§ 3.22 p.m.
§ Report received.161
§ Clause 2 [Control of scaffolding on highways]:
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 4, line 26, leave out ("to erect such a structure which are")
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this Amendment is purely drafting and is designed to remove superfluous descriptive words.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Viscount AMORY moved Amendment No. 2:
After Clause 6, insert the following new clause:
§ Trading near Highways
§ .—(1) No person (other than a person selling, offering or exposing for sale or depositing for sale any foods, goods, provisions, articles or things at any market or fair for which a toll, stallage or rent is payable) shall use any shed, hut, shelter, booth, shop, stall or other erection whether on wheels or not or any vehicle or any container used with or without a stall on the verge or lay-by of any road to which this section applies or on any land adjacent to and within 15 yards of such verge, lay-by or road for the purpose of selling, offering, depositing or exposing for sale any food, goods, provisions, articles or things whatsoever other than newspapers.
§ (2) If any person contravenes the provisions of this section he shall be liable to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds and to a daily fine not exceeding five pounds.
§ (3) (a) This section applies to roads of any of the following descriptions—
- (i) all trunk roads and roads which are classified as principal roads by the Secretary of State under the Local Government Act 1966;
- (ii) any other county road, or part of a county road to which the highway authority may by order apply this section.
§ (b) Before making an order under this subsection the highway authority shall cause to be published once in each of two successive weeks in a local newspaper circulating in the locality in which the road is situated, a notice stating the general effect of the intended order and stating that within a period specified in the notice (not being less than twenty-eight days after the first publication of the notice) any person may object to the application by sending notice of his objection and of the grounds thereof to the highway authority.
§ (c) If, before the expiration of the period specified in the notice, any objection to the application is received by the highway authority, the highway authority shall consider any such objection and shall afford to any objector an opportunity of being heard by the highway authority before making the order.
§ (4) Nothing in this section shall apply to—
- (a) any shed, hut, shelter, booth, shop, stall or other erection or any vehicle placed on private property by or with the consent of
162 the owner of such property and with the permission of the highway authority;
- (b) any building erected or work constructed with the consent of the Secretary of State in pursuance of section 194 of the Law of Property Act 1925 or of any other statutory provision or any scheme made pursuant to a statute;
- (c) the sale of food, goods, provisions, articles or things from a vehicle when in use solely for the purpose of itinerant trading with the occupants of the premises adjoining any verge or land referred to in subsection (1) of this section;
- (d) the sale of food, goods, provisions, articles or things from any premises used as a shop or as a petrol filling station pursuant to a permission granted or deemed to have been granted under the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 or any order or regulation made thereunder or in respect of which an enforcement notice cannot be served under section 87 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 by virtue of subsection (3) of that section; or
- (e) the sale by the occupier of land used for agriculture or horticulture, and from such land, of the produce thereof, unless in relation to any particular location on such land a magistrates' court on the complaint of the highway authority under section 43 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1952 determines because of the use thereof for the purpose of such sale would adversely affect the safety of persons using the adjoining road that the exemption conferred by this paragraph shall not apply to that location or that the said exemption shall not apply until any condition imposed by the court in relation to access to or facilities for the parking of the vehicles of persons likely to frequent the said location in connection with such sale has been complied with.
§ (5) (a) In giving their permission under paragraph (a) of subsection (4) of this section the highway authority may attach thereto such terms and conditions as they think fit.
§ (b) Where an application is made to a highway authority for a permission under paragraph (a) of subsection (4) of this section then unless within twenty-eight days from the date of the receipt of the application the highway authority give notice to the applicant of their decision on the application the provisions of paragraph (c) of this subsection shall apply in relation to the application as if the highway authority had refused to grant the permission applied for.
§ (c) Any person aggrieved by the refusal of the highway authority to grant permission under paragraph (a) of subsection (4) of this section or by the terms and conditions attached thereto may appeal to a magistrates' court and on any such appeal, the court may—
- (i) if the appeal was against a refusal by order direct the highway authority to withdraw such refusal and to issue the permission for which application was made;
- (ii) if the appeal was against the imposition of terms or conditions direct that the permission shall as specified in the direction, have effect either unconditionally or subject to such modified terms and conditions as may be so specified.
§ (d) Any breach of any terms and conditions imposed by the highway authority under paragraph (a) of this subsection shall be deemed as regards liability to a fine equivalent to a contravention of the provisions of this section.
§ (6) In this section—
- (a) the expression "container" includes any basket, pail, tray, package or receptacle of any kind whether open or closed;
- (b) the expression "private property" does not include common land or unenclosed moorland;
- (c) the expression "vehicle" means a vehicle of any description drawn or propelled along roads whether by animal or mechanical power.
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this new clause is basically the same as one moved by my noble friend Lady Young and myself in Committee. It was then pointed out that a number of county authorities already had these powers under local legislation which they used and found valuable from the road safety point of view. I would be the last to wish to encourage authorities to take or be given any powers which are not necessary. The noble Baroness, Lady Birk, resisted the new clause at that stage on the ground—she will correct me if I am wrong—that though there were enforcement problems stemming from existing general powers under other Acts, she did not think that a case had been made for generalising the permissive special powers of control which exist in local Acts at present and which certain county councils already had, and she thought that these powers would impose specifically some hardship on long-distance lorry drivers. When the noble Baroness speaks today she will of course expand on that.
§ Subsequently the noble Baroness was kind enough to write to me repeating the conclusions which she had arrived at. Since then the Association of County Councils have corresponded with counties asking which have these powers under local Acts and what use they make of them. Of the 47 non-metropolitan counties, 36 have already replied and, as the time is very short, that is an unusually high proportion of answers to receive. Of those 36, 24 counties indicated that they have similar powers under local legislation and of those 24, 18 counties have said that they make substantial use of them. Thus, we have a starting position with 18 counties out of 47 which have and use and find these powers 164 valuable from the road safety angle. These are mostly, but not entirely, in the southern half of the Kingdom, confirming the special need for these sort of powers in areas during the holiday period. The types of traders against which action has been taken under these powers really come under six headings. The first is ice-cream traders and I see the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, immediately looking up with interest; he will no doubt have a powerful contribution to make shortly.
§ Lord LEATHERLAND
My Lords, I can put the noble Viscount's fears at rest immediately by saying that he has been wiser than the author of the previous Bill with which we were dealing in that he says that such traders must not use any shed, shelter, booth, shop or store and so on, whether on wheels or not. He has gone right to the heart of the matter.
§ Viscount AMORY
My Lords, the premises we are talking about are every conceivable thing that could be regarded as premises, be they on wheels, legs or anything else. However, I shall be prepared to answer any questions about that which noble Lords may raise and it will become clear shortly what sort of premises we are talking about. As I was saying, the first category is ice-cream traders; the second is fruit stalls; the third, hardware sales; fourth, antique sales; fifth, used car sales; and the sixth, mobile canteens. When we think of those six categories I think that noble Lords will agree that the sixth, mobile canteens, is the one that perhaps requires special consideration because I cannot think that hardware, antiques or used cars are quite in the same category. When we consider mobile canteens, only one of the six types I have quoted, I think it will be recognised that these require specially sympathetic consideration. There is in no quarter, so far as I know, any wish to deny the travelling public, or in particular long-distance lorry drivers, the facilities for refreshment that they need. Indeed, I understand that counties which have these powers often settle the mobile canteen problem by reasonable regulation rather than by prohibition, which is rather the extreme step, on particularly dangerous sections of road.
Baroness Birk indicated that the trade unions which she had consulted were 165 unhappy lest these powers, if generalised, would adversely affect the convenience of their members. That is a point which it is right to consider carefully. They have pointed out that some of the traditional lorry drivers' cafés have changed their character and become what has been called "gentrified". It is not a term with which I am familiar and your Lordships will interpret it as you think best. It may be that these are cafés at which it would be appropriate that your Lordships should call and refresh yourselves, or perhaps this may mean a café that bears the sign "Gents" written up on some appropriate location. I reserve judgment on those questions, but I believe that, if I correctly understand what is meant by the phrase, it may well be that there is something in this and that certain cafés which have traditionally been drivers' transport cafés may have become cafés of the type, for instance, which are called "Little Chef".
§ Viscount AMORY
My Lords, this is a sort of café where meals are served generally. It may be that there is something in this point. I would say to the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, that I feel sure that that is just the kind of point that the authorities responsible for road safety would consider very carefully. They would make sure that mobile canteens were regulated in such a way as to afford full facilities for those who needed them and, in particular, for long-distance lorry drivers, who certainly deserve attention. My experience of long-distance lorry drivers is that they are in general exceptionally skilled and responsible people who can be relied upon to obey and carry out excellent road discipline. They should have proper facilities.
We must remember also that, on certain much-used sections of road, a stationary vehicle pulling up unexpectedly or for even a short time may at times impose quite a severe road safety hazard. I repeat, however, that the main reason why counties wish for these powers and why those that have them value them is the road safety aspect. There are other reasons—hygiene, amenities, litter, even unfair competition—which are put up very often, but these are subsidiary to the main factor of road safety. The fact is, as I have said, that in holiday areas these unexpected stopping places—and it 166 may be that the mobile trading centre will have disappeared in a short time—can impose quite a bit of danger from the road safety point of view, as well as great inconvenience to other users.
So I believe that this is a question that can best be settled by the local authority using a permissive power of regulation which it would use in these cases far more than prohibition, which would only be used in extreme cases where it was quite clear that the section of road in question was unsuitable for the obstruction in question. I would emphasise that the permissive powers asked for are those which are already possessed by 24 counties. Your Lordships will remember that the whole aim of the Bill is to save time and expense for local authorities and to enable other authorities which wish to avail themselves of powers which are already being found useful and workable to be able to obtain them without all the expensive and laborious process of local legislation.
No problem of enforcement has, so far as I can find out, been experienced, while the more general powers that the noble Baroness may say are available under other Acts—and it is true that there are some—are clumsy, top heavy and often ineffective because, by the time the elaborate procedure of control has been carried out, the mobile trading station has moved on a few hundred yards to another point, and the whole elaborate process has to be started all over again.
I am seldom much impressed when central Government says that local authorities should not be entrusted with powers for fear they will over-use them. It is my own humble experience that it is central Government who are most likely to overuse powers and get away with it more easily than can local authorities which are more subject to local pressure if they abuse their powers. After all, local authorities are responsible bodies and experience to date, I suggest, confirms that they can safely be trusted not to abuse permissive powers which have been tried and found satisfactory by a number of other authorities in the interests of road safety. I beg to move.
§ Lord DAVIES of LEEK
My Lords, may I ask the noble Viscount a question? I know that he is so fairminded that his liberal and constructive mind would not 167 want to destroy the initiative of little people. What will happen to, say, the people of Evesham? I have knocked around the whole of Britain. I am driving my car, coming from Wales and there are lovely plums with a notice saying, "Stop here and buy some plums". I go further along and there are strawberries. Are they to be more than 15 yards back?
Sometimes there is lovely fresh mint sold out of a bucket, and there is some poor little woman with a few green vegetables on the roadside. Are we to have the local authorities strangling these poor little wenches who want to struggle against this dictatorial State?
§ Viscount AMORY
My Lords, the noble Lord spoke of being on his way from Wales. He will, I believe, find much the same on his way back to Wales. I would say that there is no question here of control of fruit and vegetables sold from the property on which they are grown. That is to say, the genuine farmer/horticulturalist or the private person who grows the fruit and vegetables on his property will be exempt.
§ Lord WYNNE-JONES
My Lords, I have not been at all clear in listening to the noble Viscount as to exactly what will happen to the mobile canteen which might be on a layby or anything of that sort. Presumably, this will now come under the local authority. I am not clear whether there will be any real right for anyone to maintain a mobile canteen on a layby on a highway. Reference is made to private property. I am not clear whether laybys are public or private property. If the former, presumably they come under the control of the local authority. Am I correct in that assumption?
§ Viscount AMORY
My Lords, I am no lawyer, but I believe that the noble Lord is correct there. However, what would happen in practice would be that the local authority would say, "This stretch of road is unsuitable for vehicles to stop on for the purposes of buying and selling, either because it is so heavily used or 168 because it is a dangerous road for vehicles to stop on".
Therefore, they would advertise that stretch of road as prohibited to mobile traders. Then they would consider, if there were protests or if traders urged that there was a very real need for their goods on the part of their customers, what other stretch of road the traders could be permitted on. The question would be decided in the light of that, and if the local authority felt that there was a need, particularly for long-distance drivers, somewhere in the vicinity for a mobile café because there was not an established "gentrified" café, then the local authority would say that it must prohibit it on one particular section of a road though not necessarily on another. That is where the consideration of road safety would be paramount. But normally it would not be a total prohibition of all trading on all roads in the area in question. Other questions, such as that mentioned by the noble Lord as to whether or not a layby is involved, would have great consideration.
I mentioned just now that in many cases the local authorities proceed not by total prohibition but by regulation, saying that something may not be permitted in one area but can be permitted in another. That seems to me to be the sensible way in which questions of this kind can be considered. Under that heading, the local authority would consider the objection. Anybody who felt aggrieved would have the right, first, to appeal to the highway authority, and I think there is also an appeal to the magistracy under certain considerations.
§ Lord WYNNE-JONES
My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount for his explanation of the point, but I should like to point out that—
§ Lord ABERDARE
My Lords, will the noble Lord give way? I should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that this is the Report stage of the Bill, but that we are now engaged in what appears to be a Committee stage. The noble Viscount, whom we all love to hear, has made three speeches and the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, has now embarked upon his second speech without the leave of the House. I suggest that we return to the normal order of a Report stage.
§ Viscount AMORY
My Lords, I apologise to the House and I shall seek to make my remaining speeches on the Third Reading.
§ Lord CLITHEROE
My Lords, I should like to draw the attention of my noble friend Lord Amory to subsection (6)(b) of the new clause where it is stated:the expression 'private property' does not include common land or unenclosed moorland".I do not quite know why that has been included because, at any rate in my part of the world, common land is private property over which a number of people have rights, and I cannot see the object of subsection (6)(b).
My Lords, I am not sure that there is not an anomaly in subsection (4)(e). My noble friend has said that people would be able to sell the produce of their land from their own property by the side of the road. But I have a strong suspicion that much of the produce sold at the side of the road from people's property is not grown on that land at all. There are more potatoes sold from farms at the side of the road than were ever grown anywhere near those farms, and the same applies to strawberries and other produce. No doubt the basis of the stall or other selling point may well be vegetables or fruit actually grown on the nearby farm, but it is not worth while for the people involved to set up a whole selling organisation in this way merely to sell their little bit of produce. They buy in produce from the local market and so make the undertaking pay in that way. I should be much happier with the Amendment if that particular form of trading were allowed to continue because it is a great boon to people living in towns who motor in the country.
§ Lord HANKEY
My Lords, clearly we want to discuss the Amendments rather carefully, and therefore, should we not ask for the leave of the House for the author of the Amendment to give the explanations for which your Lordships are asking?
§ Lord SHEPHERD
My Lords, clearly when a new Amendment arises at Report stage the House is in some difficulties—
§ Baroness YOUNG
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to point 170 out that this is not a new Amendment; we have already had a very full debate on it at the Committee stage.
§ Lord SHEPHERD
Then I can be forgiven, my Lords. This is the first occasion on which I have listened to this debate, and judging from the way questions were being put to the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, I naturally assumed that the House was considering a new Amendment. At Report stage the noble Lord who moves the Amendment is, I think, according to our Standing Orders, allowed to speak more than once, and from time to time this has been construed to cover such a noble Lord speaking two or three times. But that is not something which one should encourage. The way to conduct the debate is for the points to be made—and the House will need to co-operate so that there is not a gap between one noble Lord who speaks and another, thus ensuring continuity of debate—after which the noble Lord who is responsible for the Amendment can wind up and seek to answer the debate as a whole. This is the only way in which we can proceed according to our Standing Orders, but I do not think that we should have too much difficulty. I suggest that if the noble Viscount, Lord Amory—if it were he who moved the Amendment—were to seek the leave of the House we should grant it, let the noble Viscount answer the questions which have been raised and then reach a decision.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, it was a great advantage to me that the noble Viscount and everybody else got a little out of order, because a great many points were put to him which showed a certain disquiet among noble Lords about the Amendment, particularly as drafted at the moment. Those of us who have argued this matter through Committee stage will be aware, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, pointed out, that we have trodden this ground rather well before now. I must confess that so far nothing I have heard today convinces me that I should change my mind and accept the Amendment. I readily accept, as I have before, that some roadside traders are a nuisance. I also accept that the powers for dealing with them are cumbersome, as the noble Viscount pointed out.
Nevertheless, if a particular problem is sufficiently grave, these powers can be 171 used and indeed, they have been used. The noble Viscount also pointed out, quite rightly, that this matter applies mainly to parts of the southern half of England, but I should make it clear that the Amendment as it stands applies to the whole country, as it is an entirely blanket Amendment. The noble Viscount said that he based the main thrust of his argument on the threat to road safety, and he said that this was sufficiently grave to warrant taking these new powers against all roadside traders on all trunk and principal roads except where generally or specifically exempted. Noble Lords have already pointed out some of the problems which arise from the exemptions in the clause. Since the Committee stage my Department has once more looked deeply into this matter and has completely failed to find firm evidence of accidents in the vicinity of roadside traders.
