anyway, there is need for superior suspension when the vehicles are travelling across building sites.
§ The loads are of a high volume but a low density; that is, for instance, with a total weight of around 4 to 6 tons but requiring a 28-foot semi-trailer Platform length. For instance, if one considers the Scammell 4 MH 12/300, as mentioned in the Ministry of Transport's booklet, The Goods Vehicle Plating and Testing Standard Lists, one finds that semi-trailer would be towed by t Ford D 600 tractor with a standard list plated train weight of 15. tons and an unladen weight of approximately 3 tons. This tractor, with the Scammell trailer, gives a combined weight of over 18 tons on the basis as at present adopted in the Bill; that is, a plated weight of 15¼ tons plus the 3 tons for the unladen tractor. I am sorry to give these details but I mentioned that it was a technical Amendment and I hope the House will bear with me. Why should firms be penalis d for having in the past used heavy semitrailers, at extra cost to themselves, believing it to be justified by the greater safety and improved customer service that these heavy trailers will provide?
§ I agree that in the majority of cases such a tractor as the Ford D 600 would he used with a 10 to 11-ton semi-trailer, giving an articulated vehicle total weight of 13 to 14 tons. There is no problem in that case, but I hope the Minister will recognise that there is a problem with the superior product; that it, the heavy trailer, when that is used. Therefore I sincerely hope that the noble Lord will be able to accept this Amendment, which suggests that the plated train weight of the linked outfit should be allowed as an alternative to the proposed definition for quantity licensing purposes, with the lower weight prevailing. I should have thought that enforcement would not he difficult and any such dispensation as I am asking for would certainly not undermine the scope of quantity licensing. The number of vehicles involved would be small, but it would enable companies to continue to use the most suitable and 919 safest means of transport available without being penalised, as they would be if my Amendment were not accepted. I beg to move.
§ LORD WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, the noble Lord has no need to apologise for introducing a technical Amendment. This is a somewhat technical Bill and therefore unfortunately we cannot avoid technicalities. However, I think the House will agree that this is a somewhat complex Amendment to Clause 70(6)(c)(i) relating to the way in which the weight of an articulated combination is to be calculated in relation to the 16-ton weight limit above which quantity licensing is to apply. If I understand the noble Lord correctly, there are certain operations which require a somewhat heavier trailer, and with the normal tractor and a heavier trailer the whole operation is pushed over the 16-ton limit.
§ LORD WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords. I can only give, as it were, a "guessed" answer to this; if I could have had a little more notice perhaps a better answer might have been given. The view of the Government is that the clause as drafted provides that the weight of an articulated combination for this purpose is to be the sum of the unladen weight of the tractor portion and the relevant plated weight of the trailer it is drawing. If this figure exceeds 16 tons, the combination will fall within the scope of quantity licensing. This apparently rather curious method of calculation has the distinct advantage that it treats articulated vehicles as nearly as possible like rigid vehicles. The gross weight of a rigid vehicle, which of course will determine its liability to quantity licensing, effectively consists of the weight of the "mechanical" parts of the vehicle —cab, transmission, engine, and so on, which are roughly equivalent to the tractor part of an articulated combination—and the weight of the body plus maximum permissible load, which are equivalent to the gross weight of an articulated trailer. So, with its imperfections, this method of definition creates no artificial preference for or against articulated vehicles, and I think the noble Lord will agree that that is desirable.
920 However, the noble Lord's argument is that there is a safety bonus to be had by providing that an operator shall be free to choose between the 16 tons in the Bill and another formula which would allow a few more vehicles to escape the net of quantity licensing. The Government do not believe that there is very much in the safety argument. Provided a vehicle is not loaded over its legally permissible weight, if properly maintained it can be safely operated. Therefore the noble Lord will not expect the Government to have much sympathy with what I suspect is the real reason for this Amendment—although I may be putting words into the noble Lord's mouth —which may be to create a small loophole in quantity licensing. I may be wronging the noble Lord, but one has to know why these Amendments are introduced at a late hour.
The fact is that whenever a dividing line such as 16 tons limit is set there are bound to be a few people who feel that they could get on the right side of it if only some adjustment could be made here or there. The noble Lord is saving that in the case of certain special loads this line is drawn at the wrong position. I am sure he will agree, as he is a reasonable man, that this process could go on indefinitely. We cannot satisfy everyone. The situation the noble Lord has envisaged is one where I should have thought the operator would get his licence quite easily because he would be running a special combination of tractor with a semi-articulated trailer to deal with a special type of load. Although it would be convenient for him to avoid the nuisance of going through the licensing procedures, I should have thought that having a clear line drawn would outweigh the problem of the few exceptions.
§ LORD MITCHISON
My Lords, before we leave this subject, may I ask one question. I am sorry to intrude on these esoteric mysteries, and I well remember the trouble an Ancient Roman got into for doing something of the sort, but what is a plated weight?
§ LORD WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, no one is more assiduous in his attention to this House than the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, but we did have perhaps an excessively long discussion of this subject and doubtless important business called him away. It is a development in the 921 control of safety factors in heavy road transport.
§ LORD MITCHISON
My Lords, I am sorry to be insistent, but I asked what it was for a purpose. People will have to deal with this Act who, unfortunately, have not attended your Lordships' debates, and they may be as ignorant as 1 am of what a plated weight is. The Act carefully defines a relevant plated weight but only by reference to a plated weight. They would still be in the dark. If the Government want the law to be obeyed they should make it clear what plated weight means and not simply rely on my presence or absence at a former debate.
My Lords, is it not a fact that every owner of a large goods vehicle knows perfectly well what a plated weight is?
My Lords, some time ago a Question was asked in your Lordships' House about articulated lorries. Perhaps due to the weight, when the brakes of the lorry were put on the trailer swerved round and went into a form of skidding. I do not pretend to be able to follow all the technical arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, but as the noble Lord said "over its legally permitted weight" I am wondering whether or not we are raising the weight or holding it more or less in the same state as it is.
§ LORD WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, with the permission of the House may I answer both points together? May I answer my noble friend. The answer is on page 201 of this extensive Bill:plated weight ', in relation to a vehicle, means a weight required to be marked on it by means of a plate in pursuance of regulations made by virtue of section 64 of the Act of 1960 or required to be so marked by section 10 of the Road Safety Act 1967.
§ LORD WINTERBOTTOM
The drawing of the line is the 16-ton line, the sum total of tractor and semi-articulated trailer.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, when the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, first started replying to my argument I had a feeling that he had a certain sympathy for my Amendment because he said that 922 he had not had sufficient time to consider it. But when he reached the end of his speech I got the impression that he did not think there was any validity in the Amendment or the arguments I put forward to support it. I should like to assure the noble Lord that it is not my intention at all to find a loophole in the quantity licensing procedure. The sole purpose of putting down this Amendment is so that firms who already own these heavy trailers which carry only a light load but are plated at a much heavier load, with a view to providing better customer service and also providing greater safety, should not be penalised.
I should have thought that there were strong grounds for the noble Lord accepting this argument, and I really can lot see how he and his advisers can think that this Amendment endeavours to find a loophole in the quantity licensing procedure. It seems to me very unfair that firms should be penalised in this way. The Government have decided that the line should be drawn at 16 torn, but that is with regard to a load to be carried. In the case I have in mind the loads will be 4 to 6 tons, and the only reason these people are going to be penalised is because the vehicle used for the transport of these 4 to 6 ton loads will be plated at 15¼ tons. It seems to me absolutely unreasonable that a tractor with an unladen weight of 3 tons towing a load of 4 to 6 tons should be penalised in this way.
The noble Lord said in his opening remarks that he had not had sufficient time to consider this. Would he be so kind as to consider it at greater length? He can be assured that there is no question of trying to find a loophole in the quantity licensing procedure. It is just to avoid the unfair discrepancy for certain operators who have to use this type of vehicle. It seems unfair that they should be penalised. Would the noble Lord say that he would be willing to look at this question again?
§ LORD WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, with the permission of the House—aid it has to be with the permission of the House—I should like to say that I am afraid that at this late stage I cannot give such an undertaking. Obviously, the Minister of Transport will note the point that the noble Lord has made, and when applications for licences are made for 923 this specialised type of trailer I am certain that sympathetic consideration will be given to them. The penalties mentioned by the noble Lord are minimal. If it is necessary to carry such a specialised loan on a specialised trailer then I am certain that the appropriate licence will be given, without much argument and without substantial delay.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, with those slightly reassuring words I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 73 [Decision on applications for special authorisations]:
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ LORD MERRIVALE moved Amendment No. 58C:
Page 104, line 33, leave out subsections (5) and (6) and insert—
("()The factors relevant for making the comparison mentioned in subsections (3) and (4)(a) of this section shall be all factors relevant to a true assessment of the total effect upon the person for whom the goods are to be carried").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment relates to criteria, and no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Winter-bottom, will have noticed that it is worded differently from the Amendment (No. 207) which I moved on the Committee stage. In spite of the Government's Amendment last time to carry the expression of intent beyond the distinction implied by speed, reliability and cost, by rewording subsection (5), I would say that the subsection as worded now still does not express clearly matters outside speed, reliability and cost. There are so many factors to be taken into account by a trader or manufacturer in making a transport decision: for instance, extra packing, insurance for rail transit, the effect on cost of carrying other rail-borne traffic when a profitable slice has been creamed off, if I may put it that way, for transit by freightliner and so on. There are a number of factors. Some of those matters are capable of quantative assessment; others are not.
