HL Deb 29 June 1976 vol 372 cc695-746

4.4. p.m.

House again in Committee.

On Question, Whether Clause 39 shall stand part of the Bill ?


am sure the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, will welcome the fact that I do not propose to go into the question once again of how these clauses came to be in the Bill. All would say to him is that the issue, as far as this clause is concerned, is surely this: whether we are going to be offered the possibility of any form of licensing control for private hire vehicles. The local authority is not obliged to exercise its powers under this Bill; it has to be done by resolution of the council. So to some extent that is an answer to the noble Lord. There is a democratic safeguard and, if it is felt to be wholly inappropriate, it can be argued out in the council chamber. I think most of us who have had experience of local government would leave it to the elected representatives of the people to decide whether or not the circumstances of a particular local authority area are appropriate to introduce this group of powers.

The only other point I wish to make to the noble Lord is that the powers he refers to do not seem to me to be at all inappropriate if we are to have any form of licensing control over private hire vehicles. The question of whether or not a vehicle is safe seems to me self- evidently to be a matter on which it is desirable to have some clarification. If it is not safe, it can endanger the lives of people who use that particular vehicle, and if it is involved on a day-to-day basis—I had better not say " plying for hire " because clearly that is what it cannot do, but available for hire—in such situations it is not at all inappropriate to have powers of this kind. But there is one important qualification; that is, that in subsection (7) it is made clear that any person who is aggrieved by the refusal of the district council to grant a vehicle licence can appeal to a magistrates' court, and if the local authority behaves unreasonably it seems that is the way to deal with the problem.


The question of safety was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, and in my brief remarks I mentioned that the Ministry of Transport test for all vehicles which are over three years old will apply anyway, so that under other legislation the question of safety is catered for. The noble Lord raised the general issue, but I think we felt that, as suggested by my noble friend Lord Cranbrook, Clause 39 could be withdrawn and looked at again.


With great respect I do not think we could agree to that. This is wholly fundamental to this group of powers. If we do not have any form of licensing control over private hire vehicles, that is clearly a major issue of principle, and although I do not want to keep on making the same point I must make it clear to the noble Lord that his honourable friends in another place wanted the power. They voted for these powers. Now we are being told that it is unreasonable to have them and I think that consistency over a period of a few weeks is not an unreasonable request to make.

This seems to me to be a clear issue for the Committee. If it is felt right—and I think it has been generally agreed by the noble Baroness, Lady Young—that we should proceed to discuss Part II of the Bill, licensing control of private hire vehicles is absolutely fundamental to this Part of the Bill. Without it a great deal of this Part of the Bill would fall to pieces.


Again I am bound to express my disappointment. The noble Lord opposite has not attempted to justify this, other than by saying that if you are going to regulate private hire vehicles you must be able to regulate almost everything in them, down to the colour or the type of tyre which they use. Of course we must protect the public against unsafe vehicles, but that is already done through the Ministry of Transport test. If a vehicle passes the test for any one of us to drive ourselves, it is presumably safe and it is not going to damage the people in the street because the steering is likely to go wrong. That is important, and quite clearly one has to be certain about it. But this is really extending the power of interference with the life of people in the community to such an extent that I think it is becoming intolerable. I hope the noble Lord will think again in order to see whether we can circumscribe these powers in some way so that the position becomes reasonable.

Clause 39 agreed to.

Clause 40 [Transfer of hackney carriages and private hire vehicles]:

On Question, Whether Clause 40 shall stand part of the Bill ?

4.10 p.m.


The whole question of foreign earnings in this sphere appears to be very important. I should like to raise it on this Amendment, because I think it has been insufficiently—


Are we not speaking on the Question, That Clause 40 shall stand part ?


Yes, we are. On Second Reading I think the subject was referred to, but it would be appropriate to raise this matter in one of these general topics on the Question, Whether Clause 40 shall stand part? The attitude of foreign visitors to this country and our own internal attitude towards private hire may differ widely. T know from personal experience that in a very large number of cases our foreign visitors may have made itineraries which they wish to change, vary and alter to suit circumstances, and it would be very much for their convenience if they were not obliged to be restricted by the very large number of regulations with which this section of the Bill is concerned.