I do not think that the question of road safety is the sole motivation behind the clause. I cannot see why it should be particularly non-hazardous to stop suddenly to buy a newspaper or to stop suddenly at one of the places which would be permissible, rather than at those which are not permissible, and so I do not think that the road safety argument stands up to a great deal of examination. I mentioned in Committee the position of the professional transport driver, and I have since gone into this even further. The noble Viscount was quite right when he pointed out—as indeed I did at Committee stage—that there are many difficulties now because so many of the places where these drivers were able to stop have disappeared or, as he pointed out, have been "gentrified", which I agree is a terrible term to use. But it is not just the "gentrification" which makes the position difficult. It is not exactly a matter concerning class or a social point, but rather that there is not room for parking lorries. They are not allowed to be parked at some of these places.
The Transport and General Workers' Union and the United Road Transport Union regard the disappearance of the traditional transport café as a serious problem. The situation would be made considerably worse if this new clause were enacted, and therefore it is quite true— 172 and I have made another thorough check on this particular point since Committee stage—that the unions are resolutely opposed to this Amendment.
This, however, is just one side of the transport industry. I have also inquired from the Road Haulage Association—which, as your Lordships know, represent the carriers for hire or reward—and the Freight Transport Association, which represent those who run their own lorry fleets. Both are entirely opposed to this clause and support the Government's line over this. They again say—and I am now referring to the employers' side of the industry—that the declining number of transport cafés is a serious problem, and the contribution that mobile canteens and other stalls are making to fill this gap is most important. So we have this very difficult problem; and although, as I say, I accept that there are problems attached to the present situation, it seems to me that, until one can find a proper, permanent alternative, to bring in this very heavy sledgehammer in order to deal with this problem would be quite wrong.
In addition, I would say, as I think has already been pointed out by my noble friends and also by noble Lords on the other side, that a considerable majority of private motorists would also see the sweeping away of all these traders as a further bureaucratic intrusion on their pleasures. Whether this is done by local authorities or by central Government I do not think makes much difference if you are wanting, as my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek pointed out, to buy goods at the roadside. And the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, was entirely right when he pointed to the difficulty, in this clause, of distinguishing between people who sell produce they have grown and people who sell produce they have grown plus a good deal of produce they have brought in. I would remind the House that this new clause would apply to all highway authorities. It would place a duty on them all, whether or not they regarded roadside trading as a problem, to set up machinery to consider all the individual cases and to issue licences. I find it astonishing to be pressed so hard by noble Lords on the other side of the House at this time to set up another piece of bureaucratic machinery of this sort.
173 My Lords, if in any area these problems are so serious that only a sweeping power of this kind would do and the authority wished to seek private powers to deal with them, then they would have to do so; but we really do not believe that the situation—certainly, I am quite convinced, on the road safety side—is serious enough to warrant this. Further, the whole attitude of the freight industry and the transport industry is something which the Government could not possibly ignore at this time. I therefore hope that the House will resist this Amendment.
§ Baroness YOUNG
My Lords, I think the House may be somewhat misled as to what this Amendment is designed to do if it is thought that immediately this becomes law every single roadside café in the country is going to be removed. I do not think this is what will happen at all. What I think is true is this. The Association of County Councils know that already 24 out of the 47 county councils have these powers, and 18 of them use them extensively because they feel that they have been beneficial to the area. The entire debate has hinged on roadside cafés, and yet there are a great many other organisations which would be covered by this provision; for example, selling used cars by the roadside. As things stand at the moment, anybody is entitled just to set up and sell used cars by any stretch of the roadside, or antiques, fruit stalls, ice-cream or food.
Quite apart from the merits or otherwise of whether it is desirable to have these sort of things in, for instance, a National Park, which is at present permissible, I think there is a very real point about selling food on the question of hygiene. I do not know whether or not the House is aware of it, but none of these places has to be licensed except outside London, so itinerant food sellers can set up outside the jurisdiction of the public health inspector; and at a time when I should have thought it was the wish of everybody to raise our living standards, to deny legislation in order, so far as I can see, to lower the level of our living standard seems to me a very strange proposition for a country in the latter half of the 20th century.
My Lords, I have been in local government, and I believe that one must accept 174 that local authorities are responsible and would not wish to deny to the people using their areas a service which is obviously required; but the fact is that, as the noble Baroness said at Committee stage, to deal with the problem by tackling the nuisances is a very complex question. Suppose it is believed that there is danger on the highway. If it is a question of obstruction, then it is for the police to take action and they must prove a case of danger—and this usually means that people have been killed, not simply that it is a danger. Alternatively, a local authority may take action under the planning procedures. This means finding out the owners of the land and the name and address of the stallholder; and, as someone has quite rightly said, the stallholder can simply move 100 yards down the road and the whole procedure falls to the ground.
On the question of hygiene, as I have already indicated, except outside London these establishments do not have to be licensed, and so they cannot be inspected and there cannot be a standard enforced except under the general regulations. So, far from trying to prevent things happening we are, I hope, trying to encourage an improved standard of appearance in the countryside and an improved standard of catering facilities for those who require them; and I fully appreciate the needs of, particularly, the long-distance lorry drivers.
I think it is difficult for us on this side of the House to know why such an Amendment is unacceptable. The basis of this Bill, as my noble friend Lord Amory has said, is that the powers should be precedented—as indeed these powers are extensively precedented in local authority legislation, Private Acts—and that they are desired by local authorities, who would otherwise promote Private Bills. I hope very much that the noble Baroness will reconsider this.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ Viscount AMORY
My Lords, I hardly dare ask the House whether I may have the right of reply after this. I realise that it reduces by one the speeches I can make in the future. My reply is therefore going to be very short indeed. The noble Baroness said, I think, that this would be applying a sledgehammer. I would just 175 remind the House once again that 24 out of 47 non-metropolitan councils already have these powers, and that 18 of them use them extensively and find them valuable. So I do not think that comparison with a sledgehammer is quite reasonable. The noble Baroness said that it was extending the powers generally to the whole of the United Kingdom. That would be true, but they are in essence permissive powers, and local authorities can give exemptions from them in every case which they consider reasonable.
Finally, the noble Baroness mentioned the fact that the unions are feeling so unhappy about this. The question I should like to ask the unions if they were here—because one would like to be sure exactly what they feel on this—is: Have they any objections to the way these powers are at present being used by the 18 authorities which use them actively? So far as I know they have not, but they are
§ thinking that the powers in themselves might open the way to the objections which they have in mind. I think it is relevant to ask them whether they have objections to the way these powers are being used at present by the 18 authorities.
§ In the absence of any specific replies there, I should have thought one could to some extent discount their fears. I still think that this is a reasonable power to make available to the other local authorities who feel that they could use them usefully particularly, as my noble friend said, in the direction of road safety and hygiene. I have spoken often enough on this subject and I commend this new clause to the House.
§ 4.1 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 103; Not-Contents, 81.177
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Goschen, V.||Northchurch, B.|
|Alport, L.||Grenfell, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Grey of Naunton, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Amory, V.||Gridley, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Arran, E.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Reigate, L.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Robbins, L.|
|Barnby, L.||Roberthall, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Halsbury, E.||Romney, E.|
|Berkeley, B.||Hankey, L.||Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.|
|Caccia, L.||Hanworth, V.||Sackville, L.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Harmar-Nicholls, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Carr of Hadley, L.||Hatherton, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Carrington, L.||Hayter, L.||St. Helens, L.|
|Clitheroe, L.||Home of the Hirsel, L.||Saint Oswald, L.|
|Clwyd, L.||Hood, V.||Sandford, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Hunt, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Cromartie, E.||Hylton-Foster, B.||Semphill, Ly.|
|Daventry, V.||Inglewood, L.||Sharples, B.|
|de Clifford, L.||Jessel, L.||Somers, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Killearn, L.||Spens, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Kimberley, E.||Stamp, L.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Kinloss, Ly.||Strang, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Kinnoull, E.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Dundonald, E.||Lauderdale, E.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Eccles, V.||Long, V.||Strathspey, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Loudoun, C.||Sudeley, L.|
|Elton, L.||Lyell, L.||Tenby, V.|
|Emmet of Amberley, B.||Marley, L.||Terrington, L.|
|Erskine of Rerrick, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Teviot, L.|
|Faithfull, B.||Monck, V.||Tranmire, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Monckton of Brenchley, V.||Vernon, L.|
|Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Morris, L.||Vickers, B.|
|Geoffrey-Lloyd, L.||Mountgarret, V.||Vivian, L.|
|Glasgow, E.||Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]||Ward of North Tyneside, B.|
|Glendevon, L.||Young, B.|
|Amherst, E.||Feather, L.||Pargiter, L.|
|Amulree, L.||Fisher of Camden, L.||Phillips, B.|
|Arwyn, L.||Fisher of Rednal, B.||Platt, L.|
|Atholl, D.||Gaitskell, B.||Popplewell, L.|
|Avebury, L.||Gardiner, L.||Rhodes, L.|
|Banks, L.||Gordon-Walker, L.||Ritchie-Calder, L.|
|Birk, B.||Gray, L.||Rusholme, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Hale, L.||Sainsbury, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Harris of Greenwich, L.||Samuel, V.|
|Burton of Coventry, B.||Henderson, L.||Seear, B.|
|Campbell of Eskan, L.||Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Segal, L.|
|Castle, L.||Hoy, L.||Shepherd, L. (L. Privy Seal)|
|Champion, L.||Hughes, L.||Slater, L.|
|Chorley, L.||Jacques, L.||Snow, L.|
|Collison, L.||Janner, L.||Stedman, B. [Teller.]|
|Cooper of Stockton Heath, L.||Leatherland, L.||Stow Hill, L.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Lee of Newton, L.||Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]|
|Crook, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Crowther-Hunt, L.||Lloyd of Hampstead, L.||Vaizey, L.|
|Darling of Hillsborough, L.||Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.||Wade, L.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Lyons of Brighton, L.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Davies of Penrhys, L.||McCarthy, L.||Walston, L.|
|Delacourt-Smith of Alteryn, B.||Mackie of Benshie, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Douglas of Barloch, L.||Ogmore, L.||White, B.|
|Douglass of Cleveland, L.||Oram, L.||Winterbottom, L.|
|Durham, Bp.||Paget of Northampton, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Pannell, L.||Wynne-Jones, L.|
|Evans of Hungershall, L.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ Clause 11 [Provisions supplementary to s.10]:
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 12, line 41, at end insert ("; and section 80 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (which among other things provides that regulations under subsection (1) of that section may repeal or modify any provision to which that subsection applies if it appears to the authority making the regulations that it is expedient to do so in consequence of any provision made by or under Part I of that Act) shall have effect as if the provisions to which subsection (1) of that section applies included subsection (1) of this section and byelaws in force by virtue of subsection (1) of this section.").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the effect of the Amendment is to enable regulations made under Part I of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 to repeal or amend byelaws made under Clause 11 of the Bill where the latter conflict or are otherwise incompatible with the 1974 Act or instruments made under it. Under the wide powers given by Part I of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 regulations may be made covering every conceivable aspect of health and safety in relation to work-people in any type of work. Subsection (1) 178 of Clause 11 authorises local authorities to make byelaws governing the works and apparatus to be provided or used by persons other than the authority in connection with the supply of heat.
§ As it is possible that these byelaws might deal with the design and specification of works and apparatus, it is possible that conflict might arise with regulations made or to be made under the 1974 Act. To avoid this, the Amendment enables the regulations to repeal or modify any provision of the byelaws which might be inconsistent with or unnecessary in consequence of the regulations. Clause 11(3) already enables building regulations (which are made under Part III of the 1974 Act) to repeal or alter subsection (1) of the clause or any provision of byelaws made under it. I beg to move.
§ Clause 15 [Power of local authorities to obtain particulars of persons interested in land]:
§ 4.12 p.m.
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 4:
Page 18, line 41, leave out ("for the purpose of") and insert ("with a view to").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, with the leave of the House I will speak to 179 Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 as they are connected. They are both drafting Amendments. The first makes it clear that a local authority may seek information under the clause before it is actually committed to performing the function for which it needs the information. The second is designed to correct an inconsistency with the remainder of the clause. Information required may be either a name and address or the nature of an interest. It is therefore inaccurate to make the service of a notice dependent on the need to know only a name and address. I beg to move Amendment No. 4.
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 5:
Page 18, leave out line 43 and insert ("considers that it ought to have information connected with").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 5 formally.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ Baroness BIRK moved Amendments Nos. 6 and 7:
Page 19, line 6, at end insert ("; and
(c) any person who, in pursuance of an agreement between himself and a person interested in the land, is authorised to manage the land or to arrange for the letting of it.").
Page 19, line 15, leave out ("paragraph (b)") and insert ("the provisions of paragraphs (b) and (c)").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, with the leave of the House I should like to move Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 together. These Amendments are complementary and are designed to make Clause 15 more effective by catering for a situation which might otherwise be exploited as a means of avoiding compliance with a notice.
§ As drafted, Clause 15 enables a notice to be served on the occupier of the land and anyone with an interest in the land as a freeholder, mortgagee or lessee, or anyone who directly or indirectly receives rent for the land. Where, however, a person with an interest in land delegates its management and responsibility for its letting, the local authority can often only identify and make effective inquiries of the agent. The Amendment enables this to be 180 done and will, for example, help local authorities to trace landlords who attempt to avoid compliance with statutory notices by passing control or ownership of their properties from one company to another. I beg to move.
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 8:
Page 19, line 20, leave out ("name or address") and insert ("information").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this Amendment makes it an offence knowingly to supply any false information under the clause and not just a false name and address. The Amendment corrects a drafting error in Clause 15. It is necessary because the clause not only requires the recipient of a notice to state the name and address of persons with certain interests in the land but also to state the nature of his own interest. As the clause stands, it would be an offence knowingly to make a false statement regarding the former but not regarding the latter. Clearly all information provided under the clause should be supplied on the same basis. I beg to move.
§ Clause 17 [Licensing of pleasure boats and boatmen]:
§ 4.16 p.m.
Lord STOW HILL moved Amendment No. 9:
Leave out Clause 17.
§ The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move to leave out Clause 17 of the Bill. That sounds a rather cryptic proposal but its objective is the reverse: to introduce clarity into a situation in which there is now obscurity. I have taken the step of bringing to the notice of the Minister—and I believe that my noble friend Lord Harris proposes to reply—the purpose I have in mind in moving the present Amendment which I hope your Lordships will think has a proper and useful purpose.
§ To explain the background before coming to the precise point, it is this. Clause 17 amends Section 94 of the Public Health Amendment Act 1907. A difference of opinion has arisen between the legal advisers of the Department of 181 the Environment and the legal advisers of the British Waterways Board. The British Waterways Board was set up under the Transport Act 1962. It owns a number of navigable waters. Under the Water Act 1971 it was, in addition, created the navigation authority for a number of other navigable waters. It has managed those waters and they are very extensively used for pleasure purposes by persons who navigate upon those waters. The doubt that has arisen is this. Does Clause 17 produce the result for which the Board contends or for which the Department of the Environment contend?
§ This is exactly on what they differ. Clause 17 is designed to affect craft which are hired to be used on the waters in question and it empowers local authorities to impose in respect of craft hired for use on those waterways the obligation to be registered and also for those who navigate those craft to be registered. A number of the waterways concerned which will be within the purview of Clause 17, and in respect of which therefore the local authorities will have power to register both the navigators of the craft used for hire and the craft themselves, will be the same, identical waters as those which are vested in the Waterways Board either under the 1962 Transport Act or the 1971 British Waterways Act, and there therefore arises a double jurisdiction. The local authorities are empowered to take steps for the purpose of registration not only of the navigators but of the vessels themselves. Equally, the Board has long had those powers because they are navigable waters vested in the Board, or for which the Board is the navigation authority.
§ The question arises as to what is meant by "vessels used for hire". Two meanings can be put upon that. You can either hire a vessel for the purpose of inviting on it passengers who will pay you to be carried as passengers; or you can hire a vessel simply for your own pleasure and your own use—you wish to navigate it yourself and to invite your family or four favourite lady acquaintance upon it. That is a quite different user.
§ The difference of opinion which has risen is this: The legal advisers of the Board has advised them that the effect of Clause 17 is not only to put it in the 182 power of local authorities to register and impose charges in respect of vessels which are hired for the carriage of passengers—that will involve in any case a dual jurisdiction but perhaps it is not quite so unreasonable—but also to impose on the ordinary private hirer who wants to take out a motor boat for his own personal use and cruise up and down these waters the obligations both for himself and for the craft to be registered. He is almost certainly registered at the moment with the Board, and if Clause 17 has the effect of enabling a local authority to require him to be registered and for his craft to be registered again, a really rather unreasonable result—so it is submitted to your Lordships—would ensue.
§ It is submitted that, whatever Clause 17 does, it should not require a person who hires a craft to use simply for his own use, or for the pleasure of his own family or friends, to be registered both by the local authority and to submit to the registration which he has already undertaken at the instance of the Board in the management of the waters vested in it or the waters for which it is the navigation authority. The Board's advisers say that the effect of Clause 17 is that that private hirer, if I may so describe him, will have to submit to those dual registration systems. On the other hand, the advisers to the Department of the Environment say that is not the case; the effect of Clause 17 does not require him to submit to this dual registration. I am assuming it would not be the wish of the Department of the Environment that that unfortunate private user of a hired vessel should have to submit to those two classes of registration.