§ As it is quite impossible for all the relevant factors to be defined in the Bill, and I would say that it would not be possible to define them in regulations, would not the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, agree that the best way of ensuring that 924 these factors are fairly considered and assessed is in relation to the effect that they have on the business of the consignor? It is for these two reasons that I have now mentioned that I beg to move this Amendment.
LORD WINTER BOTTOM
My Lords, I hope that I gathered correctly the noble Lord's intent. Is it correct that what we are talking about is the interest of the consignor? The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, raised this interesting point in Committee, but I hope that the answer to it is perhaps rather simpler than the noble Lord may think. In Clause 73(5) the Bill speaks ofthe needs of the person for whom the goods in question are to be carried.As I said in Committee, those words generally mean the interests of the consignor, because he has undertaken to deliver goods to a certain individual. He is the man who has to arrange for the transport. In the case of a licence application by a haulier it is easy to see that the words refer to the haulier's customer, the consignor of the goods. In cases of own-account applicants, it will be the person sending or collecting the goods in his own lorry who will apply for the licence. Even if he is not technically the consignor in a few cases, he is clearly the person whose interests ought to be consulted, and that is what the Bill provides for.
This does not mean, however, that the consignee's interests are forgotten. Far from it. In most cases, as I said, the interests of the consignor and consignee will be identical. After all, if a man sends the goods the consignee hopes to receive them. They will hope to do many years of profitable business together, and they will have a common interest in seeing that goods are conveyed between them as cheaply, speedily and reliably as possible. Those are the criteria. Even if there are a few rare cases where consignees might choose a less efficient and economic method of transport than the best available, quantity licensing will do no more than bring them face to face with the facts, as it will indeed for those consignors who have to make similar decisions. There is really no more to it than that. The wording of the Bill seems to my mind quite satisfactory on this point, and I hope that noble Lords will accept this 925 explanation. After all, nobody is being forced to do anything against his will. A choice is brought to his notice and he, of his own free will, makes his choice. Although the discussion of this Amendment has been useful, I think the Bill as it stands is as good a way of achieving our ends as is possible.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Winter-bottom, for his reply. I do not propose to press this Amendment. The Transport Users Joint Committee felt that their wording was preferable to the Ministry's and in fact endeavoured to be helpful, but I see the Government are sticking to their guns and think their wording preferable. I presume that their legal advisers think so too, and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 91 [Interpretation of Part V]:
§ 9.16 p.m.
LORD NUGENT of GUILDFORD moved Amendment No. 59:
Page 118, line 39, at end insert "but construction sites shall not be deemed to be operating centres unless a licensing authority considers it expedient for the purposes of Part V of this Act that an operator's licence shall be applied for in respect of vehicles based or centred on that site.")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 59. This Amendment sets out to widen the definition—Clause 91 is concerned with definition—of"operating centre". This was a point which, it may be remembered, was moved and debated on the Committee stage to meet the needs particularly of the construction industry. The construction industry necessarily is continually opening temporary depots in different parts of the country away from its headquarters, and the Government have partially recognised the practical need that arises to meet this situation. The Government have allowed a flexibility of three months before a temporary construction centre becomes officially an operating centre. On the Committee stage we moved an Amendment which would have taken these temporary centres out to a period of 12 months, and the Government resisted that.
§ The construction industry have made very strong representations—I do not doubt to the Government as well as to 926 noble Lords on this side of de House —that they would be seriously handicapped if the Government stick to the decision of the three months' concession only. Noble Lords would have no difficulty in recognising that three months normally would not be enough to cover any particular operation. Most building operations would be likely to run for anything up to 12 months, occasionally for longer, and it is in order to meet this practical position, which evidently the Government had some intention of meeting, that we have put down this Amendment which has not a time writ en into it but leaves the licensing authority with discretion to decide when a construction site should be qualified as an operating centre and when it should he exempted. For instance, if there is some major work like the building of a dam or something of that kind which will go on for a year or two, almost certainly the licensing authority would require that to be an official operating centre with all the regulations that will be applied to it; but where it was a building site which would probably be lasting only for a period of 12 months or so, then normally it is suggested that tile licensing authority would not require that that should be an official operating centre with all that is entailed.
§ The construction industry, as I say, have made very strong representations indeed. They felt that the case that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, put in answer to the debate in Committee was "misconceived". These are their own words. They are most apprehensive about the extra administrative cost, the extra staff cost which would be involved if they were required to meet the conditions now in the Bill. They wish the Government to understand that the normal organisation in a construction firm that there is a company transport manager at the head of a regional office, and that he is responsible for all the operations that are working from that particular headquarters; that they have permanent maintenance depots in regional offices for major overhauls and vehicles are brought in from the various construction sites in order to be overhauled according to a fixed programme. They point out that the Bill as drafted will require that the site agents whom they normally employ will now have to be statutory trans port 927 managers. They are certain that these proposals will involve a great deal of extra expensive paperwork, that a great deal of additional time will be spent in meeting these requirements, and that they will also be involved in greater vehicle costs.
§ I suggest that these are factors which noble Lords opposite cannot ignore. Building costs this year have risen at a most alarming rate. Heaven knows! they have been rising fast enough in previous years, but there is now every indication that this year building costs will rise by some 8 to 10 per cent., with the effects of devaluation and extra S.E.T. all thrown in. In face of this most cogent advice the Government cannot go ahead with the operating centres as defined, without there being written into the Bill a provision relating to the flexibility of construction firms. Therefore, I urge noble Lords opposite to think again about this matter and to accept this Amendment. It still leaves discretion in the hands of the licensing authorities; it commits them to nothing, but leaves them with the discretion, where they are satisfied that it will be reasonable to do so, to allow construction sites not to be operating centres. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ LORD WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, as a Minister in a Ministry responsible for sponsoring the construction industry, I naturally have a real sympathy with the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, but I think that he is painting a darker picture than in fact exists. As he has said, a series of meetings have taken place where representatives of the construction industry have met the Ministry of Transport and have expressed the industry's main concern that firms in the building industry should not have to appoint a transport manager at every operating centre, especially since the operating centre is often the building site and the builders' vehicles remain there only during a period of construction. The present Amendment as drafted would enable such sites to be operated without a transport manager if the licensing authority decided that they need not be deemed to be operating centres.
I assure the noble Lord that the Government fully understand the special 928 position of the construction industry in this respect. The industry is continually moving vehicles about and setting up new operating centres. We do not wish to burden the industry with unnecessary controls. That is why Clause 60(2)(b) provides that vehicles may operate from a site for up to three months without the site becoming an operating centre or a transport manager being required. The noble Lord said "only three months". We say "up to three months". After that period we think it reasonable that the licensing authority should be able to take as close a look as he needs at the arrangements for ensuring the safe operation of the vehicles.
There is in Clause 64(3)—and I hope the noble Lord will note it—an even more important concession from the building industry's point of view. This provides that while the licensing authority will start from the premise of one transport manager per operating centre, the licensing authority will have complete discretion to allow one manager to supervise several centres if the operator can show that this would not be an unsafe arrangement. I am sure that licensing authorities will have very much in mind the problems of the construction industry when applications are made to them for the nomination of one transport manager to take responsibility for more than one operating centre, but the licensing authority must be free to take this decision in the light of individual circumstances.
We feel that the arrangements proposed in this Bill are capable of meeting the special needs of the construction industry. For this reason I am afraid that the Government cannot accept this Amendment. We know that the licensing authorities are an experienced body of individuals; this debate will bring this specific problem to their notice, and I am certain that decisions which they reach will be sensible in the light of the special circumstances of the construction industry.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
My Lords, may I support by noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford, because I think I am right in saying that the meaning of "operating centre" was altered during the Report stage in the House of Commons (it appears at column 1886 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of that date) by the omission of 929 the word "permanent". So that an operating centre became no longer a permanent base, but just a base or centre. In fact, it is only in your Lordships' House that it has been possible at different stages to debate this matter. For construction firms this change is very serious, because they have to work where the contracts are found. There will always be uncertainty as to whether a construction site may be allowed to come under a central transport manager, to which the noble Lord, Lord Winter-bottom, referred. I do not want to look a gift horse in the mouth, but for this industry the period of grace of three months before a new operators' licence is necessary at a new operating centre is almost meaningless, for how many construction contracts really ever last much less than three months?