Foreign visitors frequently may wish to arrange for a substantial sum of money to be placed towards private hire in the course of their visit to this country, and surely we should make it possible for them to do so. Should they wish to go from one district to another, to change drivers, to ensure that they can pick up friends, to visit another part of the country, to extend the length of their journey for a considerable distance (far beyond what people normally hire vehicles for in this country) it should be possible for them to do all of them. I believe that a very rich source of income from foreign earnings might be obtained through the private hire industry in this country. I hope that the Tourist Board and other bodies will recognise the potential of this valuable source of foreign exchange.

Clause 40 agreed to.

Clause 41 [Provisions as to proprietors]:

On Question, Whether Clause 41 shall stand part of the Bill ?

4.13 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG

This clause is concerned with the inspection of private hire vehicles. My own view about this section of Part II of the Bill is that, in general, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, that there is a case for licensing, but I think the case needs to be carefully considered. Although many people have made representations to the effect that the licensing is not necessary, I can see the force of the argument for it. Opinion is divided about this.

Nevertheless, as I understand this clause, while a private hire vehicle must be inspected, the licensing authority may not inspect on more than four occasions during the year. I wonder whether that is a sensible way of conducting these inspections. I understand that in Plymouth there is only one inspection a year in any event; and that in Liverpool, where the Act has been in operation for some time, originally they had a maximum of five inspections a year, but in fact they never get around to conducting more than one a year. Here, up to four inspections a year is suggested.

I appreciate that this is a permissive power, but one needs to be realistic. At a time of economic stringency, I do not see many local authorities inspecting hire vehicles four times a year, and I wonder whether it would not be more sensible to say once a year. After all, there are all sorts of other restrictions, about cases of accidents, and so on, all of which I am quite happy with. But I think it is a mistake to make the provisions of this Part unduly restrictive.


We do not have a passionate view on this question. The noble Baroness is quite right. It is important and, if I might for a moment take issue with the noble Lord who spoke a few moments ago on this matter, it is appropriate that I should reply now.

One has to accept that a private hire vehicle will be used far more heavily than many private motorists would use their cars; that is obvious. By the very nature of the business, the vehicle will be heavily used. The fact that it is available for hire on a regular basis and that it is licensed, in my view puts on the local authority a clear responsibility to ensure that the vehicle is properly tested. I think there is a clear distinction between that sort of test and the normal Ministry of Transport test.

This clause, like so much of the rest of this section of the Bill, is, as the Committee will be aware, based on the Plymouth Corporation Act. What happened in Standing Committee is, basically, that all the Amendments arose from the Plymouth Corporation Act which proposed a maximum of four inspections a year. The comparable provision in the Liverpool Corporation Act 1972 laid down a maximum of five inspections a year. As the noble Baroness, Lady Young, says, quite rightly, it is a matter for the common sense of the local authority.

I would not wish to argue that in all circumstances it would be right to have inspections five times or four times a year; one would hope that the local authority would use common sense in this matter. But I repeat that the Government do not have strong feelings on this matter. I think we should be rather uneasy about having a maximum of one inspection a year, but certainly we would consider any representations we may receive on this point.

Clause 41 agreed to.

Clause 42 [Licensing of drivers of private hire vehicles]:

On Question, Whether Clause 42 shall stand part of the Bill ?

4.17 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG

This clause, too, concerns the licensing of drivers ; and again, my questions arise not so much because here I am against the principal of licensing, but because of the way that this clause is going to work out. Clearly, in the case of a taxi, each driver is licensed because he is plying for hire in the street. One quite sees that not only must he have a clean driving licence, but he must also be licensed by the local authority. But we do have a distinction between taxi drivers and the private hire car. The private hire car is not plying for hire. People engage a private hire car by ringing up a firm, which then engages one of its drivers. 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 arc 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.


Yes. Would it be for the convenience both of the Committee and of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, if we discussed this particular issue in a group of Amendments relating to Clause 44 which I believe deal with this particular issue?

Baroness YOUNG

Yes, of course. Clause 42 agreed to.

Clause 43 [Appeals in respect of drivers' licences]:

On Question, Whether Clause 43 shall stand part of the Bill ?