§ The matter takes on a more practical form for this reason: The Local Government Act 1972 had the effect of putting to an end a requirement which existed up to the time that Act was passed, that a scheme for registration and the imposition of charges by a local authority should not be operative except with the consent of the Secretary of State. That is done by Schedule 14 to the Local Government Act 1972, in paragraph 23. Therefore the acid question before your Lordships is this: Is the private hirer to have to submit to two separate systems of registration and to have to pay two separate sets of charges in respect of the craft which he hires and in respect of himself? If the 183 answer is that Clause 17 produces that result, then in my submission Clause 17 is wholly unjustifiable and ought to be amended so as to exclude from its operation the private hirer of a pleasure craft.
§ As I have said, I took steps to bring this to the notice of Ministers. I believe that my noble friend Lord Harris is to answer for the Home Office, and the Home Office have a very distinct interest in this matter. I brought to their notice exactly what was the object of this Amendment. I would suggest that it is not satisfactory to leave the matter obscure and wait for it to be decided by the courts at some future time. The courts are the only authority which can decisively rule on the matter and say what the effect of Clause 17 is; but they may not have a case before them for years. Meanwhile, at least one local authority has, I believe, concluded that it would be empowered by Clause 17 to require registration of a private hirer of this sort.
§ In my submission, it would be unsatisfactory to leave the matter over to be decided by the courts at some possibly distant date. A large number of people are affected. A great many people derive intense pleasure from navigating on these waters in craft which they hire simply for their own pleasure and for the pleasure of their families and friends. It is only reasonable that they should know how they stand. They ought not to have to register twice, and it should be made plain beyond doubt that they do not have to. My objective in moving this Amendment is to make it certain as soon as possible whether or not they have to.
§ The proposal which I make is this. It may be that my noble friend would agree that a convenient way of dealing with the matter would be for him to invite the Law Officers of the Crown to express an opinion and, if they feel there is uncertainty in the matter, perhaps my noble friend would feel it right to undertake on Third Reading to put down an Amendment which would make it perfectly plain that the private hirer is not included. That would be a simple way of going about the matter and, as I said, I have brought it to the notice of Ministers. I would suggest that is a ready and convenient way of dealing with this problem which, as I have said, affects a great many people who ought to know where they stand. I hope I have made the 184 object of this Amendment clear to your Lordships and I hope that my noble friend the Minister will be able to say that he feels there is something to commend my proposal. I beg to move.
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, for putting down this Amendment because he has in fact high-lighted what I believe to be a duplication of effort here. Clearly, on the face of it, if there is duplication of effort, this would seem to be wrong.
My concern is largely over those types of boats which are known as "live-aboard boats"—the type of boat that you hire for a week to go with your family on to the canals or the Broads and cruise around in. At the moment those people who hire out such boats must have a licence for safety, and this licensing system is operated by the local authorities, covering such things (from the point of view of safety) as diesel, butane, calor gas and lifebelts. This aspect of licensing for safety was operated by local authorities 'way back in the 1910s and 1920s; but in the 1930s navigation authorities were given by law the duty of making provision for safety purposes, and this duty has been carried out by them ever since.
As I understand it, with this clause in the Bill two sets of licences will be required for what is virtually the same thing. Once this Bill becomes law, anyone who wishes to hire out a boat for other people to use with their families and to navigate themselves will not be able to do so, unless they get a certificate for safety from the navigation authority, as well as another certificate for safety from the local authority.
If this happens there will be two results both of which will be detrimental. First it will be a fearful waste of time and money to have two sets of people doing the same job. Secondly, whereas at the moment navigation authorities have responsibility and there is a degree of uniformity of operation and of requirements through out the whole waterway system, once the local authorities are allowed to take hold of this responsibility there will be fragmentation of effort and of requirements Therefore, I hope that the Government will think very seriously and see whether it is possible to leave the requirement for 185 safety licensing to navigation authorities, who have done this task perfectly well in the past and are the people with the necessary expertise and knowledge, and not let local authorities be in on the game as well.
§ The MINISTER of STATE, HOME OFFICE (Lord Harris of Greenwich.)
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble and learned friend Lord Stow Hill, and to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, for drawing attention to this matter. The effect of removing Clause 17 from the Bill—and I am well aware that my noble and learned friend does not intend to press this Amendment—would be to prevent two rather desirable amendments from being made to Section 94 of the Public Health Acts Amendment Act 1907, which gives local authorities discretionary power to license boats and boatmen. Clause 17 does not extend the licensing powers of local authorities, but remedies two anomalies in Section 94. It removes the unnecessary provision that requires a boatman's assistant to be licensed, and it fills a lacuna by making it an offence for a boatman to operate without a licence.
As my noble and learned friend has pointed out, the British Waterways Board have expressed concern about the effect of Clause 17. They have interpreted the amended Section 94 to mean that people who hire a boat for an hour, a day or a week for the use of their family and friends will have to be licensed. In fact, Section 94(3) as amended, does not in our view affect the private hirer but makes it an offence for a person to carry passengers for hire without a licence. So far as the private hirer is concerned, the amendments in Clause 17 make no real difference to the existing situation.
There is a separate question on the duplication of licensing powers between local authorities and navigation authorities, such as the British Waterways Board or the Thames Conservancy Board. On some waterways, licences could be required by two authorities. It is, however, outside the scope of the Miscellaneous Provisions Bill, which is designed to give general effect to provisions well precedented in local Acts, to remedy this anomaly.
My noble and learned friend has pointed out that there has been disagree 186 ment between the Department of the Environment and the Home Office and the British Waterways Board, and as a result of that there is to be a meeting between the Board and the Government Departments concerned to try to work their way through this problem. I very much hope that this will succeed in resolving the difficulties, but if there is continuing dispute we will certainly take appropriate legal advice. As my noble and learned friend pointed out, we can come back to this matter on Third Reading should it be necessary, but, certainly, the Departments concerned will do their best to resolve this problem before then.
§ Lord STOW HILL
My Lords, I think it is within the Rules of Order for me 'to reply shortly, and I desire to do so for the purpose of thanking my noble friend for what he has said. He has said that there will be a meeting which it is hoped may resolve the whole difficulty—if it does, well and good—and that, in any event, we can revert to this on Third Reading. My noble friend having said that, I think my right course would be to ask your Lordships' leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 18 [Recreational facilities]:
§ 4.35 p.m.
Lord DE CLIFFORD moved Amendment No. 10:
Page 21, line 14, after ("camp sites") insert (",nature reserves")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move this Amendment on behalf of my noble friend Lord Cranbrook and myself. I moved a similar Amendment in Committee, when it appeared that there was general acceptance of the principle, but the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, said in reply that she felt that the insertion of these words was unnecessary. She pointed out that under Section 21 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 powers existed to do precisely this, but on further scrutiny I find that she may have overlooked the fact that certain councils were omitted. I understand that that Act gives powers to county councils, county borough councils and, in certain circumstances, district councils, but not parish councils. As I believe we have all agreed in principle that they should have powers to do this, I ask your Lordships to insert these words so as to make the 187 position quite clear. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ The Earl of CRANBROOK
My Lords, I should like to remind the noble Baroness that there are now parish councils which were formerly district councils, and which had this power and exercised it when they were district councils, but they have now been amalgamated with others to form one large district. There has been quite a considerable development, too, since the passing of the 1949 Act. Perhaps the noble Baroness has considered the recent report by the Agricultural Advisory Service on semi-natural habitats on farms, in which they drew attention to the number of small habitats which are very appropriate places to establish small nature reserves, and would be wholly applicable to small parishes as well as to larger parishes which used to run larger nature reserves.
This is concerned only with recreation. I remember going to a nature reserve run by a large urban district, through which they had driven some concrete footpaths, and to which visitors—it was a seaside resort—went with great pleasure. They could look at the birds and alight from the concrete footpaths, but most of the women had high heels and silk stockings and the local authority, very wisely, left a good big bank of brambles and nettles to prevent too much straying. But it was an admirable form of recreation for the visitors, and an admirable nature reserve to preserve animals which might otherwise have disappeared.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, as I explained in Committee, when we were discussing the noble Earl's earlier Amendment, local authorities already have powers under Section 21 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 to provide nature reserves. These powers must be exercised in consultation with the Nature Conservancy Council and the arrangements have worked satisfactorily for many years. As the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, has said, it is true that the powers do not extend to parish and community councils, and I have corresponded with them about it. There was a certain amount of confusion at the Committee stage because the noble Earl was not here and I did not know 188 then that he was referring specifically to parish councils. Nevertheless, although it is now quite clear to what the noble Earl and the noble Lord, Lord de Clifford, are referring, the position is that these powers have now gone to the new district councils, a fact brought about by the reorganisation of local government.
The term "nature reserve" has a well understood meaning in this country. It implies certain levels of scientific input and management that are not, I believe, within the normal competence or resources of most parish or community councils. While I am anxious to see the establishment of as many nature reserves as possible, my view—which is also the view of the Nature Conservancy Council—is that there should not be a lowering of the standard of what is statutorily classified as a nature reserve.
Furthermore, a nature reserve is not a recreational facility. The aim should undoubtedly be the maximum of public access consistent with the conservation of the fauna and flora or geophysical features. But conservation must be the predominant interest and the intention of public access should be educational. To introduce an educational function into the illustration would, moreover, throw doubt on the meaning of "recreational" in subsection (1). Therefore, even if it were right to extend such powers in the 1949 Act to parishes, I do not believe that this is the right place to do it; and even if it were the right place to do it, more would be required than this simple Amendment. In other words, there has been a change due to the reorganisation of local government.
It is true that this does not apply to parish or community councils, but it does apply to other local authorities. While I understand the concern of the noble Earl and the noble Lord and what they are trying to achieve by their Amendment, my view—which is also the view of the Nature Conservancy Council—is that it is still right that the paragraph should remain as it is. That being the case, I hope that the noble Lords will withdraw their Amendment.
§ The Earl of CRANBROOK
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down may I ask her whether she has consulted the Nature Conservancy Council?
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, I am advised that the Nature Conservancy Council take this view about the matter. I have not spoken to them personally but I made inquiries of the Nature Conservancy Council and was assured that this was their view.
Lord DE CLIFFORD
My Lords, having listened to the noble Baroness, I am still not wholly convinced that what she says is right. One might have to look at this matter a little more closely to see whether or not there is another approach to it. These small nature reserves are very good features. They are to be found in a number of places, and sometimes they are as small as a quarter of an acre. Special plants, birds and insect life are very well preserved there by people who love them very dearly, take great care of them and see that they do not vanish. While I would not ask the House to go any further at this moment, I feel that we should reserve our position so that we may continue to look at this point. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 19 [Provision of sanitary appliances at places of entertainment]:
§ 4.44 p.m.
Baroness BIRK[...] moved Amendment No. 11:
Page 23, line 44, leave out from ("shall") to end of subsection and insert ("be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £400 or, on conviction on indictment, to a fine; and if after the conviction of a person of such an offence the failure in question continues he shall, as respects each day on which it continues, be guilty of a further offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £50 or, on conviction on indictment, to a fine.").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this Amendment is concerned with the penalty for non-compliance with a notice served under Clause 19. It sets a fine of £400 plus £50 a clay for failure after summary conviction to comply, or a fine on indictment and a daily fine for subsequent failure to comply.
§ The maximum fine nowadays on summary conviction generally is £400. Under the original clause, a fine of £100 could be imposed for every day on which the failure occurred, whether before or after 190 the first conviction. The Amendment penalty proposed on summary conviction is a maximum fine of £400, and where the failure to comply continues after conviction a maximum fine of £50 a day. For more serious cases there will be an unlimited fine on conviction on indictment. These will be cases where the penalties on summary conviction were considered to be inadequate—for example, because it might be more economical to pay the fine on summary conviction than to comply with the notice. This is in line with the increase in fines generally—in fact, to keep up with inflation. I beg to move.
§ Lord ROBBINS
My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness whether it is the intention of the Government that the fine shall diminish in real terms in successive years? Since at the moment fines are defined in money terms, since inflation is proceeding at the rate of perhaps 14 to 15 per cent. and since, even if the Government's ambitions are realised, inflation will not be down to single figures for some time, and probably will persist at a fairly high level in single figures after that, it means that if the fine is defined in money terms it will be a tapering fine. I suggest that this point applies both to this and to many other clauses in the Bill and in other Acts. The right thing to do is to define the fines in real terms and have inserted in the Schedule a definition of real terms. The definition would run in terms of one of the recognised indices of retail prices, or something of that kind.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, I take the noble Lord's point. He says, quite rightly, that this would apply to a much wider range of fines—in fact, to most fines on summary conviction. I think that the noble Lord will agree that this is not the Bill (nor is it, indeed, my Department's job) in which to deal with something which would cut across the whole area of summary conviction. Here we are trying to increase the fine on summary conviction, but where it is a very much more serious case then the fine on indictment will be unlimited. It is at this point that the noble Lord's point regarding inflation will bite. It is true that this does not cover the noble Lord's point about there being any connection with the retail price index. It is 191 an interesting thought, but it is a matter for my colleagues at the Home Office to consider, and probably the Lord Chancellor also. I should be in trouble not only generally but among my colleagues if I undertook to jump in there. However, I assure the noble Lord that this Amendment relates only to summary conviction—the more minor offences—and that we have quadrupled the fine. However, for graver offences the fine will be unlimited.
§ 4.49 p.m.
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 12:
Page 24, line 3, leave out ("show") and insert ("prove").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is a drafting Amendment to produce consistency between subsections (7) and (8). It would be wrong to use the word "show" where "prove" is used in the same context elsewhere in the clause. I am sure that anything that produces greater consistency in any piece of legislation will be welcome. Therefore I beg to move.
§ Baroness YOUNG
My Lords, I appreciate the point that the noble Baroness has made; that is, that the Amendment makes subsections (7) and (8) consistent. On the other hand, subsection (7) is a very important matter because it indicates the defence of a person upon whom the notice is served and upon whom we have just agreed the maximum fine could be imposed. In other words, that person has to prove that he is neither the owner nor the occupier of the relevant place in question. I am not a lawyer, but I should have thought that there must be a distinction between "show" and "prove" and that to prove must be a much more difficult thing to do than to show that you are not the owner or the occupier, yet from the point of view of the individual concerned it must be a matter of extreme importance.
I do not necessarily expect an answer this afternoon if the noble Baroness cannot give one, but perhaps she will write to me about the matter. I hesitate to let this go without comment, because it seems to me that it might well affect individuals quite seriously.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, I will certainly write to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, but I would point out that if she will look at the next subsection, subsection (8), she will see that this has been accepted, in that it says,it shall be a defence to prove that on that day the relevant place in question was closed to members of the public ….So this is really making it consistent. I think if you have to show to people's satisfaction you are really proving it, but if I find there is any difference I will write to the noble Baroness. On the other hand, if the lawyers advise me that what I have said is absolutely to the point, I will save the postage stamp, on behalf of public expenditure.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 13:
§ After Clause 21 insert the following new clause:
§ "Power of certain councils with respect of dangerous excavations.
§ .—(1) Where a district council, a London borough council or the Common Council—
- (a) considers that an excavation made at any time by some person on land in the area of the council is accessible to the public from a highway or a place of public resort and, by reason of its being unenclosed or inadequately enclosed, is a danger to the public; and
- (b) knows the name and address of no person appearing to the council to be an owner or occupier of the land on which it appears to the council that works to remove the danger should be carried out and either—
- (i) has made reasonable but unsuccessful enquiries for the purpose of ascertaining the name and address of such a person, or
- (ii) considers that in view of the imminence of the danger the delay involved in making enquiries or further enquiries about the name and address of such a person is unwarranted,
§ (2) Where such a council—
- (a) considers that an excavation made at any time by some person on land in the area of the council is as mentioned in paragraph (a) of the preceding subsection; and
- (b) knows the name and address of a person appearing to the council to be an owner or occupier of the land on which it appears to the council that works to remove the danger in question should be carried out,
193 the council may serve on an owner or occupier of the land a notice specifying the excavation and stating that the council proposes to carry out, for the purpose of removing the danger in question, such works as are specified in the notice at such places on the land as are so specified.
§ (3) If any person having an interest in or a right over land in respect of which a notice is served in pursuance of the preceding subsection objects to the notice on one or more of the following grounds, namely—
- (a) that the excavation is not a danger to the public; or
- (b) that works other than some or all of those specified in the notice are appropriate for the purpose of removing the danger; or
- (c) that places other than some or all of those so specified are appropriate as the site of works for removing the danger,
§ (4) On such an appeal the court shall either quash the notice or dismiss the appeal or, where a ground of the appeal is the ground specified in paragraph (b) or (c) of the preceding subsection, modify the notice so that it refers only to works or, as the case may be, places which the appellant agrees or the appellants agree are appropriate for the purpose of removing the danger; but the notice shall not be modified by the court so as to refer to a place on land of which no appellant is an owner or occupier.
§ (5) If no appeal in pursuance of subsection (3) of this section is made against a notice within the period mentioned in that subsection or if on such an appeal the appeal is dismissed or the notice is modified as mentioned in the preceding subsection, the council which served the notice may, at any time after the expiration of that period or, as the case may be, after the appeal is dismissed or the notice is modified, carry out the works specified in the notice at the places so specified.
§ (6) It shall be the duty of a council by which works have been carried out in pursuance of this section to maintain and repair the works except—
- (a) so far as they consist of the filling in of the excavation in question;
- (b) after the works have been removed in pursuance of the following subsection;
- (c) in a case where the council has agreed with a person who is for the time being a owner or occupier of the land on which the works are situated that he shall maintain and repair the works and he has performed his obligations under the agreement.
