HL Deb 23 October 1968 vol 296 cc1497-9

[No. 55]

Clause 55, page 82, line 3, 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;

The Commons disagreed to this Amendment for the following Reason:

[No. 56]

Because it would confer on Transport Users Consultative Committees a jurisdiction which they are not properly equipped or qualified to exercise.


My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth not insist on its Amendment No. 55 to which the Commons have disagreed. The same principle is involved as on the previous Amendment, and I therefore hope that this will be acceptable. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House doth not insist on its Amendment No. 55 to which the Commons have disagreed.—(Lord Beswick.)


My Lords, I think it is a very great pity that the Government have not made some gesture here. Clause 55 will affect all users of public transport in this country, a class of people who have had very little attention and consideration given to them recently, except by way of increases in charges and diminution in services. During the debates on this clause Ministers speaking from the Box had the miserable experience of not having one single supporter from their own side during any of the Bill's stages. The noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, is grinning now; but I think he will remember that he largely agreed with us at the end of the first long debate; he absented himself from the second; then came in and voted, apparently in a different way from what he had led us to believe his convictions were. I think there is little cause for smiling.

The noble Lord has just referred to the long-standing and considerable expertise of the railways in certain fields. It is just this long-standing and considerable expertise that the T.U.C.C.S ought to be encouraged to look into on a wider scale than their present limited powers allow. Since noble Lords on both sides of the House agreed on this point during the different stages of the Bill, I want to put it on record that I think it deplorable, if Parliament is worth anything at all, that the Government have not come any way at all to meet us—even if they do not meet us in full on this particular Amendment.


My Lords, as the original mover of this Amendment I am naturally disappointed that the Government are not able to meet us; but in particular I am puzzled by the Reason given: Because it would confer on Transport Users Consultative Committees a jurisdiction which they are not properly equipped or qualified to exercise. In the long discussions that we I had we never asked for jurisdiction over anything. All we asked was that the T.U.C.C.S should be consulted about the interests of transport users, which we took to include the quantity, quality, prices and amenities of the services rendered. However, I think that there is nothing more to be said and that we must, with regret, accept defeat.


My Lords, I think I did less than justice to this Amendment when I moved it—to be honest, I had gone one ahead. But the noble Lord has called attention to the fact that there was a good deal of support in this House for greater powers for the consultative committees. I did go so far on that occasion as to say that I did not believe the Government, of which I am a member, had so far reached the standard they ought to have achieved in this respect. I should like to make it clear, despite the few words that I said a few minutes ago, that I still hold the view that I expressed when we were considering the Bill at an earlier stage. Nevertheless, it is a fact that the Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Donaldson would not, in my judgment, have fitted into the set-up which is embodied in this Bill. I think we have a long way to go and that there is still a great deal of thinking to be done to ensure that the consumer has adequate representation. But this way is not the way; and this was the case that I made. The contrary case was forcibly and moderately put, and I should like to pay tribute to it. Nevertheless, I still lope that your Lordships will not insist on this Amendment.


My Lords, can the noble Lord give us any indication as to what processes are in view to put his noble sentiments into operation? He said that a good deal more thought was required, and so on. But the present Government have not a very great deal of time left to do it; and when we hear Front Bench spokesmen talking about long thoughts, then the time is apt to run into decades rather than months. I hope the noble Lord will give some assurance that he is going to press on his colleagues that there is at present a hiatus in the system and that something ought to be done about it.

On Question, Motion agreed to.