Clause 43 also hangs together with Clause 44 and the Amendments attaching thereto. I would draw the attention of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, to Amendment No. 63A, which we have set down. I think that it would probably be for the convenience of the Committee if we had a general debate over this whole area.

Clause 43 agreed to.

Clause 44 [Drivers' licences for hackney carriages and private hire vehicles]:

4.20 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG moved Amendment No. 59:

Page 46, line 15, leave out paragraph (a).

The noble Baroness said

Amendments Nos. 59, 60 and 61 cover the same point that I made on the Question, Whether Clause 42 should stand part? Clause 44 is concerned with licences for the drivers of hackney carriages and private hire vehicles. What I should like to find out from the Government is whether they have considered licensing the operators of private hire firms, who would then be responsible for the drivers rather than insisting that the local authority license not only the operators but every single driver of every single vehicle. I beg to move Amendment No. 59.


This is an important question and I will respond to it with some precision. The Government's view is that it would be right to have a licence for the driver and that licensing the operator would not be adequate. The position is that the driver, even more than the proprietor or the operator, should be the person, in our view, who should be subject to licensing control by the local authority. I understand this is a view which is strongly supported by the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, and, I am sure, by many of the other local authority associations. The fact of the matter is that it is, of course, the driver who in most cases comes into personal contact with the public and not the operator.

I think there is a real problem here. If a local authority decided that it wished to introduce this group of powers in the area of its authority, it would be wrong if it then discovered that it had the rather anomolous situation—and I think it would be an anomolous situation—of saying that it is right to license a taxi driver but wrong to license the driver of a private hire vehicle. It would find itself confronted with the situation where it could not withhold a licence from the driver of a private hire vehicle even if it regarded him as a wholly inappropriate person to have such a licence, either on the grounds of his driving record or for some other reason. I know the strength of feeling of the local authority associations so far as the power to license a taxi driver is concerned; they are, I know, very concerned about this, and I have had a substantial amount of correspondence with Members of another place who have been putting to me the strength of feeling of local authorities on this matter.

The noble Baroness and those who take this view might, I suppose, argue that there is a clear distinction between the driver of a taxi and the driver of a private hire vehicle, in that one plies for hire and the other does not. But with respect I do not think that that is a totally satisfactory answer. The fact is that both of them are available for hire by members of the public: both of them will be licensed by the local authority; in one case the driver will be licensed and in the other case he will not. I do not quite see why there should be a distinction of this character. After all, in a situation where one wants a taxi to come to one's house and finds that one cannot come, one then 'phones the proprietor of a private hire business to get a private hire vehicle rather than a taxi, simply because a taxi is not available.

In a situation of that sort it seems to me anomalous, to put it no higher, to say that in one case the local authority would have power to license the driver and in the other not, given the circumstances of the hiring which I have described. As I have indicated already, I do not want to defend every conceivable aspect of Part II of the Bill; indeed, I have already indicated quite the contrary. But on this particular point I think there is a real difficulty about discriminating in favour of the driver of the private hire vehicle against the taxi driver, saying that one should have a licence and the other should not. I think it is an important question, and I hope that on reflection the noble Baroness may agree.

Baroness YOUNG

I thank the noble Lord for that very full explanation, and, of course, I appreciate that he is trying to be as helpful as possible over Part II of the Bill. I think the whole of the argument hinges on whether or not one regards taxis and private hire cars as being one and the same. Of course, one can argue, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, argued, that if you ring up for a taxi and cannot get one, you ring up for a private hire car, and what is the difference? On the other hand, you could argue, as he did on a previous Amendment, that a private hire car cannot have its name on it because it would be mistaken for a taxi, and therefore there is a difference.

I do not think one can argue both ways. The fact is that whereas you can ring up for a taxi, you can also hail a taxi in the street. You can ring up for a private hire car, but you cannot, or should not, hail it in the street. Therefore, there is a difference on the question of licensing. If the noble Lord is not prepared to consider the question of licensing the operator—and I gather he does not have much leeway on this question—he might consider the question of a provisional licence.