§ (7) Where it appears to a council by which works have been carried out in pursuance of this section that if the works were removed the excavation in question would not be a danger to the public, then—
- (a) the council may remove the works; and
- (b) it shall be the duty of the council to remove the works, except so far as they consist of the filling in of the excavation in question, if it is requested to do so by a person having an interest in or a right over the land on which the works are situated.
§ (8) Without prejudice to the powers conferred by section 137 of the Local Government Act 1972 (which authorises a local authority to incur expenditure which it considers is in the interests of its area or inhabitants of its area), a district council, a London borough council or the Common Council may pay to any person the whole or part of the expenses incurred by him in carrying out works for preventing or removing danger to the public from an excavation made at any time by some person on land in the area of the authority, whether or not the person who incurred the expenses had a duty to carry out any such works."
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will move Amendment No. 13 and at the same time speak to Amendment No. 14, because these are two very lengthy Amendments and as one deals with the substance and the other with supplementary matters they are inextricably linked together. The subject of these two clauses has been discussed, but not in this House. In Committee in another place a new clause was tabled by the Opposition which would have had the effect of permitting local authorities to enclose dangerous places, but it was withdrawn when the Government spokesman gave an undertaking that consideration would be given to the preparation of a Government Amendment. The complexity of the issues involved and, as noble Lords will have seen, the length of these two new clauses has unfortunately meant that the Amendments have been some time in preparation so that it is not until now, at Report stage, that I am able to move these two new clauses.
§ The holes with which we intend these clauses to deal, although not on public property may nevertheless be readily accessible to the public. Deaths or injuries by falling or drowning, especially to children, naturally—it says in my brief, "give rise to strong local feeling". I certainly think it would give rise to very strong feeling. As a result, some local authorities have sought and been granted these powers in local Acts and the new clauses are designed to enable local authorities to take action in such circumstances.
§ The clauses do not apply to natural depressions in the ground. They refer only to man-made excavations such as wells, shafts and pits which may or may not be filled with water. They are the sort of place which will have gained a degree of notoriety in the locality. It is 195 obviously not our intention that the powers should be applied to tracts of water such as reservoirs or ponds, access to which may be desirable for recreational or amenity purposes. Local authorities can certainly be expected to act responsibly in deciding whether to take action under the powers. The operational land of statutory undertakers is excepted from the clause, and in the case of the National Coal Board the land to be excepted will be specified in regulations because of the peculiar character of the land used by the Board for their operations. In respect of other land of undertakers or the Board the powers will apply as they apply elsewhere.
§ I should make it clear that we see these clauses as providing powers of last resort. When a local authority has identified an excavation as dangerous, it would obviously be in everyone's interest for the authority to attempt to persuade the owner or occupier of the surrounding land to have the danger rendered safe himself—not least for his own protection against possible legal proceedings for negligence. Only when persuasion has failed to produce satisfactory results should the authority feel impelled to resort to these powers. In short, they are intended to seek a balance between, on the one hand, the ability of a council to act quickly once it has identified a dangerous excavation, and on the other the provision of reasonable safeguards for the rights of the owners and occupiers of land. That is really the substance of these two rather long clauses. I beg to move.
§ Baroness YOUNG
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Baroness for moving these two new clauses, which I appreciate are tabled to meet requests from another place, and for her very careful explanation of them.
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 14:
After Clause 21, insert the following new clause:
§ Provisions supplementary to section (Power of certain councils with respect to dangerous excavations).
- (a) ascertaining whether the land is suitable as the site of works which the council may carry out or for which the council may serve a notice in pursuance of that section; or
- (b) carrying out, maintaining, repairing or removing in pursuance of that section any works on behalf of the council; or
- (c) ascertaining whether any works carried out by the council in pursuance of that section should be or have been maintained, repaired or removed.
§ (2) A person authorised by a council to enter on land in pursuance of the preceding subsection—
- (a) shall, if so required before or after entering on the land, produce evidence of his authority to enter;
- (b) may take with him on to the land such other persons and such equipment as are necessary for achieving the purpose for which he was authorised to enter on the land;
- (c) shall, if the land is unoccupied when he enters or the occupier is then temporarily absent, leave the land as effectually secured against trespassers as he found it.
§ (3) If a person having an interest in or a right over any land suffers damage in consequence of the carrying out, maintaining, repairing or removing of works by a council in pursuance of the preceding section or the exercise by a person authorised by a council of a power conferred by subsection (1) or (2)(b) of this section or a failure of such a person to perform the duty imposed by subsection (2)(c) of this section, the person who suffers the damage shall be entitled to recover compensation for the damage from the council, and subsection (5) of section 30 of this Act shall have effect for the purposes of this subsection as if for the reference to subsection (4) of that section there were substituted a reference to this subsection; but no compensation shall be payable by virtue of this subsection in respect of damage attributable to the presence of permanent works on any land.
§ (4) If a person—
- (a) wilfully obstructs another person in the exercise of a power conferred on the other person by subsection (1) or (2)(b) of this section; or
- (b) while another person is on land in pursuance of the said subsection (2)(b) wilfully obstructs him in doing things connected with the works in question; or
- (c) without the agreement of the council by which works have been carried out in pursuance of the preceding section, removes or otherwise interfers with the works,
§ (5) Nothing in the preceding section or the preceding provisions of this section applies to an excavation—
- (a) on operational land of statutory undertakers; or
- (b) on land of the National Coal Board of such a description as the Secretary of State may specify by regulations made by statutory instrument;
§ Clause 28 [Restoration of supply of water, gas or electricity]:
§ 4.56 p.m.
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 15:
Page 33, line 1, after ("premises") insert ("—(a)").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, with the leave of the House, while moving Amendment No. 15 I will speak also to Amendments 16, 17, 19 and 20 because again they are all interlinked. The effect of these Amendments is to allow a local authority to make arrangements with gas, water or electricity undertakers for the supply to be continued to premises where an occupier is likely to be cut off because the owner, who is responsible for paying the Bill, has in fact not done so. Your Lordships will be familiar with the purpose behind these Amendments, which follow similar Amendments proposed during the Committee stage and subsequently withdrawn by the noble Lord, Lord Airedale. At that time I undertook to see what I could do, by means of Government Amendments, to meet the points which were made and reiterated from all quarters of the House.
§ The Government clause, which is now Clause 28 in the Bill, allows a local authority to help an occupier whose gas, water or electricity supply has actually been cut off because the owner, who is responsible for paying the bill, has not done so. These Amendments allow the authority to step in, in addition, where they are satisfied that the supply is likely to be cut off. As I said when we were discussing the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, it is not easy to translate this idea into statutory language. As drafted, the Amendments give the local authority full discretion to act. If in their opinion the supply is likely to be cut off because the owner has not paid the statutory undertaker, then they will have the power to step in. Giving authorities this discretion was an idea 198 which won general approval, so I hope that these Amendments will meet with the approval of the House today.
§ It is true that a tenant who pays an inclusive rent and whose electricity bills are paid by his landlord need not discover until the very last minute that his landlord has not paid, and that his supply is about to be cut off. The statutory undertakers are only obliged to serve notice on the person with whom they have a contractual relationship, and we cannot in this Bill impose any new obligations on statutory undertakers. But in practice the tenant may often discover that disconnection is imminent, and these Amendments could avoid the wasteful business of cutting off the supply and reconnecting, and also the cost associated with it. The tenant would ask the authority for help, and they would check with the electricity or gas board. If satisfied that the tenant's story was true, they could step in and prevent disconnection.
§ One possible danger which was mentioned before was that some landlords might try to use this provision to buy time and delay meeting their obligations. Having collected money for the electricity from the tenants, they might still fail to pay the bill. By leaving the local authority to pay under this provision, with no hardship to the tenants and no extra costs like reconnection charges, it is true that they could use the clause to put off the evil day when they finally have to pay up.
§ The local authority associations are aware of this, as no doubt local authorities will be aware of it, and will be able to take precautions to meet this. The Amendments give the authority discretion. They impose no obligations and, presumably, different authorities will make their own particular arrangements. We feel that if this discretion is wisely used, misuse of the provision by landlords could be avoided.
§ My Lords, if I may say so, this is a case where it would be extremely useful for local authorities who operate this particular discretion, to let us know, either through the local authority associations or direct to my Department, how it is working and how things are individually working out because obviously it will be done in different ways. By giving this 199 discretion in this way, I feel that we are meeting the purpose and the intention, echoed by every speaker during Committee stage: that is, to leave the maximum flexibility. I beg to move.
§ Lord AIREDALE
My Lords, I am very grateful indeed that the Government have found the means of drafting this extension to Clause 28, which I am sure will save much misery in the wintertime on the part of tenants who otherwise were going to have their supply of electricity or gas disconnected, and who now will be saved the misery of a disconnection and having to wait for re-connection.
§ Lord CROOK
My Lords, may I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, for having taken this matter away, and for having brought it back in this very much better form.
§ Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 16:
Page 33, line 3, after ("supply") insert ("or
(b) is in the opinion of the council likely to be cut off in consequence of such a failure,").
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 17:
Page 33, line 6, at end insert ("or, as the case may be, for it to be continued to the premises.").
§ 5.3 p.m.
Lord AIREDALE moved Amendment No. 18:
Page 33, line 6, at end insert ("if satisfied that the undertakers have given the occupier not less than three days' notice in writing of their intention to cut off the supply.")
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I thought that the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, was on the fringe of answering this Amendment in her speech just now, but undeterred. I wish to move it because I think it really is necessary now that we have this extension of Clause 28 which will enable the local authorities to act to prevent a disconnection, and not merely after the disconnection has occurred. Your Lordships will see in the clause that the district council can only act under the clause:
at the request in writing of the occupier of the premises….
During Committee stage on 21st June, at column 39 of Hansard, the noble Baroness explained the contractual relationship in these cases as between the statutory undertaker and the landlord, between whom negotiations go on. The noble Baroness then said:
The occupier knows nothing about all this until his supply is cut off.
A few lines further down the noble Baroness reinforced this by saying:
…in practice, the occupier will be in no position to tell the authority that he is about to be cut off.
If the occupier is in no position to tell the authority that he is about to be cut off, he is in no position to satisfy the requirement of the clause that he has to give the authority notice in writing. So it surely becomes quite imperative in these cases that the statutory undertaker shall give the occupier notice in writing that he is going to be cut off so that the occupier can pass on the information to the local authority.
§ No great work will be cast upon the statutory undertakers by this. So far as I can see, all that they will be required to do is to sign a printed notice addressed to the occupier at the postal address of the premises. I should have thought that, quite apart from that, it was quite absurd for a statutory undertaker to contemplate cutting off the occupier's electricity without first informing him of their intention, because how do they know that he is a person who is impecunious, who cannot perfectly well produce the money, settle the bill and save being cut off? Even if he cannot produce the cash, it may well he that he can get a loan from his employer, or from a friend, and settle the bill. He can then deduct the amount from future rent to his landlord, and all this misery of contemplating cut-off and reconnection will be avoided.
§ Therefore, I should have thought that one really did need the words of this Amendment to be added to the clause to make it quite clear to the statutory undertakers that the local authorities are not going to be interested in settling the bills of defaulting landlords unless the statutory undertakers make a practice of informing the occupier in advance that their supply is about to be disconnected. I beg to move.201
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, I did not reply to the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, when I was dealing with those that I was moving, because they bring another dimension into it. Quite frankly, what the noble Lord is suggesting just is not workable. I was trying hard to find something which we could make workable. but with this Amendment it just is not possible. I can see what the noble Lord is trying to do, and we have gone a great deal of the way to try to meet it.
My Lords, the noble Lord is trying to get the statutory undertakers to do something, which, at the moment, they are not under an obligation to do. First, there is in any case a technical defect which is really quite substantial, because the Amendment does not impose a new obligation on statutory undertakers to serve notice of disconnection on the occupiers of premises. All it does is to provide that the local authority cannot step in unless the statutory undertaker has served such a notice. Since the statutory undertakers are under no obligation to serve such a notice, the effect of the Amendment would be severely to restrict the power of the local authorities to act under this part of the provisions. In this case, they would have to wait for the supply to be cut off. If noble Lords will bear with me for a moment, I will explain why.
My Lords, under their present supply codes, statutory undertakers are obliged only to correspond with the person with whom they have contracted to provide the supply. As I have explained before, this clause is activated only where the occupier of the premises and the owner who has to pay these bills are two different people. If it was the same person they would know immediately who it was. The owner may or may not live on the premises, and there is no contractual relationship between the occupier and the statutory undertaker. So the practical effect would be this, even if it were not technically wrong: the authority can only act to prevent disconnection when they are satisfied that the statutory undertakers have done something which they have not got to do; namely, serve a separate notice on an occupier whose existence the statutory undertakers may not even be aware of. And if the statutory undertakers have not served such a notice, the authority, under the Amendment, cannot act until the supply has been cut 202 off. This is absolutely contrary to what the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, wants to do.
My Lords, in theory, a statutory undertaker could, with time and trouble, deduce that the address that they are supplying and the address to which they send the bill are different. They could go on to deduce that this might mean there was a tenant in the supplied address, and the bill-paying landlord in the other address. This could prompt them to warn the tenant that the landlord is not paying his bills as he should be. But this is all in the realms of supposition, and not what is happening in practice under the present supply codes. One thing about this Bill is that it is not an appropriate place where we can start to alter these codes.
What I have been trying to do is to find a way in which, within the context of this Bill, we can deal with the problem as well as we can. As we know very well and as I think was pointed out not only by myself but by other noble Lords when we discussed this in Committee, statutory undertakers do not want, nor do they feel it is their job, nor do they feel they have the resources, to act as welfare authorities. Therefore, I have been trying to find a way round this by which the local authority can step in before the disconnection actually takes place, without putting on the undertaker burdens (a) which we cannot put on the undertaker at the moment without altering the supply code, and (b) which the undertaker would certainly not accept voluntarily at the present time.
The clause as it stands allows the authority to act either when the innocent occupier has already been cut off or when in their opinion he is likely to be cut off. This second alternative was deliberately drafted broadly to give the authority maximum discretion. It is perfectly true that in answering the noble Lord's Amendment on Committee I pointed out that very often this would not be known and therefore nothing could be done. That situation, where it exists, still stands, but on listening to what was said in Committee and on going back and discussing this—because I was as anxious as every noble Lord who spoke at Committee stage to try to do something about it—it was found that the only way round 203 it was to give the local authorities the discretion. So in those cases where an occupier had some intimation, or guessed, or heard by chance or found out, that the supply was likely to be cut off, we could act there.
It is still true that there are a great many people it may not help, but what we are doing, and what I think the House will recognise and I hope accept, is the best we can do within a set of difficult circumstances and within the context of this Bill. It is for these reasons I would ask the noble Lord to withdraw his Amendment, because it is quite unacceptable, not only on drafting grounds but because it just would not work. In fact it would negative what I am trying to do in the Amendments I have moved, and would make the situation far worse than it would be if the House agreed with the Amendments I have moved and resisted the Amendment moved by the noble Lord.
§ Lord AIREDALE
My Lords, I do not think there is nearly so much between us here as noble Lords might think, after having listened to the discussion. I am quite unrepentant about the drafting of this Amendment; I do not think it is defective, because I do not think it imposes any statutory obligation on the statutory undertaker. In fact, I am sure it does not.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord would give way, so that we may get this point clear. The point is that his Amendment does not impose a new obligation on the statutory undertaker. The only way he could bring about the result he wants is by imposing an obligation on the statutory undertaker. What he does is to provide that the local authority cannot step in unless the undertaker serves such a notice. This is really the point of it.
§ Lord AIREDALE
My Lords, there really is very little between us on this point. The situation is this: neither under this Amendment nor at present is the statutory undertaker under any obligation to give notice to the occupier if his contract for the supply of the electricity is with the landlord. That is the first point. The second point is that the local authority is not required in any event to pay the bill to save the disconnection or to permit 204 reconnection. It is entirely a discretionary matter in the case both of the statutory undertaker and of the local authority.
What this Amendment does is to give a direction to the local authorities, "Do not settle these electricity bills in any of those cases in which the statutory undertaker does not even take the trouble to send a printed notice addressed to the occupier at the postal address of the premises to say that the supply is about to be disconnected". It is monstrous not to let the occupier know, because the occupier may be a wealthy person who will, on receipt of the notice, settle the bill and simply deduct the money from his future payments of rent to the landlord. If he is not a wealthy person, as I said, he could probably raise a loan from his employer or from a friend and settle the bill. Therefore, it is ridiculous for the statutory undertaker in any case not to send a printed notice to the occupier to warn him of what is about to happen. If, in those cases, the local authorities were to step in and pay the bill, they would be squandering the ratepayers' money, because they may not get it hack from the defaulting landlord. That is the point of this Amendment. I hope that by Third Reading we shall he able to put our heads together and agree something to deal with this matter, for it really is a ridiculous situation if it is left as it is at present.
§ Baroness YOUNG
My Lords, I do not want to prolong the discussion, but it may help the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, if I say that I believe her interpretation here is the correct one. I sympathise with the noble Lord, Lord Airedale. I think we are all grateful to the noble Baroness for the trouble she has taken in the three previous Amendments to meet a very difficult point, which I think she has done very satisfactorily. What I apprehend the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, is saying is that the statutory authorities ought to send a notice with the name and address of the householder on it so that the householder will pay the bill. But what the noble Baroness is saying is that the local authority cannot require the statutory authority to do this, and therefore they would be worse off. I hope we will get this right, but I hope too that the noble Lord will not press this Amendment now, because I think he will not achieve what he would like to achieve.