When this matter was debated on a slightly different Amendment during the Committee stage, the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, based his reply on the prime need to ensure proper vehicle maintenance on construction sites—this appears at column 870 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of July 9. But as my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford has pointed out, most construction companies control their vehicle maintenance from a head or regional office, or even have mobile workshops or mechanics travelling across licensing authority boundaries. As the mover of this Amendment has so cogently shown, it gives discretion to the licensing authority. I was interested to listen to the reference of the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, to Clause 64(3), about seeking to alter the emphasis in that subsection, and that, honestly, is all my noble friend Lord Nugent is seeking to do here. This is a discretionary move for the licensing authority who, in consultation with the applicant, in view of the applicant's record, subject to the objection procedure, will grant the dispensation under this Amendment only if confident that the safety aims of the Bill will remain fulfilled.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, we feel extremely uneasy about this matter. The noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, was not in the House when we debated an Amendment to Clause 64(3), which gives a possible discretion. But Clause 64(3), as drafted has written into it a strong presumption that the licensing authority will not allow 930 one transport manager to he responsible for more than one centre, and therefore only exceptionally would he be allowed to look after more than one. We put down an Amendment to loosen this, to insert the word "may" in order to change the emphasis, but the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, told us quite definitely that it was the intention of the Ministry of Transport to maintain the presumption against making such a concession. This is the rigidity that we are arguing against, because we are quite sure that noble Lords opposite cannot imagine or forecast all the circumstances with which this Bill will have to deal. We believe that they are most unwise to ad sere to these rigidities. They are bound to need flexibility in practice. If they do not have it they are bound to raise costs, and this is the main point we are urging. I ask the noble Lord to look it this again and to give us a better answer.
§ LORD WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, with the permission of the House may I repeat three brief points? First, meetings have taken place between the construction industry and the Minister of Transport. Secondly, as a result of these the Government fully understand the special position of the constriction industry. Thirdly, although Clause 64(3) seems to be rigid, it provides that while the licensing authority will start from the premise of one transport manager per operation centre, the authority will have complete discretion to allow one manager to supervise several centres if the operator can show that this would not be an unsafe arrangement.
Now your Lordships are not debating in a vacuum. What we are saying to-day is being listened to by the individuals and organisations who, when this Bill becomes an Act, will have to carry it into effect. I think, knowing the construction industry, that the point made by the noble Lord is in fact valid, and I hope he will at least trust us that what I have said to-day, and the undertaking I have given, will at least influence the licensing authorities to be flexible in their interpretation of Section 64(3) in relation to the construction industry.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, with permission, perhaps I may say that of course I trust the noble Lord. If he were going to be there for ever, I would. have every confidence in 931 the wisdom of his administration. But Ministers change, and I want to have the Bill drafted so that it takes care of this point. I am afraid that I must press the Amendment.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ LORD BURTON moved Amendment No. 59A:
Page 118, line 42, at end insert—
("'road' means any road repairable at public expense")
The noble Lord said: My Lords, when, in Committee, I suggested inserting the word "public" before the word "road", in order to help to define it, the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, replied:
A public road has no defined or precise meaning.
That Amendment, he suggested, would create uncertainty in the place of certainty. He said that the definition should be as in the Road Traffic Act 1960, and that a road means
any highway and any other road to which the public has access…
But this creates enormous uncertainty and doubt. There are many places where
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 59) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordsips divided: Contents, 51: Not-Contents, 32.931
|Albemarle, E.||Gough, V.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Balerno, L.||Gridley, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Hanworth, V.||Ruthven of Freeland,Ly.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Hawke, L.||St.Aldwyn, E.|
|Burnham, L.||Henley, L.||St.Helens, L.|
|Burton, L.||Kinnoull, E.||St.Just, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Lansdowne, M.||St.Oswald, L.|
|CorkandOrrery, E.||Long, V.||Sandford, L.[Teller.]|
|Craigavon, V.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Sinclair of Cleeve, L.|
|Cromartie, E.||Milverton, L.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Daventry, V.||MonkBretton, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Mottistone, L.||Stratheden and Campbell, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Mowbray and Stourton. L. [Teller.]||Teviot, L.|
|Falmouth, V.||Teynham, L.|
|Ferrier, L.||Moyne, L.||WakefieldofKendal, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Newton, L.||Windlesham, L|
|Fraser of Lonsdale, L.|
|Addison, V.||Hughes, L.||Ritchie-Calder, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Lindgren, L.||Rusholme, L.|
|Bowles, L.||McLeavy, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Brown, L.||Maelor, L.||Serota, Bs.|
|Champion, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Chorley, L.||Mitchison, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Crook, L.||Morris of Kenwood, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Delacourt-Smith, L.||Pargiter, L.||Walston, L.|
|Gardiner, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Phillips, Bs. [Teller.]||Wigg, L|
|Heycock, L.||Plummer, Bs||Winterbottom, L.|
|Hilton of Upton, L. [Teller.]||Popplewell, L.|
§ there is doubt as to whether or not the public has access. Indeed, I believe the definition may be different as between Scotland and England. Again, under the new Countryside Act the public is likely to have clearly defined access to much larger areas of the country, which could penalise the owners of the land.
It would seem far more reasonable to accept the wording in the more recent Vehicles (Excise) Act 1962, which defines a public road as:
…a road repairable at the public expense…
That Act of 1962 refers to licensing, and in this Bill the word "road" also refers to licences—namely operators' licences. If the Bill goes through as at present drafted, the extraordinary situation could arise where it would be possible to operate a vehicle which has no road fund licence and for which the driver has no driving licence but where it would be necessary to have an operator's licence. I maintain that this is a ridiculous state
of affairs. Also on the Committee stage the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, felt that there should be a hard and fast definition of the word "road" in the Bill and not just an omnibus covering as at present. This Amendment therefore seeks to kill two birds with one stone; to satisfy the noble Viscount's suggestion and to clarify the matter. I hope that the noble Lord will accept this Amendment and I beg to move.
§ LORD WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, we all know that the problem of defining something simple was one which plagued Dr. Johnson when he was trying to define the word "net", but I will not go into that now. I am sorry that during the Committee stage my noble friend Lord Hughes was unable to convince the noble Lord, Lord Burton, what we meant. I should like to be able as soon as possible to clear up the position of what is meant by "road". There are two points which we are in danger of confusing. First, we have to decide what definition of "road" is appropriate to Part V of this Bill. We can choose between the definition in the 1960 Road Traffic Act, which is:any highway and any other road to which the public has access, and includes bridges over which a road passesand that in the Vehicles (Excise) Act 1962 referring to a public road asa road which is repairable at the public expense.In fact, the noble Lord is asking us to choose the latter definition, but the Government believe that the former is the better definition.
Basically, we are here concerned with road safety and not with taxation, so we need to see that there is control of operators' licensed functions wherever there is risk to public safety; that is, on any road to which the public has access. The noble Lord's definition is too narrow for this purpose and we should stick to the definition used in the present carriers' licensing system. The fact that the road in question is repairable at public expense has nothing to do with the question of safety.
Secondly, having decided which definition of "road" to use, we have to decide how to express it in this Bill. When an existing definition is being used the usual practice is to include merely a reference 934 to the place where that definition is to be found, and so it is in this Bill. Clause 91(1) on page 119, lines: 6 and 6, says:and any expression not defined abode which is also used in the Act of 1960 has the same meaning as in that Act.That is the definition which we should prefer to use in this case. Sc for a definition of "road", which is not defined above, we turn to the 1960 Road Traffic Act.
The noble Lord says that this is unnecessarily clumsy, but I do not think so, particularly in view of the fact that we are dealing with public safety and not with taxation. After all, the Bill is long enough. What is the point of lengthening it by including a definition already to be found elsewhere? Indeed, might not the case arise where something would falsely lead to the conclusion that yet another definition of road had been invented for the purpose of the Bill, if we included it here instead of referring to the. Act of 1960, where it was first defined? I hope that my words and the persuasions of my noble friend will lead the noble Lord to withdraw his Amendment.
§ LORD BURTON
My Lords, am afraid I still feel that the noble Lord has not answered the difficulty about what is public access. There seems to be grave doubt as to whether the public have access. The noble Lord mentioned safety as opposed to the question of excise but, surely, if a person can drive on a road without any licence, the question of safety would be involved. He could be driving a rickety old vehicle with no Road Fund licence and this must De a safety matter. If we pass the Bill is it stands, we insist that a vehicle has to have an operator's licence. The two do not tie up, I am afraid, in the circumstances, I find difficulty in withdrawing the Amendment. I would hope that in the light of these arguments possibly the Minister might have another look at this point.
§ LORD WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I must say that I am afraid that at his stage of the Bill it would be very difficult to have another look at this. We believe that we must stick by the definition in the 1960 Act.
§ LORD MITCHISON
My Lords, I have not said anything for some time. I do not see the point of this Amendment. If we do not know what we mean by "road", then we do not know what we mean by a "road repairable at the public expense." The word "road" is used twice in the Amendment and it is used in the present language in the Bill. The object of this Amendment is to limit the licensing powers to roads repairable at the public expense. Why? I have not heard the reason yet, and I cannot sec any logical reason at all. It is perfectly true that most roads are repairable at public expense, but supposing they are not—what difference does it make? I cannot understand the purpose of the Amendment other than merely to cut into licensing as much as possible. It sounds to me like the voice of the road hauliers, of which I thought I heard echoes from time to time to-day. It is not always a reasonable voice, and in this instance I take leave to doubt whether
§ it is reasonable. I am not saying that the noble Lord is not reasonable—of course he is.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Burton, referred to the question of Scotland. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, will be able to assure us that the position in Scotland is the same as the position in England. But I should like to differ from the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison. Surely a road repairable at public expense is quite different from a road that is not.
§ LORD REDESDALE
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, is making an argument which appears to me to be asking for a reason just because he could not provide a good enough reason for the case he was putting up.
§ 9.49 p.m.