I believe that one of the difficulties is that a private hire operator who needs another driver goes to the job centre—I think that is the correct term; I hope my terminology is right—and there is a suitable man who has a clean driving licence. The proprietor wishes to employ him, and he goes to the local authority, who say, " We are very sorry, our tester is on holiday ". I am told that up to two months can elapse—and this has been the case in Liverpool—before a driver can he tested. There should be a prima facie case for assuming that the person is suitable, if his driving licence is in order, he has no convictions pending and nothing is known about him to his detriment, and the insurance company is prepared to insure him. Could he not be given a provisional licence? I wonder whether the noble Lord would be prepared to consider that before the next stage of the Bill.


I will gladly look at the point. I should have to move with some caution in this matter; I would not want to commit myself on a point as important as this. Clearly, it is desirable that local authorities should act with some speed in this matter, not only for the driver of a private hire car but also for the driver of a taxi; in fact the same argument could apply. I will look at the point. I would prefer to reserve any view on this matter until I have had some time for further reflection on it.

Baroness YOUNG

I am grateful for that. We on this side will also reflect on it, and it may be that we shall come forward with an Amendment at the next stage. We will consider the matter. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 62:

Page 47, line 1, leave out ("authority") and insert (" council ").

The noble Lord said

I beg to move this drafting Amendment to make it clear that the police station at which a taxi or private hire car driver is required to produce his licence must be within the area of the district council and not the police authority.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 44, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 45 [Issue of drivers' badges.]:

Baroness YOUNG moved Amendment No. 63:

Page 47, line 5, leave out from (" licence") to first (" a") in line 6.

The noble Baroness said

This is a question of drivers' badges—whether or not a driver should be obliged at all times to have a badge on him, even when he is a driver of a private hire vehicle. Once again, I think there is a distinction between the two, the taxi driver and the private hire car driver. I should like to ask the noble Lord to consider whether this is unnecessary in all cases of private hire vehicles. I beg to move.


I should like to support this Amendment and to speak on the question as to whether Clause 45 is necessary at all; that is, whether the drivers of private hire vehicles as distinct from taxi drivers should need to have to wear badges at all. After all, the circumstances are different in the two cases. If you hail a taxi you and the taxi driver engage in a short joint venture together, and that is the end of your association. Supposing there is a dispute about the fare at the end of the journey, and that the taxi driver is offensive, admittedly there is the number of his taxi which you may be able to take and identify him by. But supposing you walk away down the street and he pursues you, arguing and being offensive—I am not suggesting that taxi drivers behave in this way very often, but the occasion does arise—then your only means of identifying him is by his arm badge. I imagine that is the justification for the taxi drivers' arm badge.

However, the case of the private hire vehicle driver is quite different. You must not hail him in the street; you do not engage him directly at all. You ring up or get in touch with his proprietor, and the proprietor has to make a note of the contract and the journey, and he allocates the driver. If, at the end of the journey or at any stage, you have a row with the driver and you want to identify him and he refuses to make his identity known to you, your remedy is to go back to the operator from whom you hired the vehicle, and the operator must know who that driver was, and in that way the identity can be established. It seems to me that in that case, as distinct from the taxi driver case, there is no need for the driver to carry a badge upon his arm. If that is not necessary, then do not let us legislate for the necessity of something which really is not necessary.


I am certainly not in favour of legislating when it is not necessary. I think that the fundamental question, which I endeavoured to suggest to the Committee a few moments ago, is whether there is licensing for drivers, and I sought to point out why, in the Government's view, it was appropriate to have licensing. I think that is the fundamental question. The point which the noble Lord has just made is that he makes a distinction which, in many cases, I am not sure is quite as realistic as he imagines it to be. After all, you can have a firm that has a number of taxi cabs in exactly the same way that you can have a firm that owns a number of private hire vehicles. Presumably in both cases you can complain to the proprietor, as well as to the local authority if you wish to do so, about the behaviour of a particular driver.

The noble Baroness, as ever puts her case with moderation, and I will gladly look at the point. I think that the fundamental question is the one I have sought to point out to the Committee, as to whether we have some form of licensing control for drivers, and why it should be right to require a taxi driver to display his badge and not a private hire vehicle. Nevertheless, the noble Baroness has put her point, and I shall certainly consider it.