§ Lord AIREDALE
My Lords, of course I will not press this now. The final remark I would make is this, that the statutory undertakers, having become aware that they are not going to get their bills paid by the local authorities unless they do send a notice to the occupier in every case, will send a notice to the occupier in every case in order to preserve their chance of getting the bill paid by the local authority. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Lord SHEPHERD
My Lords, before the noble Lord seeks leave to withdraw the Amendment, perhaps I may say that this is the third time I have heard the noble Lord speak on this Amendment. This is the Report stage. I would hope that we could keep going. We are slipping behind, and we have some important business to follow this Bill.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Lord AIREDALE
My Lords, on a point of order, I am very sorry. I moved the Amendment and I replied to it. I thought I was being interrupted by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and when the noble Baroness resumed her seat I added one more sentence. I am sorry, and I hope I was not out of order.
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 19:
Page 33, line 10, after ("was") insert ("or became likely to be").
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 20:
Page 33, line 35, after ("restoration") insert ("or continuation").
§ Clause 29 [Power of local authorities to deal with dangerous trees]:
§ 5.20 p.m.
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 21:
Page 35, line 46, at end insert ("and any other person who is an owner or occupier of the land to which the notice relates may within the period aforesaid appeal to the county court against the notice on one or both of the grounds mentioned in paragraphs (b) and (c) of this subsection.")
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I do not think that there will be much disagreement with this Amendment because it corrects a flaw in Clause 29. As drafted the clause provides for a notice to be served on either the owner or the occupier of the land in question but it does not permit the party not served with the notice to appeal against it. We recognise that this is unsatisfactory because trees on rented land remain the property of the owner and the occupier may be under no obligation to protect them. In these cases the occupier might have no incentive to appeal against a notice served on him, and as the clause stands the owner would have no right of appeal, although he might have a much more substantial interest in the trees. The Amendment therefore provides a solution to this potential problem by affording the owner (or maybe the occupier, whichever is the case) a right of appeal in all cases. I beg to move.
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 22:
Transpose Clause 29 to after Clause 21.
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 22 and 23 are solely to improve the layout of the Bill, because it seems sensible to group the two new clauses dealing with the protection of dangerous excavations (these have already been accepted) with Clauses 29 and 30 which deal with the powers of local authorities to deal with dangerous trees. I beg to move.
§ Clause 30 [Provisions supplementary to s.29]:
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 23:
Transpose Clause 30 to after Clause 21.
§ Clause 32 [Removal of obstructions from private sewers]:
§ Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 24:
Page 39, line 27, leave out subsection (6) and insert—
("(6) Where a local authority has served a notice on a person in pursuance of subsection
(3) of this section, then—
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this again is a clarifying Amendment to clarify subsection (6). At present the subsection provides that the local authority can recover the sum specified in a notice after the expiry of the period for paying it or, if the recipient appeals, after the determination of the appeal. However, if the recipient has appealed against the notice the court may have, under subsection (5), reduced the sum specified in the notice, in which case the sum liable to be paid would not be the same as the sum originally specified. The Amendment makes it clear that where that happened the recipient of the notice would not be liable to pay the sum specified in the notice, but only the smaller sum ordered by the court. I beg to move.
§ Clause 35 [Use of spare capacity of computers of local authorities]:
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 25:
Page 42, line 8, at end insert ("; and it shall be the duty of a local authority, in settling the terms of such an agreement, to ensure that they are as beneficial to the authority as those on which the authority considers that a person other than a local authority could reasonably be expected to provide the facilities or services in question.")
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this Amendment makes it the duty of a local authority not to charge for a transaction at less than the rate appearing to the authority to be charged by persons who are not local authorities and not to grant other terms (such as credit) more favourable than those appearing to them to be granted by such persons. Originally I think it was the noble Lord, Lord 208 Airedale, who moved an Amendment similar to this at Committee stage. He wanted to make sure that a local authority could not undercut its competitors in private industry. Although I agreed with this in principle, I could not at the time accept the Amendment as it stood because there were one or two defects in its wording. I promised to move a Government Amendment at this stage, and this is what I am now doing. I beg to move.
Lord AIREDALE moved Amendment No. 26 as an Amendment to Amendment No. 25:
Line 3, leave out ("as beneficial to the authority as") and insert ("not more beneficial to the other party to the agreement than")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I very much welcome the spirit of this Amendment, but I find it rather curious that my Amendment in Committee, which was designed to have this effect, was pronounced as defective. I am sorry to say, with some temerity, that I rather think that the present Amendment from the noble Baroness is equally defective because the Amendment refers to certain terms as being "as beneficial to the authority" as certain other terms. But the other terms referred to cannot be beneficial to the authority at all because they are terms of a contract to which the authority are not a party. They are the terms of a contract between the other party and a third person.
§ It would seem, therefore, that in order to cure what I suggest is a defective item in the noble Baroness's Amendment it is better to turn the matter round and refer to it, as I have in this Amendment, in terms of the other party, because the other party is a party to both the contracts we are considering; that is, the contract with the local authority on the one hand, and the contract with a private enterprise firm outside, on the other hand. I suggest that this cures the defect in the noble Baroness's Amendment, and I beg to move.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, as the noble Lord is aware, he wrote to me and he put the Amendment down last night, so that there has not been much time for considering it. I think, however, that there is a point here that we should look at. I hope, therefore, that he will withdraw his Amendment, and I assure him that I 209 shall consider this point before Third Reading, but there really is not time to consider it now.
§ Lord AIREDALE
My Lords, I shall certainly withdraw the Amendment. I put it down last night, but that was because I received the Government Amendments only last Friday, and I sent to the noble Baroness a note explaining the purpose of this Amendment, which I am glad she received. I admit of course that there has not been much time to consider the matter. With those words, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment to Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.28 p.m.
Lord SANDYS moved Amendment No. 27:
After Clause 35, insert the following new clause: Prescription of Signs, &c., to be used on certain buildings.
§ .—(1) A county council may in relation to any substance likely to involve special hazard to persons engaged in normal duties of fire fighting in its area—
- (a) prescribed standard uniform signs or symbols or warning notices in a form approved or prescribed by the Secretary of State clearly indicating the nature of the substance and the existence of danger to persons so engaged;
- (b) by notice require the occupier of any part of any premises used for the manufacture or storage of the substance to affix, within such reasonable time as is specified in the notice, and thereafter keep in such conspicuous position or positions as the county council may direct in or on the part of the premises used for such manufacture or storage, the appropriate sign, symbol or notice.
§ (2) Any person who contravenes the requirements of a county council under this section shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £50 and to a daily fine not exceeding £10.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, your Lordships will be aware that this Amendment has a star against it indicating that it is a new Amendment. In fact, it is not a new Amendment; it is the Amendment which I moved at Committee stage and withdrew after the noble Baroness had set out certain criteria which she felt were desirable and should be followed very carefully. Since Committe stage we have followed the desirable criteria that the noble Baroness has set out and we have come to certain conclusions, and we feel 210 that it is most necessary to reconsider this Amendment.
§ It so happens, from a timetable point of view, that it is particularly unfortunate that the Report stage should be today, because I understand that discussions took place between the noble Baroness's Department and the county of Cleveland, who were responsible for initiating this Amendment in another place. The discussions which have taken place today may have yielded certain reflections within the Department, and perhaps at a later stage on Third Reading it may be possible for the Government to bring forward their own Amendment, or to make further recommendations. Nevertheless, I felt it desirable to table the Amendment once again from the point of view of further discussion, well knowing that the full criteria had not been entirely fulfilled. That said, I can assure the noble Baroness that I shall be withdrawing the Amendment shortly because in Committee she kindly provided me with certain information as well as the name and address of the chairman of the Health and Safety Commission, for which I am much obliged to her.
I start my argument from the point when the Under-Secretary of State for Wales, Mr. Alec Jones, said in another place, in Standing Committee B, on 30th March, that the Bill was clearly designed and received its Second Reading on the basis that in the main it was a Bill, as it said in the Explanatory Memorandum, giving general effect to provisions commonly found in local Acts. This Amendment arises on the basis of a local Act and, further, I draw to the attention of the noble Baroness that another provision exists in another local Act, the Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1975. In this connection, I would refer the noble Baroness to what she said on 21st June:
It is interesting to note that although clauses of this nature have been the subject of certain local Acts in the past, inquiries by the Health and Safety Executive have failed to discover any areas where the clause has in fact been used so far; the GLC is one of these areas"—[Official Report, 21/6/76; col. 75.]
§ I assure the noble Baroness—perhaps I misinterpret her words here—that in Part II of the Greater London Council (General Powers) Act, in Section 3, there is provision for the protection of the fire 211 brigade in respect of certain substances, and this particular provision is a very good example of what we are talking about. I turn to the desirable criteria because this is especially important. First of all, I readily acknowledge that the noble Baroness, in saying what she did about hazard notices, brought forward a point for which we have not made provision in the Amendment. Hence, I acknowledge straight away that hazard notices that are redundant should be provided for and should be removed by a subsection in this additional new clause.
§ I come to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and here my attention was drawn by the noble Baroness to Section 15 under which health and safety regulations and approved codes of practice could be provided for. Although this section allows the Secretary of State to make regulations and provide approved codes of practice, it allows him to do so only for those mentioned in Part I of the Act. This is highly significant because when we turn to Part I we find that the situation so far as firemen are concerned is, we maintain, not catered for. If we turn, first, to the question of general duties, we find under Section 2(1) that a duty is cast on employers to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees. Regulations of the kind envisaged in the Amendment could not be pursued under that general duty because a fireman entering premises to deal with an emergency will not be employed by those on whom the duty is cast.
§ So we turn to the next provision, Section 3(1), which deals with persons not in his employment who may nevertheless be affected and who are exposed to risks; and I expect that the noble Baroness may seize on this section and shake it as a sort of death rattle over the Amendment, but she might be a little hasty because this section goes on to deal with the self-employed. So we turn to Section 4, which also deals with those who are not employees but who use non-domestic premises made available to them as a place of work or as a warehouse. I am sorry to deal with this somewhat exhaustively but I feel that we have a point here because firemen are in a special category. We submit that regulations could not be made under this 212 section either, as it is designed to protect those who are using premises for a particular purpose in which firemen would not be included.
§ My Lords, I think I have dealt with this particular situation and I return to Section 15 and submit to the noble Baroness that, although it appears that the Secretary of State has ample powers to cater for other circumstances, the situation so far as firemen are concerned is not catered for and I therefore suggest that this might be considered by the Department.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, for his very full explanation. I am of course aware of the discussions with Cleveland County Council and of the meeting which took place this morning. The doubts that have arisen are based on the assumption that the regulations would be made under Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act, and that the general duties placed on employers under that section are not wide enough to cover firemen visiting premises for firefighting purposes. Whether or not that contention is correct I do not intend to go into because that is not really relevant. The relevant point is that the regulation-making powers are contained in Section 15 of the Act, which allows them to be made for any of the general purposes of the Act. These are set out in Section 1, not in the general duties sections, and allow for, first, securing the health and safety of persons at work, and, secondly, protecting persons other than persons at work against risks to health or safety arising out of or in connection with activities at work. Section 1(3) further expands this concept to include risks attributable to the manner of conducting an undertaking and the plant or substances used for the purposes of an undertaking.
The most important point I can make is that the Chairman of the Health and Safety Commission has been advised that these powers are adequate to make regulations covering the provisions proposed in the clause. Althouth no positive agreement was reached at the meeting held this morning between Cleveland County Council and the Health and Safety Executive, both parties are in broad agreement about the objectives to be achieved by regulations and are confident that the technical difficulties can be over 213 come in the course of the consultations that will take place before the regulations are made. Now that the parties have got together, now that the whole question has been opened up once more, now that progress is being made on it and now that we are moving towards probably getting it right, thanks also to the work put into it by Lord Sandys, I hope that he will not press the Amendment.
§ Lord SANDYS
My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Baroness for her very full explanation of both the clause itself and its defects and the arrangements that are at present being made to resolve the problem. I do not feel it appropriate to say anything further at this stage, except to seek leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 28:
After Clause 39, insert the following new clause:
§ "Enforceability by Joint planning boards etc. of
§ . In section 126 of the Housing Act 1974 (which provides for the enforcement of certain covenants in agreements which relate to the development of land and to which a principal council is a party), in subsection (7) (which specifies the authorities which are principal councils for the purposes of that section) after the words "London borough" there shall be inserted the words", a board constituted in pursuance of section 1 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 or reconstituted in pursuance of Schedule 17 to the Local Government Act 1972" and at the end of that subsection there shall be inserted the words "and in this section 'area' in relation to such a board means the district for which the board is constituted or reconstituted"; and accordingly—
- (a) at the end of subsection (5) (of which paragraph (a), which is superseded by section 15 of this Act, enabled councils to obtain information about the ownership of premises for the purposes of their functions under the said section 126) there shall be inserted the words "and section 15 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 shall have effect as if references to a local authority and to functions conferred on a local authority by any enactment included respectively references to such a board as is mentioned in subsection (7) of this section and to functions of such a board under this section"; and
- (b) at the end of subsection (6) (which relates to the service of documents in pursuance of the said section 126 by the Common Council) there shall be inserted the words "and such a board as is mentioned in the following subsection".
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 64. The Amendment arises out of an Amendment moved in Committee by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. At that time, I said that I would bring forward an Amendment at Report stage to give effect to her Amendment, which was meant to extend Section 126 of the Housing Act 1974 to cover the Lake District Special Planning Board and the Peak Park Planning Board. Although we agreed in principle with the Amendment, we could not accept it because to refer to the the two Boards by name would have excluded any other Board that might be created under Section 1 of the Town and Country Planning Act, as amended by the Local Government Act 1972. The present Amendment, together with the consequential Amendment No. 64 which I shall move later and which adds to the Long Title of the Bill, deals with this point. I beg to move.
§ Lord SANDYS
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Young, I should like warmly to acknowledge the new clause and to say that we are most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, for moving it.
§ Clause 40 [Interpretation etc. of Part I]:
Lord SANDYS moved Amendment No. 29:
Page 45, line 12, after ("18") insert ("23,").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Kinnoull, I should like to move the Amendment. This, as your Lordships will observe, is a new Amendment and bears a star. I moved a somewhat parallel Amendment, which provided for powers for local councils, at Committee stage, but withdrew it. This is a new Amendment which caters for an entirely different situation. It arises from two local councils in Essex. One is an amenity society—the Rochford Hundreds Amenity Society—and the other is the Parish Council of Ashingdon in Essex. The anxiety which both these bodies raise centres on the use of funds by local councils and, here, one must consider the position of local councils and the areas which they represent since the 1972 Local Government Act. Very often the successor local 215 council, parish council or, in Wales, community council, represents quite a substantial area. In some cases it may be a borough. The point raised here centres largely on the use of funds which may be derived wholly or partly from the sale of certain properties. The anxiety relates to the way in which these funds may be disposed. If, as I hope, the House accepts the Amendment, it will rid local councils of the restriction at present imposed on them.
§ The centre of the problem is the question of management of funds and appropriation of those funds for amenity purposes. It may well be that, in quite a number of cases, local councils may wish to carry out the restoration of an area, to remove a substantial eyesore or to supplement local efforts in regard to a similar initiative or something of that nature. By enabling this Amendment to be fitted into the clause, it will be most satisfactory so far as the management of amenities is concerned. I beg to move.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, the Amendment is unnecessary. Clause 23 inserts new material into Schedule 13 to the Local Government Act 1972 and relevant expressions—for example, "local authority"—will have the meanings attributed to them in that Act. Thus, as the term "local authority" for the purposes of the 1972 Act includes parish and community councils, the new material will apply to these councils where the term is used.
§ Lord SANDYS
My Lords, while recognising that, as the noble Baroness has said, the Local Government Act caters for this situation, it relates to the right of a council to set up a capital fund or a renewal and repairs fund. At this stage, I believe that it would probably be for the benefit of the House if I withdrew the Amendment. Nevertheless, I hope it may be possible to return to it on Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.45 p.m.
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 30:
Page 45, line 28, leave out ("and 14") and insert ((14 and subsection (5) of section (Provisions supplementary to section (Powers of certain councils in respect of dangerous excavations)).").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this Amendment is consequential on the addition to the Bill of the new clauses dealing with the protection of dangerous excavations. It provides that the special provisions made for statutory undertakers in those clauses should not apply to persons in possession of a licence under Section 41 of the Highways Act 1971 (allowing apparatus to be placed in or under the highway) who are for other purposes of the Bill included in the definition of statutory undertakers. This is because there is no case for covering these people. They operate only in the highway where the new clauses do not apply. I beg to move.
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 31:
Page 46, line 21, after ("2(5)") insert ("or subsection (6) or (7)(b) of section (Power of certain councils with respect to dangerous excavations)").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this Amendment is also consequential on the addition to the Bill of the new clauses dealing with dangerous excavations. Subsection (6) of the substantive clause makes it a duty of a council, except in certain cases, to maintain and repair protective works which have been carried out under the clause. Similarly subsection (7)(b) makes it a duty of a council to remove the works if the owner of the land asks them to and the council are satisfied that the excavation will no longer be dangerous.