§ On Question: Whether the said Amendment (No. 59A) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 27; Not-Contents, 35.935
|Albemarle, E.||Fraser of Lonsdale, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Balerno, L.||Gough, V.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Gridley, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Burton, L. [Teller.]||Grimston of Westbury, L.||St. Just, L. [Teller.]|
|Craigmyle, L.||Hawke, L.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Cromartie, E.||Kinnoull. E.||Sinclair of Cleeve, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Lansdowne, M.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Ferrier, L.||Long, V.||Teviot, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Milverton, L.||Wakefield of Kendal, L|
|Addison, V.||Heycock, L.||Ritchie-Calder, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Hilton of Upton, L. [Teller.]||Rusholme, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Hughes. L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Bowles, L.||Lindgren, L.||Serota, Bs.|
|Brown. L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Champion, L.||Maelor, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Chorley. L.||Milner of Leeds, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Crook, L.||Mitchison, L.||Walston, L.|
|Delacourt-Smith, L.||Morris of Kenwood, L.||Wigg, L.|
|Gardiner, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Phillips, Bs. [Teller.]||Winterbottom, L.|
|Hanworth, V.||Plummer. Bs.||Younger of Leckie, V.|
|Henley, L.||Popplewell, L|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 94 [Vehicles and drivers subject to control under Part VI]:
§ 9.58 p.m.
LORD TEVIOT moved Amendment No. 60:
Page 123, line 8, leave out from ("of") to ("arise") in line 10 and insert ("such hours of work by persons engaged in the carriage of passengers or goods by road as are necessary to protect the public against such risks as are reasonably established by practical experience and scientific research to").
The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 60 standing in my name. With your Lordships' permission, I propose to take Amendments Nos. 70, 76, 77, 141, 142 and 143 at the same time. The sole intention in putting down these Amendments has been to ensure that the Minister relates his orders under or bringing into force Part VI of this Bill in accordance with the policy stated in the White Paper, Road Safety: A Fresh Approach, which was published in July 1967 and the basis of which is that
the planning of road safety measures must start from the facts,
and claims that the Government will be
as clear-headed and scientific in its approach as it can be".
This is all I am asking the Government to be, I repeat,
as clear-headed and scientific in its approach as it can be".
Therefore, at this point I must put before your Lordships that the Government themselves have not based the new legislation on facts, and 1 shall endeavour to explain exactly what has happened.
On April 30 of this year the right honourable Member the Minister of Transport in another place stated, in Standing Committee F, that the Road Research Laboratory had clone a great deal of work on driver fatigue. This in fact is not so, and I should like to quote from the Road Research Laboratory's Report for 1967, published in September of this year. They say:
Other areas of problems needing basic research in the future are those of night driving, long-distance holiday driving, motorway driving and bad weather driving. The effects of fatigue, attitudes, temperament and personality factors in driving behaviour also need attention.
I should like to emphasise that they say:
Driving fatigue also needs attention",
because my own inquiries haw(shown that on this subject the Road Research Laboratory have done no original work whatsoever.
Fortunately, the Medical research Council have been active. Two members of their staff, Dr. Brown, of the Applied Psychology Unit at Cambridge, and Dr. Hunt, of the Division of Human Physiology, have been conducting their own research into different aspects of this problem. Dr. Brown has shown that reserve mental capacity is greater, and the time taken to respond to a situation shorter, after a prolonged spell of driving than it was early in the journey. Dr. Hunt has recently been looking at nearly 900 accidents in relation to the number of hours the driver had been driving. This work is not yet complete, but it certainly indicates that accidents are not more frequent towards the end of a lengthy driving spell. Others, including Doctors Potts, McFarland, Mosely, Dobbins, and Mast, have all done work in this field. Without exception their findings indicate that the proposals contained in Part VI of this Bill will do nothing to improve road safety because (to quote Dr. Brown):
the risk of accident through fatigue is low …compared with other causes of accidents.
No doubt this is the reason why the Road Research Laboratory have made little study of the question, although unfortunately there is not enough tit le to go into greater detail here. However, I should like to make it clear, despite the relative unimportance of fatigue, that I should like to see further research in this field, and I know that this is the view of the scientists to whom I have spoken.
§ As some of your Lordships may be aware, during the Recess I personally carried out a thorough investigation and research into this matter. Apart from unearthing the scientific evidence already quoted, I gained practical experience in driving express and contract coaches for some seven weeks, whereas my previous full-time occupation was concerned with stage carriages only. I felt this was essential because, as your Lordships will see from my Amendments, I consider that a combination of practical experience and technical research must be the basis of sound legislation in this field. During the period to which I have referred I drove coaches for over 7,000 miles, over 939 many parts of the country. On some days I drove over 300 miles, but the average was around 260 miles per day. My working day sometimes exceeded a 15-hour spreadover, and on five occasions I drove to within a few minutes of the 11-hour maximum. I also drove by night as well as by day. Again, time prevents further elaboration. For this reason I compiled a report on my experience, and in this I drew the following conclusions.
§ First, while there is too little research evidence available on this subject, the evidence which is available points to the fact that there is no increase in either accident or lowering of mental standards within the limits on hours of driving at present prescribed by law. Considerably more research is required on this subject before further legislation is introduced, both in the interests of road safety and because of the disastrous effects it will have on an already hard-pressed industry, suffering from a shortage of drivers, and on that section of the community which relies on public transport. I feel that I should go more fully into that last statement, because I foresee a number of undesirable consequences if the Bill is passed in its present form.
§ In the first place, reducing hours will in many cases mean the speeding up of journey running times, which is undesirable in that it places an added strain on the driver to try to keep time, and should an accident situation arise, the consequences would be far worse. When this question of speed was raised in another place, so far as I can see the Minister avoided answering the question. Then, in order to maintain services operators will require additional drivers —if they can get them, because it is well known that there is already a shortage, and in some parts of the country, especially the industrial areas, it is acute. It will be difficult to find men of a sufficiently high standard, and many part-timers are likely to be used. This again will act against road safety. Dr. Hunt, whose work I have already referred to, has produced figures which clearly indicate that the inexperienced driver is the least safe; and, furthermore, in his analysis casual drivers were shown to have been involved in nearly 50 per cent. 940 of all the accidents. Despite this, the Bill will be a charter for the part-time driver. Ironically, it will also encourage existing professional drivers to seek secondary employment to make good the loss in their earnings.
§ It is nonsense to suggest that the coaching industry, for example, can significantly increase its productivity. Even with buses the benefit of one-man operation has been greatly exaggerated. Therefore. particularly in view of the Government's prices and incomes policy, it is difficult to see how wage levels can be maintained within the industry by reducing the hours of work. The net effect where men take a second job will be a reduction in their main rest period, which is quite the opposite to the intention of the Bill. Another effect will be an increase in the overnight staging of drivers, which is unpopular with the driver because he is more or less forced to spend money on personal entertainment, which he would not do if he were at home; and, more important, it keeps him away from his family.
These proposals will unquestionably result in reduced passenger services and will encourage more people to travel by car, thus adding to the traffic congestion which is recognised as a major problem in all our cities. It is even true to say that reduced hours will affect our balance of payments, because long-distance excursions, which will be forced to stop running, are particularly popular with overseas visitors, and equally a strong home tourist industry will encourage our own people to spend their holidays and their money in Britain. In making my final point I would like to quote the Minister in Standing Committee F, col. 2911 in the OFFICIAL REPORT. Mr. Marsh said:
If one were to introduce the Bill as it stands without any quid pro quo in terms of productivity the cost would be as high as £25 million, or possibly even more, per year.
§ I have made it clear that I have little confidence that this very substantial cost can be offset by increased productivity. In other words, the country will be asked to pay at least £25 million, and I am sure the Minister did not overstate his case. And for what benefit? I believe I have demonstrated there will be no increase in road safety, but quite the reverse. Moreover, there will be adverse 941 social consequences, and the hardest hit will be the elderly, the young and the less affluent members of our society. I ask, my Lords, can this really be the Government's intention? In moving my Amendments I hope to establish a procedure that will avoid such ill-considered and anti-social legislation. However, these are not wrecking Amendments, because when the necessary investigations have been completed and the right action can be taken—as my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford said on Committee stage, we have a responsibility to give the right answer—the Government then, with confidence, can present the necessary orders to Parliament. With their case established I have no doubt they can rely on the unanimous support of both Houses. I beg to move.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, if this Bill really set out to make a drastic cut in the number of permitted hours of driving I could understand the speech which the noble Lord has just delivered. From the way in which he delivered it and from the rather exaggerated criticisms which he makes of the Bill one would think that we were proposing to reduce the number of hours down to something like four or five per day. But what in fact is happening is that we are proposing to limit the actual driving time to 10 hours per day as against a limit of 11 hours plus a certain amount of duty time that has been in operation now for something around thirty years. For all the noble Lord says about his experience and the experience of others, I cannot believe that with faster vehicles, with more crowded roads, after thirty years it is something which we should hesitate to do—to reduce the number of permitted driving hours, hours actually at the wheel, to 10 per day.