Baroness YOUNG

I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich. In order to be constructive about this it might he possible to amend this clause to make it refer exclusively to taxi drivers and those driving for private hire vehicles who are in fact driving taxis. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 45 shall stand part of the Bill ?

Baroness YOUNG

I think we have had a very full discussion on Clause 45, and as the noble Lord said that he will look at the point I raised I shall not pursue this.

Clause 45 agreed to. Clause 46 agreed to.

4.35 p.m.

Lord SANDYS moved Amendment No. 63A:

After Clause 46, insert the following new clause:

Restriction on powers of District Council to

refuse a licence.

The District Council shall not refuse to grant an operator, proprietor or driver a licence solely for the purpose of restricting the number of drivers or vehicles licensed.

The noble Lord said

We are concerned here with the question of the restriction of the powers of a district council to refuse a licence. We have accepted in Clause 46(4):

Any applicant aggrieved by the refusal of a district council to grant an operator's licence under this section, or by any conditions attached to the grant of such a licence, may appeal to a magistrates' court ". There is an interesting distinction here between Clause 46(4) and Clause 43 where it says that,

Any person aggrieved…may appeal to a magistrates' court

over the grant of a driver's licence. In one case it is the applicant, in one case " any person ", and in the interpretation clause there is no specific identification of who that should be. Of course it could be the applicant's mother-in-law who could apply to the magistrates' court with views in regard to the refusal of the district council.

It seems there are two points at issue here. One is the refusal of the district council to grant an operator, or proprietor, or driver a licence on personal grounds, grounds of ineligibility due to factors which concern his ability to drive; and the second point which arises out of Amendment No. 63A is the question of the numbers of drivers of vehicles being licensed in a district. This is really a restrictive consideration placed for commercial or other reasons. We do not know in these circumstances whether or not a district is refusing to grant an operator a licence for commercial reasons. We believe, therefore, that there should be a prohibition here, and this is what Amendment No. 63A attempts to provide. I beg to move.


I should like to support this Amendment, too. There is a distinction to be drawn. In the case of taxi drivers I suppose there is an ingrained, well established principle that only a certain number of taxis are licensed in a particular area. I do not know this for certain, but I believe it to be so. I imagine the reason is that questions of obstructing the traffic could arise if you had innumerable numbers of taxi licence holders, some of whom would only turn out when there were dense crowds requiring taxi services and you would get problems of obstruction of the streets and so on. But it would be a new departure if the same restriction by numbers of private hire operators were to be operated by district councils, and the question arises as to whether a district council is well placed to gauge the number of private hire vehicles that a particular district can accommodate. After all, district councils are not empowered to restrict the number of shoe shops in a particular area. If they were, I very much doubt whether there would be nearly as many shoe shops in Oxford Street as there are. Presumably they all make a living.

If a potential private hire vehicle operator thinks that he can make a living by running his one car, which is a good suitable car, as a private hire car, then who are the district council to say, " We, in our wisdom, have decided that the market is saturated in this district and that you will not succeed if you are licensed to use your car as a private hire car "? I simply do not believe that this would be a proper method of approach by a district council in deciding whether to issue a licence, and I trust that it will be accepted that sheer numbers will not be the criterion in any case whether or not a district council issues a licence.


There is some ambiguity about the drafting of the proposed new clause. It is not clear in terms of its drafting whether it is intended to be limited to private hire vehicles, as the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, suggested, or whether it would also extend to hackney carriages. If it was intended to include the latter, it would be contrary—not that I regard this as the most deadly thing that can be said about this suggestion—to the intentions of the Legislature in 1847 when it passed the Town Police Clauses Act. Though that is clearly a forward-looking piece of legislation, it is not the last word that can be said on this matter, but the situation up to now has been that the local authority has had power, as Lord Airedale said, to limit numbers in terms of taxis and it would be a fairly significant move if we decided not to give them that degree of power. It is certainly one of the matters which, to anticipate a question which the noble Baroness might ask, may well arise during the discussion of the Consultative Document.