§ Under the general law a person interested in the performance of a statutory duty may in some cases enforce the performance of that duty by civil proceedings. Subsection (4)(a) of Clause 40 precludes such proceedings in respect of contraventions of Part I or instruments made under that Part, but subsection (5) excepts from this exclusion proceedings to enforce performance of duties imposed by certain provisions of Part I. The effect of the Amendment is to insert in subsection (5) a reference to the duties imposed by subsections (6) and (7) of the new clause on dangerous excavations, thereby preserving the position under the general law as I have just described it. I beg to move.
§ Clause 44 [Licensing of private hire vehicles]:217
Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 32:
Page 48, line 29, at end insert ("and shall not refuse such a licence for the purpose of limiting the number of vehicles in respect of which such licences are granted by the council").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Amendment meets a point which was raised in Committee. The effect is to prevent the adoption of a limitation as to the number of private hire vehicle licences issued. It is considered that, provided the vehicle meets the standard of mechanical fitness and the other requirements of the district council, it is not appropriate to limit business activity by limiting the number of licences to be issued. The Bill grants no power to limit the number of drivers' or operators' licences and we think it right to exclude limitations on vehicle licences also. I beg to move.
§ Baroness YOUNG
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris. This meets the point which we raised in Committee.
§ Baroness YOUNG moved Amendment No. 33:
Page 48, line 30, leave out subsection (2) and insert:
("(2) An operator or proprietor of a private hire vehicle licensed under this Act shall be permitted to display on any such private hire vehicle any sign which specifies the name and telephone number of his firm or company but so that such sign shall not be such as would lead the public to suppose that the vehicle was a hackney carriage licensed to ply for hire.").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the Amendment asks for a discretion for private hire operators to display a sign giving the name and telephone number of their firm. It will be so designed as not in any way to lead the public to believe that the vehicle is a licensed hackney carriage. We discussed this point in Committee and I have put down this Amendment because I have ascertained that a similar provision is included in subsection (6) of the Plymouth City Council Act. The wording of my Amendment is not precisely the same as that, but the point raised is precisely the same as that in the Plymouth City Council Act.
§ I understand that this originally appeared in another place and was subsequently taken out. I am not quite clear as to the reasons for this. As this is a matter on which those operating private hire vehicles 218 feel very strongly, I thought it was worth putting it down again. It is important that, for example, elderly people who have been to the theatre should be able to know which private hire car is to collect them. The same would apply where people were being picked up from a station, and so it would he a great advantage to have the name of the firm shown on the vehicle. I should be grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, will look at the matter. I beg to move.
§ Lord AIREDALE
My Lords, I should like to support the Amendment and to refer briefly to the illustration I gave at the Committee stage. This concerns the situation where a large number of people are emerging at the same time from a theatre and some of the people have ordered a hire car to take them home. The driver of the vehicle will not necessarily be able to recognise these people, but they, because they know from which firm they have hired the car, will be able to identify it if there is a sign on it showing the name of the firm. Admittedly, there may be the odd case in which somebody in the street thinks that one of these cars is a taxi and so hails it. But the sky will not fall if that happens. All that will happen is that there will be momentary annoyance and inconvenience to the person who thinks he has hailed a taxi, finds that he has not, and has to wait until a proper taxi comes along. But the advantage of having a sign on the vehicle so that the customer can recognise it far outweighs the disadvantage of someone mistakenly thinking that it is a taxi.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, I should like to deal with the last point first. There is a minority of private hire people who are responsible for these vehicles who attempt to give the impression that their vehicles are taxis. I went over this point at some length in Committee. Many operators in this field would accept that there is, unhappily, a minority of drivers of private hire vehicles who attempt to give the impression that their vehicles are taxis, whereas they are not. This is one of the problems we are dealing with. I make this point at the outset, although I am well aware that I stated it when we last debated this matter. I should now like to turn to the substance of the Amendment—
§ Lord AIREDALE
My Lords, does not the law catch up with private hire vehicle drivers who try to pretend that they are driving taxis?
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, one of the objects of this legislation is to deal with this problem. Whether an offence is committed will depend on the language of the Statute as it eventually emerges from its rather lengthy discussion in Parliament.
I should now like to address myself to the Amendment which we are discussing. Subsection (2) of Clause 44, as at present drafted, contains the power to be given to a district council to attach to the grant of a licence such conditions as they may consider reasonably necessary. This is the subsection, therefore, which enables a licensing authority to impose requirements appropriate to the administration of control in its area. It would be undesirable, because it would he both cumbersone and inflexible, to attempt to include all such day-to-day matters in the substantive legislation, and it is better that individual councils should be able to decide what is appropriate for vehicles to be licensed by them. If there is an unreasonable use of these powers by the local authorities, there is the right of appeal to the magistrates' court, as I pointed out when we last debated this matter.
Without attempting an exhaustive list, examples of matters which a council might find it desirable to include in licensing conditions might be: the requirement to display, and the manner of the display and affixing of, a plate or disc issued under Clause 44(5) and as provided by Clause 44(6)(a); the requirement to produce for inspection a valid certificate of insurance, on demand or within a specified period; the prohibition of the display on or from the vehicle of signs, possibly subject to such general or particular exemptions as the council may allow; the maximum number of persons including children, to be carried in the vehicle. To remove from the Bill the power to attach conditions upon issue of a vehicle licence would unnecessarily hamper the operation of an efficient licensing system and is not to be recommended to the House.
The Amendment seeks to permit the display on a private hire vehicle of the 220 name and telephone number of the company operating it. This, in appropriate cases, a council may allow under Clause 44 as it currently stands. But a general relaxation, such as is here proposed, would in our view be far too wide. The safeguard suggested in the Amendment, namely:such sign shall not be such as would lead the public to suppose that the vehicle was a hackney carriage licensed to ply for hire",would in our judgment be of no effect. The public, indeed, may not know about the difference between the two types of vehicles, and the display of a sign showing that a vehicle is a vehicle which is available to be hired is in any event likely to be treated as an invitation to hire it at once. For those reasons I very much hope that the noble Baroness will not press the Amendment.
§ Baroness PHILLIPS
My Lords, I should like to support the Minister in his plea to the noble Baroness not to press the Amendment. Those of us who have used the licensed cab trade for many years will have had a great respect for these drivers. They have had to undergo special training, they are subject at all times to police regulations, and they are very responsible in the way they ply their trade. On the other hand, we all know that it has been all too easy for people to obtain cars and ply them for hire in a slightly more unorthodox way. Anything which erodes the standards of trade which have been long respected—indeed it is a profession—would not be to the advantage of the people who use these vehicles or indeed to any other citizen. Therefore I hope that we in this House will not in any way seek to introduce a new clause or change the Bill in such a way that it would make life difficult for these people.
§ Baroness YOUNG
My Lords, with the leave of the House I should like to say that I am grateful for the explanation given by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, on this matter. I think that we are absolutely at one in wishing to draw a distinction between private hire vehicles and taxicabs. The noble Lord did not answer the point which I particularly raised regarding Section 6 of the Plymouth City Council Act. If the noble Lord looks at that Act, he will see that Section 5 is the same as Clause 44 of this Bill, and it is followed by Section 6 221 which makes a provision which is precisely similar in principle to the Amendment I am moving. I should be grateful if the noble Lord will consider this point. It is not my intention to press the Amendment this evening. I hope the noble Lord will agree with me that there may be matters relating to the Bill—particularly Part II—which we may wish to raise on Third Reading, and I shall certainly want to read in Hansard what he has said on this matter.
I should like to assure the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, that I am not suggesting that private hire vehicles should masquerade as taxis—far from it. We both have an interest in seeing that the general public are served, and there are advantages in people knowing which private hire car is collecting them at, for example, the station, by having the name of the proprietor shown on the car, if the proprietor so wishes. That is all that my Amendment seeks to do. However, I do not wish to press the matter at this stage and so I shall withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 34:
Page 49, line 9, at end insert ("of the council which granted it").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a drafting Amendment. I beg to move.
§ Clause 46 [Provisions as to proprietors]:
Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 35:
Page 50, line 4, after ("inspection") insert ("and testing").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this Amendment perhaps I might deal with Amendments Nos. 37 and 39 at. the same time. These are really Amendments designed to clarify the intention of the Statute. Clause 46(1) provides that a proprietor may be required by a district council to present his vehicle for inspection. It has been suggested during consultations that the word "inspection" alone may be insufficient and that, since some testing activity may be necessary, it should be made clear that the council is empowered to test as well as simply to inspect the vehicle. These Amendments clarify this matter.222
§ The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Baroness Wootton of Abinger)
My Lords, does the noble Lord wish to move the Amendments en bloc? They are consecutive.
§ Lord SANDYS
My Lords, I did not understand that the noble Lord was moving Amendment No. 38. I did not hear him say that he was including it, but obviously they all hang together and so I should like to comment on it. Clearly from a testing point of view, if the Ministry feel this is desirable and that the word should be included, we have no objection whatever. When it comes to Amendment No. 38—
§ The DEPUTY SPEAKER
They are not consecutive, and I must therefore put them separately. The question is that Amendment No. 35 be agreed to?
Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 36:
Page 50, line 5, leave out ("them") and insert ("or on behalf of the council").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment has been put down following an intervention by the noble Baroness during the Committee stage. The effect of the Amendment is to allow councils to delegate the task of inspecting vehicles. Where circumstances do not justify the provision of special council-run inspection facilities, the council may wish to use the services provided by garages. It is already common for councils to delegate inspection in this way. I beg to move.
Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 37:
Page 50, line 9, after ("inspection") insert ("and testing").
Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 38:
Page 50, line 10, leave out ("four") and insert ("three").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment meets to some extent some of the arguments put forward in Committee. This Amendment reduces from four to three the maximum number of occasions within a year on which a proprietor may be required to present his licensed vehicle for inspection. The fixing of a maximum of four routine inspections was criticised during Committee stage although in fact there was precedent for it. It was believed it was excessive. I said I would undertake to look at the point, and as a result of that reconsideration we have reduced the figure from four to three. I beg to move.
§ Lord SANDYS
My Lords, first of all from these Benches I should like to acknowledge the fact that there has been some reduction in the number of tests. Nevertheless, our request was for a reduction from four to two. The choice of three is certainly an advance, but this is not thought to be at all acceptable within the trade as a whole. We acknowledge that this is the maximum number of tests, and that in a large number of cases local authorities will not feel it desirable to ensure that vehicles are tested more than twice. Nevertheless, we do not wish to dispute this Amendment.
Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 39:
Page 50, line 25, after ("inspected") insert ("and tested").
§ Clause 47 [Licensing of drivers of private hire vehicles]:
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 40:
Page 51, line 11, at end insert:
("(3) It shall be the duty of a council by which licences are granted in pursuance of this section to enter, in a register maintained by the council for the purpose, the following particulars of each such licence, namely—
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment provides for a register of licences granted to private hire drivers to be kept by the district council. Licences granted to drivers of hackney carriages are registered under Section 46 of the Town Police Clauses Act 1847. The licensing of private hire vehicle drivers is a public function performed by the district council, and the register of licence holders could be a matter of public interest. I beg to move.
§ Baroness YOUNG
My Lords, I should like to say from this side of the House that we welcome this provision. I think it is helpful in the interests of good business to have such a register and to allow it to be open for inspection by the public.
Baroness YOUNG moved Amendment No. 41:
Page 51, line 11, at end insert—
("(3) On receipt of an application for a licence under this section the person applying shall be deemed to have been granted a licence to drive private hire vehicles which deemed licence shall continue in force until such time as the district council shall grant a licence or refuse the said application.").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I have put this Amendment down because, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, will recall, it was a point that I raised at the Committee stage on the Question, Whether Clause 42 shall stand part of the Bill? The point is that it is accepted that private hire vehicles must be licensed. Not only must the operator be licensed, but each individual driver must be licensed. It has been put to me that it would be a useful provision to allow the operator to be licensed but to allow the driver to hold a provisional licence. For example, suppose a private hire operator employs five drivers and two leave. He may have to wait some weeks before he can replace the drivers with others, who may hold completely clean driving licences and have suitable insurance cover but who have to wait until the local authority can issue the licence. In these circumstances it seemed to us that there was a case for providing for a provisional licence from the local authority. Clearly it would have to be worked out very carefully. At the Committee stage the noble Lord, Lord Harris, said that he would look at this matter. I therefore 225 hope he will be able to give us some information on it at this stage of the Bill. I beg to move.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
Yes, my Lords; the noble Baroness is of course wholly right. I did undertake to look at it. I have done so, but unhappily I am not in a position to be able to recommend this Amendment to the House this evening. First of all, I do not think there is any particular reason to assume that local authorities will be particularly lethargic in handling these applications. We have made inquiries, and one particular local authority has informed us that it takes something in the region of two to three weeks to process one of these applications, which I do not regard as unreasonable. Of course, we have to come to the central question involved in this section of the Bill. The fact is that we are laying down a form of control of authorised drivers by licensing, and there are obvious difficulties about giving people the right to drive a vehicle, when there is such a control in existence, when that person's application has not been considered by the local authority.
There are, I fear, many ways in which the entire purpose of licensing control could be evaded if in fact there was to be an Amendment of this sort introduced into the Bill. For instance, one could have a situation in which, by repeated applications, a person could in fact make sure that he continued to drive a vehicle for quite a substantial period of time. He could also, if it was intended to evade the purpose of this, make applications for licences to a number of districts all over the country. For this reason we fear that we are not in a position to recommend this Amendment. After all, the central issue is that the reason why it is desirable to have licensing of drivers is to guarantee to the public that the health and character of the person driving that vehicle is appropriate. I do not believe that we could have a situation in which a person was able to circumvent the intention of Parliament by the device of making a series of applications. I think there is a risk that a minority would do so. I do not therefore believe that an Amendment on these lines would be helpful.
§ Baroness YOUNG
My Lords, with the leave of the House, may I say that I am 226 grateful to the noble Lord for the trouble he has taken on considering this point. I do not think the private hire company will feel that two or three weeks waiting for licences is a short period of time. It could represent a serious loss to a private hire company employing five drivers for two of their cars to be off the road for three weeks while waiting for licences. I appreciate that this Amendment as drafted does not meet the case of the driver who would go on applying for a sequence of provisional licences or applying for provisional licences all over the country. It is disappointing the Government cannot see their way to accepting this. I shall consider what the noble Lord has said. In the meantime, beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 49 [Drivers' licences for hackney carriages and private hire vehicles]:
Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 42:
Page 51, line 34, at end insert ("and may remit the whole or part of the fee in respect of a private hire vehicle in any case in which they think it appropriate to do so").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I should like to move this Amendment and at the same time discuss Amendment No. 53. These Amendments allow a district council to remit at their discretion the whole or part of fees fixed in respect of private hire drivers', vehicle and operators' licences. Concern was expressed by the House in Committee about the situation of private hire services in rural parishes in remote areas which are becoming increasingly denuded of public transport facilities. It was pointed out by the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, that such areas may have no taxi services, and the inhabitants who are often elderly, incapacitated or not well-off, need transport to get to surgeries, hospitals, and shopping facilities. These people may be dependent upon the activities of part-time private hire vehicle drivers, often retired people, who provide for payment what almost amounts to a social service. The turnover and the profits of such part-time operators are small and they would find punitive the level of proprietors', operators' and drivers' licence fees likely to be commonplace under Part II.
§ The Amendments which are proposed here do not attempt to set out circum 227 stances in which the lower fees should be applicable, partly because the circumstances might vary greatly between districts and partly from a desire to avoid arbitrary limits. These matters are properly for the discretion of the district council. But they will enable a district council whose district includes a rural and perhaps relatively remote area having but minimal public transport facilities to encourage the continuation of private hire transport, sometimes provided on a part-time basis, by permitting much lower levels of licence fees to apply.
§ Viscount AMORY
My Lords, before my noble friend Lady Young rises to speak—and I am sure she is going to say something conciliatory—may I, as someone living part of his life in a country district, say that I believe this concession will be helpful. Many part-time drivers are available and it is often a matter of Mr. Smith turning out and doing something at short notice. He probably does it very seldom; but when he does it can be invaluable. I should like to say how welcome I find this concession that the noble Lord has announced.
§ The Earl of CRANBROOK
My Lords, I am a little disturbed by this Amendment partly because it was put down so late and we have had such a short period between the two stages of this Bill. Those who live in the country do not have the chance to look at these Amendments if they are put down—and I am not blaming the noble Lord; it is by reason of the circumstances of having to follow on one stage of the Bill very quickly after another. It makes it difficult for us to consider these things.
I am a little disturbed by the fact that there are no qualifying reasons which have to govern this power of the local authorities. We must not forget that every reduction in the fee for one operator, or one car or one driver means an increase in the fee for every other one; because, under the Bill, the granting of fees must be made to pay. I think it is important that other people whose licences are increased by reason of any decrease in the licence given to some other person should know the reasons and the circumstances in which this discretion is going to be exercised so that they can have some 228 right of appeal if they think it has been exercised in the wrong way. Perhaps the noble Lord will consider that between now and Third Reading. I think it is important. It does not really meet the case we shall be discussing in a moment under Amendment No. 48.
§ The DEPUTY SPEAKER
My Lords, I do not think the Motion has actually been put. The Amendment proposed is to page 51, line 34, at the end to insert the words as printed.