The noble Lord has referred to his own experience and he was kind enough to let me have a sight of the report he has made after the seven weeks' personal experience he had driving long-distance lorries and coaches. I doubt whether that experience of the noble Lord proves anything more than what one already knows by looking at him: that he is a very energetic young man and has a lot of stamina. But to say that his experience proves that a driver can be expected week after week to drive 942 safely after more than 10 hours a day really is stretching his experience a bit too far. When I come to look at the actual driving times he himself endured I see that he had 10 hours 50 minutes the first day, 10 hours 45 minutes the second; then he took things a little easier —4 hours 30 minutes, 2 hours 10 minutes, 8 hours 30 minutes, and then 5 hours 40 minutes.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, that was rather up to my employer. I was given the work available. It was not by choice that I took things easier.
§ LORD BESWICK
It is no good the noble Lord coming along and saying he was fitter at the end than at the beginning. He was not driving the number of hours this Bill will permit an employer legally to call upon his employee to drive. He talks about scientific research. I quite agree that we must call upon scientific research, and I agree that it would he valuable to have more conclusive research than that presently at our disposal. But still, no drastic action has yet been proposed. Indeed, under the present legislation it will be possible for a driver to be longer at the wheel than he is under the present limit. Eleven hours is the present limit, and including certain duty time we are bringing it down to 10 hours actually at the wheel. Out of the present 11 hours it will be very difficult for a driver to be at the wheel for 10 hours. In my view, in some cases we shall find that under the proposed new legislation with the flexibility introduced it will be possible for a driver to be longer at the wheel than is presently legally the case.
If we turn to what is happening overseas in the Common Market countries. I understand that they now intend to introduce a 9-hour driving limit in a year's time, reducing to 8 hours in 1971. It will be 8 hours at the outset for heavy lorries. What we are proposing to do with our thirty years' experience at present is to cut down the period to 10 hours at the wheel. Really, teat is not being unreasonable, and I feel that the noble Lord ought not to suggest that exaggerated effects are going to flow from this legislation.
There is another reason, I suggest, why it would be unwise to accept Amendment No. 60, which the noble 943 Lord was good enough to move. He asked that nothing should be done by way of legislation until the risks have been reasonably established by practical experience and scientific research. This Part of the Bill has already been drafted, admittedly not in the light of precise scientific experience but in the light of practical experience. If we accepted his form of words it would be claiming that that policy was in the light of scientific research, which of course is not the case. It would therefore be unreasonable to insert these words at this stage of the Bill, and I hope that, on reflection, the noble Lord will find it unnecessary to press his Amendment.
§ LORD BURTON
My Lords, I think it was my noble friend the Duke of Atholl who on the Committee stage produced statistics to show that it was the first hour during which the reactions of a driver were at their slowest. I have spoken to a number of drivers about this particular matter, and almost without exception they have said that they feel absolutely fit at the end of this time; that it is during the first hour for which they are at the wheel that they are more likely to have an accident, when their reactions are slower, than at the end of a 10 or 11-hour driving day. I have not yet heard anywhere any statistics which show that at the end of an 11-hour day a driver is more liable to have an accident than at any other hour during the time he is driving. My own experience has been in driving the 150 miles to Edinburgh to attend meetings. I have to leave early in the morning, and I know that in the first hour my reactions are much more slow than on returning after a long day attending meetings. I know that the first hour is the worst.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
My Lords, it must be a long time, even in this House, since we have had such reactionary speeches from two young Members. Two young Members, who we might have thought would have been progressive in regard to the needs and ideas of industry to-day, in effect think that there should be no limit on a driver's hours. I think that this is really remarkable in this day and age. I would suggest that they are speaking, in spite of what they say, purely and simply as individuals.
944 If they really have any knowledge of the social requirements and social life of the people who are driving vehicles and coaches these long distances, they would know that they deserve a social life and that they desire leisure. What they are anxious to do—and I could not agree with them more on this—is to increase their wage packet as much as possible, and that is the only reason why they seek to exceed the law as it is.
Quite frankly, I am rather sorry that the Government have increased the number of hours at the wheel to ten. I should have thought that if we had kept the limit as it was, particularly in view of what is happening in other parts of the world, it might have been more in accord with what is desirable in so far as this Bill is concerned. I hope that noble Lords are not going to press this to a Division. I should think that this is probably just an exercise to allow them to talk to some of the people they have been meeting. Did I understand the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, to say 360 miles a day? I wonder how many days he has continued at that distance.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, 260 on average. I think the maximum was 300. I have not my report, but it was about 300.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
My Lords, I rather suspected that it was something exceptional and not regular distances. I got the impression when he was making his speech that 360 miles was something he was doing pretty regularly. Now we find that it is exceptional.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, I do not think the noble Lord should continually misquote my noble friend. He has insisted that 260 was the average
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, has accused my noble friend Lord Teviot of being reactionary. If anybody is reactionary it is the noble Lord who has just sat down. He is unwilling to accept any evidence of science and to keep up with what is being scientifically discovered, or prepared to do so in the future. The Government have done very little in the way of research into the question of driving fatigue, as my noble friend has pointed out. Such research as has been done into driver fatigue does 945 not support the contention of the Government, and my noble friend's argument is that until such research has been done the situation should not be fundamentally changed. If anybody is reactionary with prejudice I submit it is the noble Lord who has just sat down.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, my noble friends and I have an Amendment on the Marshalled List similar to that being moved by my noble friend Lord Teviot; that is to say, Amendment No. 62. As we are having a general debate on this topic, if I join in and make such points as I wish to make it may save the time of the House. I felt that the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, although he made a very cogent speech with a good deal of which I agree, was a little less than fair to my noble friend, Lord Teviot. His speech was one of very great interest. I made some notes on it as he went along, and I look forward to reading it to-morrow. The noble Lord gave a great deal of interesting information and, of course, he was absolutely right when he said that there has been neither scientific nor medical research to back the general purpose of this Part of the Bill. I think perhaps it is a fair point to make that it is rather unfortunate that Ministers—, not the noble Lord, Lord Beswick—have spoken as if there were some scientific basis to the proposal, and my noble friend Lord Teviot, with a good deal of assiduity and perception, has indeed revealed the fact that there is not. My personal belief is that the general idea and philosophy lying behind this section of the Bill is right. I rather agree with the noble Lord that, in present-day conditions, it is right statutorily to reduce driving hours from 11 to 10, and I sense that most people hold that view.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, does not the noble Lord agree that we are not even reducing them from 11 hours to 10 hours?
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, it depends how one presents it, but there is in fact a reduction. I agree with the thinking in this matter, but my agreement is more instinctive than based on scientific evidence. I believe that public opinion is probably with the noble Lord in thinking that this is the right way to go. What my noble friend 946 Lord Teviot has done by his speech and his personal research is to prove that the onus is very much upon the Government to see that they introduce these measures in the most practicable way possible. There is no scientific evidence in this matter at present. Most of us think that this is the right approach, and we certainly believe that there is a case for going ahead and seeing that research is now put in hand for the future.
My noble friend has also made out the case that the Government have a strong obligation to see that there is sufficient flexibility in introducing these new regulations, on the one hand to cause the minimum disruption of services—services which are already strained by shortage of driver manpower—and, on the other hand, to avoid more cost than is absolutely essential. My noble friend Lord Teviot rightly referred to the Minister's own prediction on this account of an extra £25 million. If the Minister predicts that, then certainly it will not be less, and it might be more. I congratulate my noble friend on his valuable contribution. Although I do not entirely go along with his conclusions, his speech should have some influence upon Government thinking as to how they approach the matter.
My own Amendment asks the Government to give a little more flexibility. The noble Lord referred with approval to the proposed E.E.C. regulations—I say "proposed" since they have not yet been introduced—which give a great deal of flexibility. They provide for a maximum working day of 13 hours, which may be increased to 15 hours two days a week. It is true that they have a shorter basic day, but they have greater flexibility and I believe that this is very important. Certainly it has been the fact that it the interval since we debated this matter all sections of industry and commerce have made representations asking for greater flexibility. That includes the Minister's own Consultative Transport Committee, the C.B.I., the T.R.T.A., and so on, and the manufacturers. All these people seek greater flexibility.
The Amendment which we have put down is the minimum which any of them asked for most of them have asked for more. They are not in the Amendment 947 asking for a greater number of hours; they accept that the Government have laid down a maximum of 60. What they are asking for is two days a week in which to be able to drive an extra hour so as to provide more flexibility. They reckon this to be the minimum which they can work. Obviously they are very nervous about this matter. I should have thought that the general case which has been made out and the cogency of the argument of my noble friend Lord Teviot are enough to make the Government feel that they should give more flexibility, while at the same time introducing the greater safeguards which they think desirable. I hoped that this debate will persuade the Government of the wisdom of this course.
§ 10.25 p.m.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, I am persuaded by the words of the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, that what noble Lords opposite have said can perhaps be properly construed as being more reactionary than anything said on this side of the House. As your Lordships are aware, I have made it my business and my interest to promote debates in your Lordships' House on the question of road safety. I hope to do so again during the next Session, on the report to which the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, referred, which makes it perfectly clear that this theory of hours of work in relation to safety in driving has not been properly established. Your Lordships know that vehicles are improving in regard to the comfort of the driver's position, with power steering, power brakes and the like, and the rigidity of applying hours to any vehicle seems unreasonable. I should like to support what the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, has said: that in a matter of this sort flexibility is essential. This brings me to another point which I raised on Committee stage, which is that there are a number of loads in industry which have to be driven with the utmost care and at low speeds, and have to he laid up in lay-bys during their runs. Again, I feel that in 948 those cases flexibility is absolutely essential.