The purpose of the proposed new clause is apparently to prevent, as I have indicated, the district council from refusing to grant licences, and I think its intention is to deal exclusively with the question of private hire cars. I assume that that is what the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, is suggesting. At least as regards drivers' licences for private hire vehicles, it is doubtful, I am informed, if Clause 42 permits refusal to issue a driver's licence on any grounds other than those stated in the proviso to Clause 42(1) and, so as far as they are concerned, the proposed new clause is not needed. For the same reason, it is not needed to deal with the question of operators' licences.

So far as private hire vehicles are concerned, I gather from the nod of assent from Lord Sandys that that is what he is after from the point of view of the proposed new clause and we come back to this question—and it is inevitable that we shall hear more of this argument: does one impose a control for taxis and say that it is wholly inappropriate, unfair and unreasonable to have the same control for private hire vehicles ? That is the issue which we are really discussing. I should like to think about this. I should not like to give any commitment because one must try to maintain some degree of fairness and balance in this matter as between the operators on both sides. I will with pleasure think about the matter before the next stage of the Bill, but I would not at this stage wish to give any undertaking that we would be able to move away from this, and of course if, on reflection, the noble Lord is dissatisfied, he can himself return to the matter on Report.


While the noble Lord is having those thoughts, perhaps he could consider the case which the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, mentioned earlier of the country private hire vehicle, the man in the village with his private hire car who may be a smallholder and only a part-time private car operator who may drive those village people only a few times a week. To restrict his licence on the ground that the maximum number has been reached would be monstrous.


We are much obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, for his reaction to the Amendment, though I must mention my surprise at hearing that one of his principal points was the question of Section 46 of the 1847 Act which appeared to militate against the Amendment. That caused some mirth on these Benches. We should be much obliged to the noble Lord if he would, without committing himself overmuch in this regard, take this point away and reconsider it. Meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 47 [Operators of private hire vehicles]:

On Question, Whether Clause 47 shall stand part of the Bill?

Baroness YOUNG

In this clause we have spelled out the detail about the terms of the contract between the operator of a private hire company and the people who accept his bookings and drive the car. I draw attention to it because it reinforces the arguments I used at an earlier stage about the licensing of an operator rather than of a driver, and it certainly reinforces the point about a provisional licence because clearly if all the detailed points of this clause are to be adhered to—and I see no reason why they should not be—the operator will be responsible for everything that happens and therefore he has a very real responsibility. It is not just a nominal responsibility; he has a responsibility for the driver, for the safety of the passengers and so on and it therefore gives added force to the arguments which I adduced earlier.

Clause 47 agreed to.

Clause 48 [Power to require applicants to submit information.]:

On Question, Whether Clause 48 shall stand part of the Bill?

4.47 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG

This clause indicates that a district council may require an applicant for a licence to submit a great deal of information. It is perfectly clear that the district council is asking for a certain amount of information that the applicant should in any event give on applying for a driving licence. I suppose it could be argued that he is perjuring himself in not completing the form correctly—if he has some of the disabilities which one is not supposed to have, yet at the same time has a driving licences—but, on the other hand, in accepting that argument, one is immediately suggesting that there is no point in having the form for a driving licence. I wonder whether, at a time when local authorities are being asked to economise it is sensible to do what appears to me to be duplicating what the driving licence form does.


The noble Baroness has raised an interesting point. She will appreciate that I am speaking completely off the cuff when I say that it occurs to me that Iam about to renew my own driving licence and I am desperately trying to remember what sort of information I have to give to the licensing authority. To the best of my recollection, one has to give certain assurances—for example, so far as one's eyesight is concerned—but how precise the detail is on other questions of health I am not so certain. However, I think it right that, so far as Clause 48 is concerned—because we are talking here not only about the applicants for drivers' licences for private hire cars but about taxis also—there should he some additional assurance given that they are in a reasonable state of health, because a private driver is responsible for his own welfare and that of his family who may be in the car. If we are to have licensing control, it is only reasonable that the local authority should satisfy itself that a person who gets a licence to go into business to run his car—somebody who, on a day-to-day basis, is in business—should be in such a state of health as to guarantee the safety of the people in that vehicle. Certainly, I shall look at the point as it has been raised, but my first impression is that it is proper for local authorities to have powers of this sort, though I entirely share the view of the noble Baroness as regards the need not to impose new burdens upon local authorities at a time like this.