§ Baroness YOUNG
My Lords, I should like to welcome this Amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Harris. I think it meets the point raised at Committee stage. Subject to correction from the noble Lord, Lord Harris, I am not sure that my noble friend Lord Cranbrook is right about this. My understanding is that there is an upper limit on the licence fee and this would allow discretion on the part of the local authority to reduce the licence fee if it thought it right to do so. A local authority in the country, the kind of authority on which my noble friend Lord Cranbrook is an authority, would welcome this; because in the interests of their inhabitants they could encourage private hire vehicles to make a positive contribution to local transport needs. I am pleased to see these Amendments on the Marshalled List.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, briefly, I welcome what the noble Baroness has said and what was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Amory. So far as the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, is concerned, I would say that I am afraid it is extremely difficult—and I will have to make this point later—to set arbitrary limits. It seems to me to be more sensible to give the local authorities discretion. Any limits that we attempt to impose in the Statute would be difficult to defend. I have considered this matter carefully and I am sure that this is the right way to proceed.
§ Clause 64 [Fitness of hackney carriages and private hire vehicles]:
Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 44:
Page 60, line 23, at end insert ("and test").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 44 and 45 have a similar effect to those already agreed with regard to Clause 46. I beg to move.
Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 45:
Page 60, line 31, after ("inspection") insert ("and testing").
§ Clause 66 [Fees for vehicle and operators' licences]:
Lord AIREDALE moved Amendment No. 46:
Page 61, line 23, leave out ("twenty-five") and insert ("ten").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, perhaps we could discuss Amendments Nos. 46 and 47 together as they are similar. This is the second time round and I hope that I can take this briefly. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, was good enough to say that he would consider this matter when I put down identical Amendments in Committee. This is a question of maximum fees. I pointed out that Clause 66(1) before proceeding to state the maximum fees states the three headings under which revenue from the fees can be spent. They are paragraphs (a), (b) and (c). I need not trouble your Lordships with (a) and (c), these are common to taxis and private hire cars.
But paragraph (b) deals with
the reasonable cost of providing hackney carriage stands …
§ This of course only applies to taxis and not to private hire cars. Since we do not want the private hire operator to subsidise the taxi operators we have a prima facie case for having lower maximum fees in the case of the private hire vehicles and their operators because they do not get as much benefit from the revenue of the fees as the taxi owners. Furthermore, the taxi owners need only one licence in respect of each taxi, but in respect of the private hire car there has to be an operator's licence as well as a licence for the vehicle. There would therefore seem to be a good prima facie case for a lower maximum fee in the case of the private hire vehicles than in the case of the taxis. I beg to move.230
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, there are two aspects to this problem. The first is that the taxi and hire car fees can be different and can have different maxima. That is the answer to the noble Lord's point. So far as the general question is concerned, levels of fee of the kind recommended in the Amendment would lead to subsidisation. I made this point on the last occasion. We have made inquiries of a number of local authorities which license private hire vehicles. In the two cases where I have details the cost is estimated at £17 per licence issued and the maxima laid down by the noble Lord is £10, so one would therefore have subsidisation from the first day. I am sure that is not the noble Lord's intention; but he wanted a guarantee so far as this point is concerned. I hope what I have said deals with that point.
§ Lord AIREDALE
My Lords, if I were to put down an Amendment on Third Reading which said "£17" instead of "£10", would that find favour with the Government?
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
No, my Lords. The noble Lord is now on a totally different point. I dealt with the issue he raised. Unhappily, we live in a time of inflation. It is pointless to pretend that in the next 12 months there will not be a further increase in the level of inflation. It is hoped it will be a far lower level than we have experienced in the immediate past. I do not think there is any sense in writing in the figure of £17 which is the current cost. The figure of £25 is a reasonable one, bearing in mind that it is a maximum.
§ Lord AIREDALE
My Lords, I should have thought that inflation would erode the Government's £25. However, I do not see myself getting any further with this argument, and beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ The Earl of CRANBROOK moved Amendment No. 48:
Page 61, line 28, at end insert:
("Provided that, where a controlled district includes any parish or community with less than
three hundred local government electors, the fees chargeable—
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, I moved a similar Amendment to this one at the Committee stage. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, criticised that on several counts and, if he does not mind my saying so, those criticisms were nearly all thoroughly legitimate. I have tried to meet his criticisms in this Amendment. He suggested that the figure of 700 local Government electors was rather arbitrary, and of course if one is going to try to define the size of the parish at which this facility is going to be essential one has to be arbitrary to some extent. I put down the figure of 300 on this occasion because experience tells me that it is at about that size that the private hire car is more or less essential in a rural village. I would not disagree with something a little below that and would be prepared to amend my figure. Above that level there is always bound to be some doubt about the size and the situation of the parish which needs this service, and I have left the matter to the discretion of the local authority.
§ The noble Lord also suggested that private hire car operators might find this a suitable way of getting cheap licences for their cars and would move in with a large number of cars. I have limited the vehicles to two because by and large the small operators require two cars, as one can be off the road for a time and a standby is handy. He also suggested that some villages are on bus routes and of course that is inevitable; but by referring the minimum size of village one gets to a stage at which if the village is on a bus route it would be wholly uneconomic to try to run a private car hire service in competition with the bus because the 232 demand for the private hire car is likely to be very small, and the population which it would have to serve is likely to be very small. I have tried to meet every one of the criticisms which the noble Lord made on the Committee stage and I look forward with confidence to hearing him say that, as I have met all his criticisms, he will now accept the Amendment.
§ I should like to stress that this matter is important for small parishes. As a result of the last local government reform small parishes which were once in a rural district are now thrown into a larger district, and the majority of voters and councillors come from large villages and quite large townships. I have heard opinions from all over the country—and the noble Lord's colleague will shortly be receiving, as I have done, comments from the Council for the Preservation of Rural Wales—pointing out the difficulties under which these small parishes suffer and the fact that their difficulties are not under-stood by those in charge of them. I hope that the noble Lord will be prepared to accept this Amendment. I beg to move.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, I am afraid that I must say at the outset that the Amendment of the noble Earl is not acceptable to the Government. One point which I made on the last occasion and I have also made again today is the difficulty of creating some form of arbitrary test when deciding whether or not one is going to subsidise. That is what we are talking about, as the noble Earl pointed out on the previous Amendment. It is a matter of having a different level of licence fee depending on population size. The noble Earl put his arguments with force and persuasiveness at an earlier stage. As a result of that, the Government put down the Amendment which we discussed a few moments ago. That is the right way to deal with this situation, which I concede straight away is one of the problems of the rural areas.
I should like to demonstrate the problem which arises from the noble Earl's Amendment. He talks about the position of the operator. His Amendment indicates that where the operator lives in a community of fewer than 300 people there should be a different level of fee. The problem is this. The fact that an operator lives in a parish does not necessarily mean 233 that he runs his business there. He may well run it in a nearby urban community and the fact that he lives in a parish of 300 people—
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, with respect to the noble Earl, I dealt with that point on the last occasion we discussed this matter. I am afraid his Amendment in no way deals with the problem that I set out on that occasion. The vehicle can be garaged in a community of fewer than 300 people; he can live there; but the business may well be conducted elsewhere. That is the problem. But, quite apart from anything else, I do not believe that by simply creating an arbitrary test of how many people live in a particular community, it automatically follows that a different level of licence fee is acceptable. I believe the right way of dealing with this is to give the district council the right to vary the level of fee—and we have already agreed they should have that right—in cases where people are running a valuable social service of the kind which the noble Earl mentioned this afternoon and which we discussed on the last occasion. I do not believe it would be rational to write into the Statute a requirement of this sort.
I would mention one other problem. To some extent, the noble Earl may say, perhaps, that this is a drafting point, but on the basis of what he has just said he may think it is rather more substantial than that. The fact is that the Amendment refers to the grant of a vehicle licence in respect of:(a) not more than two private hire vehicles …".This could be taken to suggest—and indeed I believe that this is the noble Earl's view—that one licence could cover two vehicles, whereas, of course, a licence can be granted only in respect of each vehicle individually. That must be the 234 situation under any form of licensing or control. Obviously, the noble Earl would prefer his form of words, but I feel that we have already met the substance of his case in an earlier Amendment.
Lord DE CLIFFORD
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, we always seem to get bogged down on these matters as to what a district council can do, and in the details about this, that or the other matter. What nobody appears to appreciate is that my noble friend and I are talking about people who are in great difficulty over transportation. We are trying to help them in the best way we can, and we do not really get very much assistance. The noble Lord says that if the district councils are given powers they can do this, that or the other—a most delightful performance, and most acceptable, if you can get the district council to pay any attention to 300 people. But, as a result of Acts which have been passed, the district councils are enormous now; and these communities are little pockets of inhabitants who have not the voting strength to compete with the bulk of these places. I am giving full and absolute support to my noble friend over this. These people do need some attention, and I do hope that, somehow or other somewhere along the line, somebody will give us some assistance in helping them. My noble friend is about the first person I have heard who has made a constructive suggestion towards that end.
§ Lord SANDYS
My Lords, I hope the Government will look at this again, because on this side of the House there is a feeling that a real case has been made out. I would grant, more than readily, that in Amendments Nos. 42 and 53 the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has made a substantial concession on behalf of the Government; but that still has not wholly satisfied my noble friends.
What my noble friend Lord de Clifford has just said is really the substance of the problem. It is the application in a particular area which worries him, and indeed many of us on this side of the House and elsewhere. One can cite cases where one will never get the number of local government electors right for the purposes of a Statute. One can think of areas where there is a very small 235 population indeed in a very scattered area—perhaps in the Highlands of Soctland or in the Western Isles—and where it would be valuable to have such a situation as is proposed in Amendment No. 48. Nevertheless—
§ Lord SANDYS
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for pointing that out. Nevertheless, I should like to suggest to my noble friend that perhaps the wisest course would be to withdraw this Amendment, bearing in mind that the Government's Amendments, as the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, has reminded us, went down only yesterday and therefore we have not had time to consider in any great detail the implications for Amendments Nos. 42 and 53.
§ The Earl of CRANBROOK
My Lords, in view of the advice given to me by the noble Lord who sits in front of me and the fact that we have not had time to consider the full implications of all the Amendments which have been put down, I am ready to withdraw the Amendment. However, I must say that I do not believe the Government begin to understand the problems of the really small rural parish. Only those who live in such places really understand the problems. I do not believe that the Government or the Departments really understand them, and I think there is a risk of grave injustice to the people of these small parishes unless something similar to what I have proposed is laid down.
I will ask your Lordships' permission to withdraw my Amendment now, but I reserve the right to put it down againt his evening for Third Reading. If the noble Lord thinks that the arbitrary figure of 300 electors that I have put down is too high, he can put down an Amendment and, provided the figure does not go too low, I shall be very ready to accept it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6.38 p.m.
The Earl of CRANBROOK moved Amendment No. 49:
Page 61, line 32, after ("proposed") insert (", drawing attention to the provisions of paragraph (b) of this subsection").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, it might be for the convenience of the House if I were to deal with this Amendment and those which follow it—Nos. 50, 51 and 52—together, because they are all virtually part of the same Amendment.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, if the noble Earl will forgive me, I share his desire to move along speedily but it would be helpful if we could take Nos. 49, 50 and 51 together and deal with No. 52 separately.
§ The Earl of CRANBROOK
My Lords, I am perfectly content to do that, save in so far as No. 49 would fall to the ground if my last Amendment was not carried. As regards these three Amendments, I feel we ought to give the operators rather more than 14 days in which to appeal, and that we should substitute 28 days. If the noble Lord thinks that is wrong, I do not feel desperately strongly about it, but I think it would be fair to give a slightly longer time.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, I rather hoped, in the light of the previous discussion, that the noble Earl would say he felt very strongly about it, because I was going to tell him that the Government are perfectly prepared to accept his Amendment.
The Earl of CRANBROOK moved Amendment No. 50:
Page 61, line 33, leave out ("fourteen") and insert ("twenty-eight").
The Earl of CRANBROOK moved Amendment No. 51:
Page 61, line 37, leave out ("fourteen") and insert ("twenty-eight").
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ The Earl of CRANBROOK moved Amendment No. 52:
Page 61, line 40, at end insert:
("(c) when a copy of the notice is deposited in accordance with paragraph (b) above, it shall be accompanied by a statement setting out the reasons which led the district council to propose the variation and including the total expenditure incurred during the immediately preceding financial year in carrying out each of the functions
defined under paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of subsection (1) of this section and the total amount received in fees for each type of licence specified in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of subsection (2) of this section.").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, now that we are cooing like sucking doves, I am not quite certain whether the noble Lord, Lord Harris, was implying that he would also accept this Amendment. I beg to move.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, unhappily, on this occasion I have bad news for the noble Earl. We discussed this matter on the last occasion, and I am afraid that our view remains as it was then, that this is not an appropriate way in which to proceed. There is already adequate legislation and satisfactory machinery for ensuring that local authorities keep proper accounts, have them properly audited, and make them available. This is, in this kind of case, all preceded by debate in the council chamber, and by consideration in the appropriate committees of the local authority. I hope that the noble Earl will not suggest that in the field of, exceptionally, private hire or hackney carriage licence fees, a district council is liable to be for some reason unusually devious or irresponsible or unreasonable.
We must recognise, however much we may regret it and wish to reverse the process, that we live in a world which suffers from general inflationary trends. In the future it may be different, but at present and for the immediate future we must take a realistic view and accept that prices and costs will tend to rise. Inevitably, for a while at least, licence fees will for the same reason, tend to increase. It is our wish that in all possible fields a district council should so adjust its charges as to cover its costs and this clause provides for that. It is, of course, the vehicle user, the hirer, who pays in the end. If fees go up, fares or charges follow and the user pays. This is perhaps not a matter for congratulation, but I think it is absolutely right.
One should never ask a rhetorical question, but why should private hire licensing, and the matters which we have been discussing during the passage of this Bill, be treated separately from any other area of activity by a local authority? After all, as I believe I pointed out on the last 238 occasion, there is no requirement so far as the housing revenue account of a local authority is concerned, which is one of the major areas of local authority expenditure and revenue. To take another example in the area of recreation, there are fees charged for golf and other sports where accounts are kept. Is it suggested that in cases of that kind there should be a need to follow the procedure set out by the noble Earl? I think not. It is reasonable to say that when a local authority decides to vary its fees there will be a debate in the council chamber and notice of the intention will be given, and that is the right way of guaranteeing that people in the community know that a local authority has behaved reasonably. I do not believe it is right to write a provision of this kind into this piece of legislation which, so far as I am aware, is nowhere reproduced in regard to any other aspect of local authority expenditure.
§ The Earl of CRANBROOK
My Lords, I am sorry that I misinterpreted what the noble Lord said. I thought we were in agreement and that he would accept my Amendment, so I merely moved it formally. I entirely agree with him that it would be ridiculous to expect a local authority to publish its reasons for putting up fees for golf courses, or for increasing the rents of its houses. That would become apparent in its accounts at the end of the year. But we must not forget that there is no statutory right of appeal against those increases. Here we have a statutory right of appeal, and all I am suggesting a local authority should do is place on record, and leave available to be read by a person who feels aggrieved, the reasons which led it to increase the fees.
That the fees must be increased is obvious, and it would be contrary to the spirit and the letter of this Bill if a local authority increased them by more than the amount laid down. But all these facts and figures which I have set out will have had to be put in a report from one of its officers, and put before the appropriate committee of the local authority. It will have had to be printed and, having considered it, the council will have decided to put up the fees by a certain amount. But the unfortunate man who has a statutory right of appeal has no means of finding out the reasons. 239 The increase may well come in the middle of the local authority's year, it will not have been published in the accounts, and it seems to me only natural justice that the reasons which led an authority to take this step, which will already be in a report from an officer and it will not cost anything to make one copy available in its offices to be seen by the public, should be made known. Justice demands that a man who has a right of appeal should know exactly what he is appealing against.
I must apologise to your Lordships for not having said that earlier. I only hope that your Lordships may be prepared to give the noble Lord opposite leave to speak once more, if he so wishes, or perhaps he would like to consider that point between now and Third Reading. I think it is a valid point, because these poor fellows must be able to find out what are the reasons which they are appealing against, and I can think of no other way than this of doing it.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Earl misunderstood what I said earlier. I am afraid I was indicating that, though we had been able to meet him on the previous Amendments, we do not take the view that there is a case made out here. As I said, so far as I am aware there is no parallel in any other area of local government and we do not see why there is any obligation on Parliament to put a responsibility of this kind onto local authorities. I have tried to point out that in approaching this matter we must bear in mind the public interest, and that is safeguarded by the fact that a local authority will take a decision of this kind only after a debate in committee and, in many cases, in the full council. That is the guarantee of the public interest, and I am afraid that that is why we do not think it appropriate to accept this Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 53:
Page 62, line 8, at end insert:
("(6) A district council may remit the whole or part of any fee chargeable in pursuance of this section for the grant of a licence under section 44 or 51 of this Act in any case in which they think it appropriate to do so.").