The days are long past when brutal employers drove their men to drive unfit vehicles for hours on end. They do not do it. It does not pay, and it is not acceptable in a society such as ours today. The limiting of hours throughout the week seems to be the wrong way to ensure the safety of the public and the security of our economy. As the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, has said, the people who hope to make money, the young men who expect to reinforce their pay packet by doing overtime, are being prevented from doing so, and they not only leave the industry; they leave the country. I support what the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, has said, and beg the Government to allow a very large measure of flexibility on this problem of drivers' hours.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, in summing up I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I am not very succinct, but I am not very experienced. I shall start by answering the Minister. I do not think he answered my speech fully. All he said was that hours were being cut from 11 to 10 per day. But there is a great deal more in Clause 95 than cutting drivers' hours from 11 to 10. There is a 60-hour week and a compulsory day off every week, except for stage carriage drivers, and a whole lot of other points. I am not going to say very much about what the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, said. But drivers are not going to get more social life; they are going to get less, because they will have to augment their income by taking a secondary job. Drivers and operators share my feelings unanimously, and I feel quite sure about what I say. I must thank the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, very much for his kind words, and I think the Government should still seek to find a practical solution. I also thank the noble Lords, Lord Balerno and Lord Ferrier, for giving me their support. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.949
§ Clause 95 [Permitted driving time and periods of duty]:
LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD moved Amendment No. 62:
Page 124, line 4, at end insert ("Provided that he may drive an extra hour on not more than two days in a working week.")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I think I have already adduced the arguments in respect of this Amendment, and I can only hope that they have persuaded the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, of its excellence. I beg to move.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, certainly if anything could have caused me to change my mind the persuasive words of the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, would so have done, but I am sorry I cannot tell him that we accept this Amendment. It is on the face of it a reasonable one; on the other hand, I feel that he is not giving quite enough weight to the measure of flexibility which already exists in this Bill. I emphasise again that what we are here doing is imposing a limit of 10 hours actually at the wheel, as against the 11 hours in the previous legislation, which included time on and around the vehicle. The noble Lord, Lord Teviot, will know that it is possible that one has to look at the tyres, that one has to look at the load, that one has to do a number of jobs around the vehicle before one actually sets off. All that time was included in the 11 hours under the old legislation.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, I hope the noble Lord will forgive me for interrupting once again, but will he tell me whether the 10 hours is time actually at the wheel, including all breaks I mean, the meal break 5½ hours afterwards, and the stand-time at the end; or is 10 hours driving time, actually at the wheel?
§ LORD BESWICK
Let me say it in my own words. This means 10 hours actually at the wheel. If, for example, the driver is in a queue at the docks and has to switch off the engine for some 950 long period of time while he is waiting there in the queue, this is not driving time at the wheel: it does not count. If he has half an hour off, it does not count. We are here talking about 10 hours at the wheel, as against tie old figure of 11 hours which included work on and around the vehicle.
I am saying to the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, that under t le old dispensation it is very unlikely that a driver could have been 10½ hours actually at the wheel. It would have been very difficult for him legally to have spent 10½ hours actually at the wheel. So really we are not being unduly burdensome in this gain. It is a very modest gain. As my noble friend Lord Popplewell said, in the first place it was proposed that the period should be 9 hours, but in order to meet what was said by the noble Lord and some of his friends outside there was this change to 10 hours, and I deeply regret that it is not possible for me to say that we can go further than this.
The noble Lord spoke with approval about the E.E.C. arrangements, but again I put it to him that if he compares what will be possible under the new legislation, he will see that the driver is being asked to do far more than he will be able to do under the E.E.C. arrangements. The noble Lord talks about a possible 14 hours spreadover, but if you take the situation under the Transport Bill as at present drafted you would have 12½ hours which, including the 1½ hours off-duty rest period, would give a spreadover of 14 hours, and the time actually at the wheel would be 10 hours, 11 hours on duty. This is considerably more than is possible under the E.E.C. arrangements.
I honestly think that the noble Lord is not giving sufficient credit to the efforts which have been made by the Minister to meet him and his demand for flexibility. But I know he feels strongly about this, and I know that the matter has been rehearsed at some considerable length previously. I only regret I cannot meet him, but I feel that if he looks at this fairly and carefully again he will see that we have gone a long way, and I hope that he will find it possible to withdraw his modest Amendment.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for the reasonable terms in which he answered my Amendment. I accept that the new regulation of hours proposed by the Government is still more than obtains in the E.E.C. countries; indeed, I think it really helps to make out the case for the noble Lord's Bill that there should be a shortening of hours in this country. The statutory hours are longer here than in other countries. That is why I support his general intention, but I have to say again that the urgency of the representations from all sections of industry is such, at its lowest, that this Amendment would meet the minimum. The demand is for
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
LORD BALERNO moved Amendment No. 64:
Page 124, line 31, at end insert ("except that on one day in each working week, if during that day he is able for a period which is not less than the time by which his working day exceeds ten hours to obtain rest and refreshment, his working day shall not exceed sixteen hours.")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment stands in the name of my noble friend Lord Teviot and myself. The intention is to continue the present exemption for express and contract carriages to operate a 16-hour excursion once a week. It provides for an ex- 952 flexibility. I am not asking for extra hours overall, only for flexibility.
§ My Lords, I feel that in the light of the cogent advice we have had throughout from outside, we must press this Amendment. I hope that when the Bill goes back to another place, noble Lords will pass on some advice that the Government should look at this point again. I must press the Amendment.
§ 10.40 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 62) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 44; Not-Contents, 27.951
|Albemarle, E.||Fortescue, E.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Balerno, L.||Fraser of Lonsdale, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Gage, V.||Redesdale, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Gough, V.||Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.|
|Burnham, L.||Gridley, L.||St. Helens, L.|
|Burton, L.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||St. Just, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Kinnoull, E.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Lansdowne, M.||Sandford, L. [Teller.]|
|Cromartie, E.||Long, V.||Sinclair of Cleeve, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Dilhorne, V.||Massereenc and Ferrard, V.||Stratheden and Campbell, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Mottistone, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, Bs.||Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]||Teynham. L.|
|Falkland, V.||Wakefield of Kendal. L.|
|Ferrier, L.||Newton, L.||Windlesham, L.|
|Addison, V.||Heycock, L.||Ritchie-Calder, L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Hilton of Upton, L. [Teller.]||Rusholme, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Hughes, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Bowles, L. [Teller.]||Milner of Leeds, L.||Serota, Bs.|
|Brown, L.||Mitchison, L.||Shackleton. L.|
|Champion, L.||Morris of Kenwood, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Chorley, L.||Phillips, Bs.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Gardiner, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Plummer, Bs.||Walston, L.|
|Henley, L.||Popplewell, L.||Winterbottom.L|
§ tended break during the day and an overall weekly limit. This I think removes any objectionable features both from the point of view of the drivers and from the point of view of safety. My reason for pressing this Amendment is to give an opportunity for as many young persons as possible to enjoy recreation in the wilder parts of the United Kingdom. However, my experience is limited to Scotland and I will concentrate on that.
§ In order not to weary your Lordships unduly at this late hour, I will concentrate my argument on one particular recreation, ski-ing, as that serves as a good example it is a sport which is953
§ becoming steadily more popular and which voluntary organisations as well as local authorities are stimulating as a means of building character as well as a healthy outlet for the energies of adventurous youth. The matter is of considerable magnitude, and while precise figures are difficult to obtain a survey which has been done in Upper Speyside, where the Scottish Tourist Board made a Gallup Poll, throws some light on the problem.
§ During the winter period, excluding Christmas and New Year weeks, day visitors in the area amount to 37 per cent. of the whole, and the majority of these are weekly wage earners. These come mainly from the Lothians and the Clyde Valley, but quite a substantial number come from the Northern counties of England. Though the survey did not determine how many of the English were day visitors, it is known that quite a number fell into this category. An overall of 15 per cent. of these skiers come in special coaches, and this number is likely to increase, provided the special coaches do not become too expensive.
§ Several categories of week-end skiers travelling by special bus will also be adversely affected if this Bill goes through without amendment. May I give some examples? Even with Standard Time, keen skiers will want to be on the slopes by 11 a.m. at the latest. Edinburgh to Glenshee is a very popular run for a day's ski-ing, and if meal stops are not counted the time is roughly as follows. Coaches leave Edinburgh at about 0730, arriving in Glenshee at 1030; leaving Glenshee at about 1730 and getting back to Edinburgh at 2030. The actual driving time is only 6 hours but the driver is employed for a total of 13 hours.
§ Another popular run is from Aberdeen to the Cairngorms ski-ing area. The Aberdonians seem to get up a bit earlier. They get off the mark at 7 o'clock on the Sabbath morning and arrive at the ski slopes at 1130. Then they leave at 1730 and get back home somewhere about 2300 hours. The actual driving time is 9 hours, with a total of 16 hours. That is a more extreme case. An Ayrshire operator states that he runs buses to the Leadhills ski slope in Lanarkshire, a distance of 70 miles, a matter of 5 hours' driving time, with 7 hours on the slopes, a total of somewhere about 12 hours.954
§ May I give your Lordships an example of how this will adversely affect the weekend skier, particularly the week-end skier who travels from the North of England, leaving on Friday and returning on Sunday? For the driver of the bus, the Sunday starts with an hour's driving to the ski slopes in the Cairngorms. That would mean leaving the youth hostel about one hour before then, say at 9 o'clock in the morning. The return journey to England or to Berwick—there are many who come from Berwickshire and Roxburghshire or from Dumfries—would start a little earlier than the others, somewhere about 1600 hours, and the destination is reached around 2200 hours, a maximum of somewhere about seven hours driving for the day. That is a 13 hour day. The young folk who travel by hired coach to ski for the day or from a distance for the week-end are not affluent persons. They are wage earners mostly—students or senior pupils at school—and the cost of a second driver will add appreciably to the total cost of their expedition.
§ When this point was debated in Committee, noble Lords opposite put forward the safety factor as one of paramount importance. I, for one, certainly do not want to increase danger on their pads; and I leave it to the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, to tell your Lordships from his great experience of these matters whether a total of six or seven hours driving with a substantial break, is really increasing danger on the roads.
§ I submit to your Lordships for serious consideration that if the cost per head for the buses rises beyond a certain point for these young people—and it is already fairly high—they will certainly take to cars, and in many cases only one of them may hold a driver's licence. Consider this youth who holds a licence. He gets up at 7 a.m., drives for three or four hours, and then, physically exhausted by a day's ski-ing, he sets off alter supper at a cafe to drive back. Is he not likely to be a much greater danger on the road home? And for every bus not hired there will be at least four such cars. If you want to keep death off the roads, I suggest that you encourage the hire of buses for this well worthwhile recreation.955
§ I have a feeling that the Government will say that special exception may be made for this type of case by regulation issued by the Minister, either directly from Whitehall, which is most repugnant to us in Scotland, or by delegation to a subordinate in Scotland. In anticipation of such an argument, I would ask your Lordships to visualise how these youth clubs and associations organise their affairs. The thoughts of youth may be long, long thoughts, but youth usually acts on the spur of the moment. Why not let the freedom of youth be inscribed in this Bill and not be controlled by the incomprehensible and fluctuating orders of the Minister and his minions? Youth does not look favourably on red tape.
§ I earnestly beseech the Government to accept this Amendment, and thereby demonstrate, that they not only possess sound common sense, but are also able to give real encouragement to adventurous youth and to channel the spirit of adventure in the direction of health and happy endeavour. The solution offered by this Amendment is completely safe. It meets the needs for week-end activities, mostly at a season when the driver is in no way likely to be over-employed during the rest of the week. I beg to move.
§ 10.55 p.m.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, after what the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, has said, I am sure that we should all wish to help the adventurous youth he has in mind, but in fact the Amendment would help other people, and probably less deserving people. I put it to the noble Lord that the best way of dealing with the problem that he has set before us is precisely by the procedure of exemption, as provided under Clause 95(10). I tell the noble Lord that the Minister will be quite prepared to consider cases, exceptionally, when it can be shown generally that there are considerations of the sort which the noble Lord has indicated.
We hope that the coach operators (and we are not here asking young people to engage in a lot of red tape: I refer to the practical coach operators) who are responsible for transporting to ski-ing areas will apply their minds to any special problems which the Bill may 956 create, and then put their proposals before the Minister, so that he may use his powers of exemption. As soon as the coach operators concerned can tell us what their difficulties are, and what sort of relaxation they need to cover excursions for ski-ing or other similar activities, we shall be able to get the measure of the problem in exemption terms and decide what ought to be done to meet it. The Ministry of Transport are now helping in getting together a representative cross-section of operators for this purpose, and they are in touch both with the National Ski Council and the Passenger Vehicle Operators' Association. It is understood that the operators are not yet ready for a meeting, but it is hoped that it can be arranged soon. A practical study of coach operations next winter and early spring, before the particular provisions of the Bill come into force, may be very helpful.
I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord will understand that we have in mind the particular kind of case which he has outlined to us, and that something will be done to meet it. At the same time, I hope he will also accept that the case he has made out in particular does not really justify a general relaxation. Most day trips can be accommodated within the 14-hour day—the 14-hour day that is already allowed for, with the necessary rest period— and it would not be wise, I suggest to him, to make an exception generally beyond the 14 hours a day. Nevertheless, in his particular case I hope that it will be possible to help, by the procedure I have indicated, and on that understanding I trust that he will see fit to withdraw his Amendment.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down I wonder if he would say whether this kind of exemption under the regulations will cover classes of drivers. He has said that it is not a question of students' becoming involved in red tape and applications, but I am led to believe that a great many of these expeditions, particularly the ski-ing ones, are made in small coaches and large minibuses, which come within the sphere of the Bill and which are driven by officials of the local ski associations and teachers. These are the people whom we do not want to become tied up in individual applications in each case. Perhaps the noble Lord could clarify that point.
§ LORD WAKEFIELD OF KENDAL
My Lords, before the noble Lord replies to that, may I point out that not only ski-ing is involved: this point really covers a much wider field of recreation and activities. For example, take a cricket team. There are many cricket teams that go away in a small coach or a minibus, perhaps with the sports master driving. As I understand the position, he would be on duty throughout that time, and if I am informed correctly then such a teacher or sports master driving a minibus or small coach of that kind, if he was on duty for more than four hours in one day, would fall under subsection (7) of Clause 95 of the Bill.
One has only just realised what a tremendously wide field of recreational activity that covers. It is not only cricket and football that involve being away for quite a long time. There are such expeditions as go from inland places to the seaside for sub-aqua activities, for botany and geology, as well as mountaineering expeditions; and more and more of these general activities are led by a teacher or an official in small coaches or buses. It seems to us that the Bill as at present drafted will very seriously affect these activities. I wonder whether the Minister could tell us more about the Bill's effect on that kind of activity. If he is unable to do so now, perhaps we can be told something about it on Third Reading, because, as I have tried to show, it may have a far wider effect than perhaps has been generally realised.
I know that this matter has been drawn to our attention only at a late stage in the proceedings on this Bill, but I think it would be quite wrong for your Lordships to allow this Bill to pass without attention being drawn to this wide and more serious aspect, so fully put to your Lordships in regard to ski-ing but in fact also covering a wide field of recreational activities.
LORD STRATHEDEN AND CAMPBELL
My Lords, while being perfectly ready to accept the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, that this could be agreed as an exception under subsection (10) of this clause. I would point out that the operative word is "emergency", and it seems to me that it would be stretching the meaning of this subsection quite a long way for it to be used, as the noble 958 Lord suggests, for these recreational journeys.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, there is little that I wish to add to my noble friend Lord Balerno's excellent speech, but I consider this Amendment important because without some such change many sporting activities will have to stop. One question would ask the Minister is, who are the most deserving people?