§ Clause 67 [Taximeters]:
Baroness YOUNG moved Amendment No. 54:
Page 62, leave out from beginning of line 9 to ("shall") in line 10 and insert ("Nothing in this Act shall require any private hire vehicle to be equipped with any form of taximeter but no private hire vehicle so equipped").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we discussed this point at the Committee stage and I have again put down this Amendment in the hope that the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, will be able to accept it. The Amendment enables a distinction to be drawn between taxis which are entitled to ply for hire, and which therefore have the provision of a taximeter, and private hire vehicles which are not permitted to ply for hire but which are able to charge the fees which they consider to be appropriate. It is an issue, I know, about which private hire vehicle operators feel very strongly. A clause was included in the Tyne and Wear Private Bill which would have requited private vehicles to be equipped with taximeters. I shall be grateful for the Government's view on this matter because I believe that unless this distinction is drawn between taxicabs and private hire vehicles, in effect private hire vehicles will have imposed upon them all the restrictions that are imposed upon taxis without all the benefits that taxis enjoy. I beg to move.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, the noble Baroness is quite right. We discussed this matter during the Committee stage and we are perfectly content to accept the Amendment.
Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 55:
Page 62, line 12, leave out ("relevant district council") and insert ("district council for the district or any other district council by which a vehicle licence in force for the vehicle was issued").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a drafting Amendment. I beg to move.241
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 56:
Page 62, line 16, at end insert ("; or
(c) knowingly causes or permits a vehicle of which he is the proprietor to be used in contravention of subsection (1) of this section,").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move. This Amendment makes it an offence for the proprietor of a private hire vehicle to use the vehicle in a controlled district if the taximeter fitted in the vehicle has not been tested and approved by or on behalf of the district council.
§ Clause 68 [Offences due to fault of other person]:
Lord AIREDALE moved Amendment No. 57:
Page 62, line 18, leave out ("where an offence") and insert ("where it appears that an offence has been committed").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a second bite at the cherry. It is another attempt to improve the wording of Clause 68 which refers to an offence by any person, whether or not that person is prosecuted. The position is inherently unsatisfactory, because a person has not committed an offence just because a local authority thinks that he has. That person may have a perfectly good defence which the local authority knows nothing about. Admittedly there are precedents for the form of words contained in the clause.
With prodigious industry the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, ferreted out a list of precedents and quoted them, but I venture to suggest that they are bad precedents. A very much better precedent is included in the relevant section of the Food and Drugs Act 1955 and I am greatly indebted to the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, for having referred me to it. This says:
Where it appears that an offence has been committed.
Surely that is what this Amendment is trying to say. If you have a bad and a good precedent and you can choose between them, surely it is better to choose the good one. I beg to move.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, it would be idle to pretend that this is one of the most fundamental 242 questions before the House. Now that the noble Lord has identified the noble Viscount as the person who discovered this example, it is only right to point out that one of the examples I would pray in aid to justify the language of the Statute is the Fair Trading Act 1973. I think that the noble Viscount was then sitting on this Bench and no doubt he would have been satisfied with that form of words—as I am with the form of words which is before us this evening. I have looked at this matter, but with great respect I do not think that it is right to change the language of the Bill.
§ Lord AIREDALE
My Lords, we can play the game of quoting precedents at each other for a very long time. I dare say that there are other precedents that I could find beyond the Food and Drugs Act 1955.
A noble Lord
Perhaps the Trade Descriptions Act.
Viscount COLVILLE of CULROSS
My Lords, the Trade Descriptions Act is not a precedent.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 59:
Page 62, line 24, at end insert:
("(2) Section 40(3) of this Act shall apply to an offence under this Part of this Act as it applies to an offence under Part I of this Act.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move. This Amendment applies to Clause 40(3) of the Bill so that when an offence committed by a body corporate—a company or a firm—is proved to have been committed with the consent of, or due to neglect of, an officer of the body corporate, he, as well as the body corporate, is liable to be proceeded against.
§ Clause 71 [Saving for certain vehicles]:
§ Lord AIREDALE moved Amendment No. 60:
Page 63, line 11, at end insert:
() apply to a vehicle used in pursuance of a contract for the hire of the vehicle for a journey not wholly within a controlled district".
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, if Clause 71 is intended to exempt the multiple long distance hire car companies, most of which are household names, from the provisions of this part of the Bill, I can only say that I do not think that it goes nearly far enough to meet their problems. When one considers that these multiple firms will have garages containing their hire cars, some in controlled and others in uncontrolled areas—and even in the controlled areas the conditions under which they will be operating will not, of course, be identical because the whole of this part of the Bill is filled with conditions that can be imposed at will by local authorities to suit their own idiosyncratic requirements—one realises that it will be a sorry situation for them. These multiple firms will be making journeys from controlled into uncontrolled districts and vice versa; they will be making journeys that pass through controlled districts, and so on. I do not think that this part of the Bill attempts adequately to deal with their problems. I should have thought that this was an eminently suitable field to be dealt with in the Government Bill which is already envisaged and which is, we hope, to reach the Statute Book after this part of the Bill has been used as a kind of stopgap.
§ I have sought to say in the Amendment that this part of the Bill shall apply only to journeys which take place wholly within controlled districts. Let us leave the complications and problems of the multiple firms to be dealt with later after they have been considered calmly and consultations have taken place with them rather than try to land them with having to operate under this part of a Bill which has been so hurriedly and unexpectedly brought forward and is about to reach the Statute Book. My Lords, that is the purpose of this Amendment, and I beg to move.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, I do not know whether it would be for the convenience of the House if we were to discuss this Amendment together with the following Government Amendment, because as the noble Lord has pointed out we are really discussing the same matter. Therefore, if I may, I will speak to the Government Amendment and say why I think it is preferable to what the noble Lord has proposed.
244 We have gone into this matter in considerable detail because we were aware of the fact that as a result of the situation developing in Standing Committee in another place, when suddenly this new group of clauses was added to the Bill, a difficult situation clearly could conceivably arise. As a result of that, as the House will be aware, we have had a number of discussions with those principally concerned and we have attempted to meet the central argument which was adduced in this House on the Committee stage.
So far as the Government Amendment is concerned—that is Amendment No. 62—both parts of the Amendment, as I have indicated, are a result of the concern which was expressed in the House on that occasion. We recognised that it would not be right that the operations of legitimate and respectable private hire organisations should be hindered by restrictions introduced partly to protect the interests of the travelling public and partly to reduce unlawful and misleading activities by less reputable organisations. It was seen that the introduction of licensing control certainly would have a serious effect on the legitimate activities of the private hire trade if simple licensing on a district level were to be introduced without some modification recognising the essentially mobile nature of the hire car and its driver. Licensing appropriate to the hackney carriage because of that vehicle's unique privilege of plying for hire in the district is clearly not appropriate to the private hire car booked in advance for hiring.
The first part of the Amendment provides that the licensed private hire vehicle in respect of which a vehicle licence issued by a district council under Part II is in force may be fully used as a private hire vehicle in any other controlled district. It may also of course be used in any district not subject to control. Such a vehicle may, in any other district, collect, set down or pass in transit, and that I think was one of the anxieties which in particular was expressed during the Committee stage. We would not agree of course that a vehicle not licensed anywhere, that is to say a vehicle operated from an uncontrolled area, should enjoy so wide a privilege. I think that is self-evident. The relaxation contained in this part of the Amendment is quite wide and I hope your Lordships will agree that it deals adequately and fairly with the 245 problem which was discussed when this matter last came before your Lordships.
The second part of the Amendment quite simply allows a district council to issue a notice to the effect that on such occasions as specified a private hire vehicle is relieved of the requirement to display a plate or disc issued in respect of it, and while that notice applies the driver of the vehicle will not be required to wear the driver's badge issued to him. As I have indicated, I think we have gone a substantial distance to meet the very real anxieties which were expressed on the previous occasion and I hope that on reflection the House will agree.
§ Baroness YOUNG
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, for tabling Amendment No. 62 which seems to go a long way towards meeting all the points which we raised at Committee stage. However I would like to raise two quite separate points with him, of which I have given him notice. If I understood him correctly he said that these provisions would not apply to a private hire vehicle operating from an uncontrolled area. This Bill does not apply either to London or to Scotland, and what happens in the case of the 20,000 private hire vehicles in London? Does this mean that if you are the driver of a private hire vehicle operating in London you may take a passenger out, say, to Heathrow, but you may not return a week later to collect that passenger and take him back to London? It seems to me that this will seriously affect the business of those private hire vehicles operating from London, and I should like the noble Lord to indicate what he considers should happen in that case. I think the same would apply to private hire vehicles on the borders of Scotland. I am afraid I do not have the evidence before me as to what happens in Scotland, but I can quite see that there might be considerable difficulties North and South of the Border, and I would be grateful for the noble Lord's comment on that as well.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, as the noble Baroness rightly said, she gave me notice of what she was going to ask me, and indeed I am very grateful to her for what she has said.
§ Lord AIREDALE
My Lords, as we are on the Report stage I wonder whether it would be helpful if I were to make a point which is very much on a par with what the noble Baroness has just said, and that will save the Minister from having to ask the leave of the House too many times.
As the Minister pointed out, the first paragraph of the Amendment deals merely with vehicles operating from one controlled area and giving them free passage in other controlled areas. The Minister went on to say this—and think I noted his words correctly:Vehicles from uncontrolled areas should not enjoy so wide a privilege".What I think is being forgotten here is that it is not the fault of the operator, it has nothing to do with the operator, whether he happens to operate from a district which is controlled or uncontrolled. That is a matter for the decision of the local authority, and if he is operating from an area in which there is no control exercised by the local authority he will have a tremendous grievance if he is told, "You cannot have this freedom of operation in the controlled areas which other operators can have" just because the area from which they operate happens to be controlled and the area from which he happens to operate is not a controlled area.
I do not know whether I am making this point clear, but here is a state of affairs where, from the operator's point of view, it is pure chance whether or not he is operating from a controlled area. Therefore the first paragraph of the Government Amendment is not nearly adequate to deal with this situation. I hope I have made that clear, although it is not very easy.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, if I may say so, I agree wholeheartedly with the noble Lord. I have not found it easy to go to the heart of this matter, as I am sure the noble Baroness has not; and she has had the misfortune of not having the advice of the Civil Service who have been instructing me in this matter. Perhaps I may deal with the question raised by the noble Baroness and then come on to what the noble Lord has just said—incidentally, I should say that I am speaking, I hope, with the leave of the House.
247 The answer to the noble Baroness is that private hire cars based in London will be entitled to carry passengers into or through controlled districts outside London. They will need to be licensed somewhere under the Bill if they collect passengers in a controlled district, and the same applies so far as Scotland is concerned. I may add that for this purpose Heathrow is inside London.
So far as the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, is concerned, he is of course largely right in what he has said: namely, that a vehicle not licensed anywhere, that is to say a vehicle which is operated from an uncontrolled area, will not enjoy the wide privileges set out in this particular Amendment. To allow this in fact would be to negate the control and to allow unlicensed vehicles and drivers from uncontrolled areas freely to operate in licensed areas, and clearly that cannot be sensible if in fact one wants some form of licensing control. The question is, does one want it or does one not? In my view it is right to have licensing control and I believe in fact—using the most appalling cliché—it would drive a coach and horses through this part of the Bill if we did not have it.
I accept the point which the noble Lord made at the beginning of his speech in this regard. I do not believe that this has been a happy way in which to legislate. We have done the best we can, and I think as a result of the Committee stage we have made substantial progress in making this a much fairer and more workmanlike measure. Perhaps I may be permitted to say that I think in this particular respect, as in others, the House has played a most valuable part as a revising Chamber.
§ The Earl of CRANBROOK
My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, sits down, can he tell us how many districts there are which contained towns in which the 1847 Act was in operation but which have not extended that over the whole of the rural parts of their districts? That is the critical thing on both these Amendments: if it is only in a very few cases, I suppose one would say de minimis, but if it is a large number, the problem is much larger than we know.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, I cannot pretend to have the 248 answer to a question of that sort, but I will gladly look into it and write to the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook.
§ The Earl of CRANBROOK
My Lords, I do not want to know the answer for myself; I only want to make quite certain that the House knows it.
§ Lord AIREDALE
My Lords, there is every indication of the possibility of a discussion with the Minister, not only about my Amendment but about the Government Amendment, too, in order to see whether we can improve it a little before the next stage. Strengthened by this thought, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 7.12 p.m.
Lord AIREDALE moved Amendment No. 61:
Page 63, line 13, after ("district") insert ("or taking them outside a controlled district").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, Clause 71 exempts the vehicles from outside which bring passengers within a controlled area. This Amendment seeks to make that exemption applicable equally if it is a case of taking people outside a controlled district. First of all, the present situation is that if Reading is a controlled area, you can get a vehicle from Southampton to bring you into Reading, a controlled area, but what you cannot do is to have a hired car from Reading to take you to Southampton. Does it matter whether the vehicle starts from Reading or from Southampton, because you must have a return journey either way? I can see no purpose in excluding the taking-out of people from a controlled district, and only excluding the provisions of the Act if it is a case of bringing people within a controlled area. The purpose of this Amendment is to widen the area. I beg to move.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, with the greatest respect to the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, I am well aware of the point he has made, but I had hoped that I had dealt with this on the previous Amendment because here we really are discussing the same group of issues; that is, whether one is going to have the form of licensing control as proposed here, or not. With respect to 249 the noble Lord, I do not believe that the Amendment he has proposed will in any way improve the Bill. it would in fact run counter to the central purpose of the Bill. For that reason, I believe that on reflection, when the noble Lord considers again what I have said this afternoon, as I am sure he will, and the actual terms of the Government Amendment, which I think substantially meets many of the anxieties expressed in this matter, he will decide to look again at this matter and not press this Amendment this afternoon. This Amendment goes over the ground we discussed on the last Amendment.
§ Lord AIREDALE
My Lords, in view of what the noble Lord the Minister has said, I certainly will consider this matter again. This whole topic is riddled with tremendous difficulties and takes a great deal of grasping. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 62:
Page 63, line 30, at end insert:
("(2) Paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of section 42(1) of this Act shall not apply to the use or driving of a vehicle or to the employment of a driver of a vehicle while the vehicle is used as a private hire vehicle in a controlled district if a licence issued under section 44 of this Act by the council whose area consists of or includes another controlled district is then in force for the vehicle and a driver's licence issued by such a council is then in force for the driver of the vehicle.
(3) Where a licence under section 44 of this Act is in force for a vehicle, the council which issued the licence may, by a notice in writing given to the proprietor of the vehicle, provide that paragraph (a) of subsection (6) of that section shall not apply to the vehicle on any occasion specified in the notice or shall not so apply while the notice is carried in the vehicle; and on any occasion on which by virtue of this subsection that paragraph does not apply to a vehicle section 50(2)(a) of this Act shall not apply to the driver of the vehicle.")
§ Clause 76 [Interpretation of Part II]:
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Lord SANDYS moved Amendment No. 63:
Page 65, line 13, leave out from ("to") to end of line 15 and insert:
("Operate" means in the course of business to invite and accept bookings for a private hire vehicle and to control or arrange the journey to be undertaken by a private hire vehicle whilst on hire under section 42 of this Act.").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment refers to the terminus of the Bill concerning the definitions. I think the Amendment is self-explanatory, but I would refer to what my noble friend Lady Young said at column 700 of Hansard of 29th June the third day of the Committee stage. My noble friend said:
Very strong representations have been made to me that what is really needed is to license the operators of private hire companies rather than to license each individual driver, because it will be the responsibility of the operator to see that his drivers are of suitable character, and so on, to be responsible for driving the cars. This will confer the right degree of responsibility. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, would care to look at this point.
I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, has had a chance to look at that point, but this centres on the definition of the word "operator". We believe in altering the definition to include the words on the Marshalled List, and I quote the second half of the sentence:
…and to control or arrange the journey to be undertaken by a private hire vehicle whilst on hire under section 42 of this Act."".
That quotation is very important. We believe it is important to widen the definition, and we believe that this should be carried into the Bill. For those reasons, I beg to move the Amendment.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, I do indeed recall the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, on this general set of issues. I am bound to admit that when we examined the Amendment we were not wholly sure of the intention behind it. I have now had the benefit of hearing the noble Lord, Lord Sandys. I should like to consider the matter, and will write to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, before Third Reading, if that is convenient to her, so that the matter can be considered rather more carefully than we have been able to consider it so far.
§ Lord SANDYS
My Lords, we on these Benches would like to accept those undertakings. We would naturally seek to move our own Amendment, or jointly with the Government decide a more satisfactory 251 means of definition. With that, I beg to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ In the Title:
§ 7.19 p.m.
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 64.
§ Baroness YOUNG
My Lords, before we leave Amendment No. 64, to which have no objection, may I say that I believe that the whole question of the Long Title still needs looking at. I have been very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, for the extensive correspondence that we have now entered into, and for his last letter. As the noble Lord knows full well, I am not a lawyer, but I still find it very strange that in the Long Title there is no reference to legislation dealing specifically with private hire cars because, as the noble Lord has already indicated in correspondence to me, there is no general legislation dealing with private hire cars. The only precedents are in Private Acts. In his letter he keeps referring to the law, but he does not say which law it is. Presumably, it is the law of Private Acts. I should have thought that the Long Title ought to be amended to include provisions on private hire. I believe this is a matter which ought to be looked at, at least in another place.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
My Lords, all I can say to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, is that I am afraid she will be receiving another letter from me on this matter. I will go into it again, but I think we dealt with the matter in my last letter of 13th July. It was of course considered by the authorities in the other place before they accepted these Amendments. If it had been the view of the Chair in another place that these Amendments were outside the Bill they would have ruled them out of order, but they did not do so. Gladly I will consider what the noble Baroness has said today, but I believe that the matter is satisfactory as the Bill is drafted. She will certainly hear from me again on the matter.