There is also a point which came up on Committee stage that I shot Id like to clear up—and I am sorry not to see the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell in his seat. He suggested that a driver in his six hours off, would be inclined to drink and become unsafe. I can tell him that he is quite wrong. This does not happen. I made a study of drivers' habits n their "off" periods, and nearly all drivers, on arriving at a terminal, have a meal and then have a few hours' sleep. After all, the P.S.V. licence is the man's livelihood, and he is not going to jeopardise his career by drink and thus risk losing his licence.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, a number of interesting points have been raised, and I feel that I am not able to reply to them. The question of the schoolteacher has been drawn to the attention of the Scottish Department, and I understand that discussions are now going on with the Scottish Education Department on the kind of point raised by the noble Lord. At the moment the nature of the problem is not fully understood. The discussions are continuing. I cannot undertake to say anything on the Third Reading, but I will find out what further information there is and I will write to the noble Lord. I think I mint give the same answer to the noble Lord. Lord Beaumont of Whitley: it depends just how big the minibus is and how many people are in it. I will consider what he has said, and I will see whether I can give him a helpful answer.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, I am afraid that Her Majesty's Government do not realise the great concern that is felt in regard to this matter in Scotland. I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, is aware of the meeting which was held in Edinburgh last Saturday. It comprised representatives of the education authorities, schools, youth club 959 organisations, physical education colleges, Boy Scouts, the Boys' Brigade, Girl Guides and others. They were all concerned with this problem, and although I was not present at this meeting I understand that subsection (10), and the possibility of exemptions through the use of that subsection, was considered. It was commonly felt that unless the exemption for recreational purposes, especially in the way described by the noble Lord, Lord Wakefield of Kendal, and others, of the school minibus (and Edinburgh probably has something like eight of these school minibuses going out regularly every weekend, driven by physical recreation instructors—and this sort of activity is growing), was written into the Bill it would be almost certain that the law would be broken, inadvertently but frequently. Obviously, it is much better to write the law in such a way that youths will not be induced to break it. There are enough youths breaking laws without the Government creating more laws for youths to break. For these reasons I feel that I cannot possibly withdraw the Amendment.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, may I make another appeal to the noble Lord? I assure him that it is not a question of changing the law; it is a matter of knowing exactly the nature of the problem, in order to draft the necessary regulation. The Bill as it now stands makes provision for dealing with precisely this kind of special case. I have given an undertaking that the Minister is considering it. We are in touch with the Scottish educational people, and I trust that it will be satisfactorily dealt with by the exemption procedure.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, may I ask: Does the clause as it stands make provision for other than emergencies? This point was raised by one of my noble friends, and I find it interesting.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, with the leave of the House, may I say that certainly the case of the skier is not an emergency. But it is a special case and the Bill provides for dealing with precisely that kind of special case.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, I should like to add something to embellish what 960 the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, said about young people driving to parties in their own cars. There is one point, based on my experience with my own children. It is an increasing practice for young people to insure their cars for one driver only in order to prevent having to lend it to friends. That means one has to drive and there is no question of sharing the driving.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, may I say a brief word to my noble friend Lord Balerno? I think he should give himself more credit than he has taken for what he has already achieved. What the Minister has told him I think indicates that the exemptions which are going to be made under subsection (10) of Clause 95 will undoubtedly cover the circumstances he has in mind. I think it is a fair point that Lord Beswick has made: that these circumstances of sporting outgoings, mountaineering and so forth would not be correctly dealt with by a general provision in the Bill and they should be looked at on merit, and it is because this has got merit that it is clearly right for it to be dealt with by exemption. I should have thought my noble friend would rest content that he has secured what he wanted.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord to make one point clear, because I do not think it was clear to my noble friend Lord Balerno? Is he saying that the exemption can be made for categories of operations and not just specific operations? If so, I should have thought this would meet my noble friend's case, particularly with regard to youth acting impulsively and at short notice. They want to have the bus right away and not have to wait for the application. If this is to be done by category, that would answer the point, but if it were a particular case it would not.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, as I have said, the Minister has taken the initiative in encouraging the coach operators and those concerned to get together. Precisely how it will be dealt with is a matter for discussion. Whether it would be by category or some other means I cannot say. That is the reason the discussions are taking place. It may 961 be better done one way or the other, but I am saying I hope that that kind of case will be met.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, if the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, had been a little more definite about categories I should have felt happier; but, to recall the words of the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, a little earlier in this debate, Ministers come and go, and unless the noble Lord and the present Minister implement this we can never be certain what kind of Government we are going to get next. Therefore we should like to see it written into the Bill more explicitly. In the past statements have been made by Ministers, guarantees have been given by Ministers, which have not been held to by the subsequent holders of those offices. If I could get that further assurance from Lord Beswick I should feel much happier.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, certainly categories are covered. What I am trying to say is that when the regulations are drawn the Minister will wish to make sensible provision for the various cases that have been brought up. It is not now possible to say exactly how the regulations will be arrived at; but certainly categories are provided for. There is provision in subsection (10)(a) for making exemption for categories.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, that is exceedingly helpful of the noble Lord. But I presume that if a category were made it would not require an individual application each time that an expedition was being made. A category would cover it, and there would not have to be an individual application at any time. The whole category would be covered. Is that the scheme?
§ LORD BESWICK
That is the general intention, certainly. It is not intended that the Minister shall issue something for a 10 o'clock journey on Tuesday the 14th, and that another application should have to be made for Wednesday the 15th. But it is difficult to say in detail the sort of regulations that will be made. However, I assure the noble Lord that he really has what he is asking for.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, on the understanding that the Government appreciate that whether an expedition 962 goes off at one week-end or another depends on the vagaries of the weather, and that there will be no unnecessary red tape in the allotment of the categories, with the agreement of my noble friend I am willing to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, with permission, I will take Amendments Nos. 66 and 67 together. These two Amendments, which are complementary, are purely drafting, to put beyond possible doubt the meaning of subsection (7) of Clause 95. I beg to move.
Page 125, line 26, leave out ("the driver does not").
Page 125, line 28, after ("week" insert ("the driver does not").—(Lord Beswick.)
§ On Question, Amendments agreed to.
LORD BESWICK moved Amendment No. 68:
Page 126, line 2, at end inset: ("or forestry").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lott s, this is an Amendment which is designed to meet the representations which were made on the Committee stage, notably those made by the Duke of Atholl. It retains the concession for both agriculture and forestry, and I hope it will be acceptable to the House. I beg to move.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
LORD BELSTEAD moved Amendment No. 69:
Page 126, line 2, at end insert ("or construction").
§ The noble Lord said: On behalf of the noble Duke, the Duke of Athol!, and other noble Lords who took an interest in the previous Amendment, adding in "or forestry" at the end of line 2 on page 126, may I say that I thin 'c the Government have given us this point, which now brings the subsection into line with the provision in the Road Traffic Act of 1960. As regards the Amendment I am now moving, as I understand it the Government thinking behind the exemption of agriculture and now forestry is that the weather necessitates sometimes short and sometimes very long hours of work at vital stages like planting and harvesting. This subject was gone into at considerable length at the previous stage. The weather equally plays its 963 part in hampering or encouraging the construction industry. At the last stage of the Bill I gave an example of a man with an hour's drive to and from work being limited to a 45-hour working week; that is a long working week, but in some circumstances both employers and employees would be happy to exceed it.
§ By chance, a Government contract in my own county illustrates this. The Government are building some form of radar station on Orford Ness, a desolate spot jutting out into the North Sea. Anyone who knows that area will realise that those on the site from November to March will be doing well if they work a 7-hour day. Next spring all concerned may wish to put in more hours, but the hours of anyone driving a vehicle on the site will be curtailed because the journey home includes a trip across a river and a journey of some twelve miles through pine forests before reaching civilisation. Yet nearby the farm or forestry worker will not be subject to drivers' hours, and in the towns men may come out of factories and go off and drive all night if they wish.
§ If driving on a construction site were similar to driving on a road, we should not have moved this Amendment again, but tipping. shovelling and hauling are not "driving" in terms of Part VI of this Bill, and certainly unless tachographs are fitted to construction site vehicles enforcement will be virtually impossible. I hope the noble Lord can, on this occasion, give a sympathetic hearing to this Amendment, which would be in line with the other two exemptions and would have an important bearing on productivity in the construction industry.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I rather feared that if we made an exception in the other case we should be asked to extend it even further, but I am sorry it is not possible to do this. The noble Lord says that tipping, shovelling and hauling are not driving, but they are tiring work and it would be quite wrong to have a situation in which a driver may be at the wheel for some four hours, and then move on to a construction site. If the Amendment were accepted it would be possible for him to work another ten or twelve hours at this tipping, shovelling, 964 or hauling and for them not to count at all. Surely this is not what the noble Lord really seeks.
I feel that there is a difference between the forestry case and that of the construction industry. Moreover, as the noble Lord himself and the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, will know, no concession to construction was made in the 1960 Act, and the reasons why the then Government were not able to make a concession in that Act are equally valid to-day. Nevertheless, my noble friend Lord Hilton, in dealing with this matter on Committee stage, said that if overwhelming reasons were brought forward in support of concessions it would be possible either by an order under subsection (12) of Clause 95, or by regulation under subsection (10), to bring in the kind of concession which has been made in the case of the forestry industry. So far no overwhelming reason has been advanced, and I am not, therefore, I am afraid, in a position to accept the case put by the noble Lord.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, does me more than justice. I regret to say that on the last occasion it was the noble Duke, the Duke of Atholl, who got the concession from the Government for forestry. I concentrated on moving a concession for the construction industry and won a concession for forestry.
What I am seeking—perhaps I have not explained it very well, and I will not labour the point—is that on a construction site a man who by chance is driving a tipper or shovel shall not necessarily be treated differently from someone working a few yards away who happens to be on his feet. However. I realise that there is a difference of opinion on this matter. The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, has dealt fully and fairly with the point, and I now know that the Government are not going to accept it. I am sorry about this, for I feel that it has a bearing on productivity in an industry in which, as my noble friend Lord Nugent has pointed out, costs are not rising, but spiralling. None the less, I thank Lord Beswick for dealing so fully and generously with the Amendment. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.965
§ 11.22 p.m.
LORD BESWICK moved Amendment No. 71:
Page 127, line 8, leave out from ("may") to ("by") in line 10.
§ The noble Lord said: This is an Amendment which, with Amendment No. 78, will give effect to the undertaking given in Committee by my noble friend Lord Stonham that the Government would table suitable Amendments to replace the obligation in subsection (12) of Clause 95 for the Minister to consult with such bodies as appear to him to be representative of the employers and employees concerned by a wider obligation relating to the whole of Part VI. The new provisions safeguard the interests of users and operators of transport, and I think that they will be acceptable to your Lordships' House. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, we said that we would adjourn at 10 o'clock, then we said 11 o'clock, and now it is twenty minutes past eleven. I think we are stretching the patience of a number of people. Therefore, as we have made considerable progress, I wonder whether noble Lords opposite will agree that we might adjourn at this stage.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, as we are in the middle of discussing drivers' hours, perhaps it is not inappropriate to think about Peers' hours, too. I agree that this might be a convenient moment at which to adjourn.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn. May I also say that, after discussions through the usual channels, it has been agreed that it may be for the convenience of a number of noble Lords, and particularly my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, that the Amendments to Part VII of the Bill—that is to say, Clauses 103 to 112, together with Schedules 12 and 13—should be taken tomorrow after Part IX; that is, Clause 130. This involves amending the Instruction made by the House on August 1 last, and a Motion for this purpose will be tabled tonight.
§ Moved, That the House do now adjourn.—(Lord Beswick.)966
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
I believe that this will meet with tie convenience of my noble friends on this side of the House.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.