Baroness YOUNG

I am grateful to the noble Lord. Again, I speak from memory. It is some time since I completed a form for my driving licence and perhaps I should have a look at the licence to see whether it is about to expire, but I am quite certain that one is asked questions about epilepsy and other such diseases, and, clearly, about eyesight. One question which I have not noticed is the age of the driver, which I should have thought might be relevant. However, I am anxious that we should not duplicate work. My recollection of the driving licence form is that it is fairly strict. After all, it is not simply a question of oneself and one's family: one may damage somebody else, and that is the point of having a very strict driving test.


I should like to draw attention to the words at the end of subsection (1),

whether conditions should be attached to any such licence". We have been contrasting the driving licences that we ourselves obtain with those required under this provision. Of course, no conditions are attached to our licences except as regards the types of vehicle which we may drive. But I wonder what sort of conditions might be imposed upon the holders of the type of licence which we are discussing in this clause? I do not suppose that the noble Lord can, off the cuff, quote a series of conditions, but it would be interesting, before we reach the end of the Bill, to know what sort of conditions may be imposed.

Clause 48 agreed to.

Clause 49 [Return of identification plate or disc on revocation or expiry of licence, etc.]:

On Question, Whether Clause 49 shall stand part of the Bill ?


The clause refers to the return of identification plate or disc on revocation or expiry of licence. There is one small point upon which I should like to comment. Your Lordships may be aware that certain of these plates or licences exist. They are really collectors' items, having been issued under Section 38 of the Act of 1847. It may be that, in the world of vintage vehicles, some person or persons may have rather an interesting collection of discs of this sort. In some cases, they may be handsome or artistic in design. If the clause is accepted, it is highly unlikely that they would be demanded by a local authority or, indeed, that they would be traceable; but it seems a pity to place a further burden on local authorities to ensure that all discs are returned after a certain date. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, said that he did not wish to place burdens on local authorities. Perhaps he can give consideration to this matter, because certain of these discs have a high antiquity value.


Of course; I shall gladly look at this point.

Clause 49 agreed to.

Clause 50 [Qualifications for drivers of hackney carriages]:

On Question, Whether Clause 50 shall stand part of the Bill ?

Baroness YOUNG

Clearly, this simply brings up to date the Act of 1847 for the drivers of hackney carriages. What concerns the Private Hire Vehicle Association as regards clauses such as this is that, whereas it is quite right that there should be stringent conditions on the taxi driver, in the case of the private hirer not only are similar stringent conditions applied, but also very stringent conditions are applied to the operator, who is held to be personally responsible. There is therefore, as it were, a double check upon the private hirer which there is not upon the taxi driver. That appears—although I am sure that it is not so intended—almost to apply a double standard. I am not against Clause 50 in any sense. It is right that there should be very high standards for taxi drivers because they are responsible, but it sometimes appears hard that the private hire people should have higher standards demanded of them.


The noble Baroness has raised a point to which I cannot pretend that I have the answer, but I shall gladly look into it.

Clause 50 agreed to.

Clause 51 agreed to.

Clause 52 [Suspension and revocation of drivers' licences]:

4.56 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG had given Notice of her intention to move Amendment No. 64:

Page 51, line 10, leave out (" or section 42 of this Act, as the case may be ").

The noble Baroness said

This is a consequential Amendment which would have followed upon earlier Amendments which I withdrew.

Clause 52 agreed to.

Clause 53 agreed to.

Clause 54 [Stands for hackney carriages]:

On Question, Whether Clause 54 shall stand part of the Bill ?

Baroness YOUNG

The clause deals with the question of stands for hackney carriages. It is common practice for there to be certain places where taxis may stand on public highways. I am not in any way against that, and I think that it would be very difficult to press for a similar provision for private hire vehicles, although I know that many members of the Private Hire Vehicle Association would say that they ought to have similar provisions. I raise the point because, once again, the whole of the thinking behind Part II of the Bill is that private hire vehicles are to be treated similarly to taxis. The same conditions are applied to the drivers and stringent conditions are applied to the operators; yet there are two major respects in which private hire vehicles are not treated the same. One is that they have no right to ply for hire, and the other is that they have no place to stand on the public highway in order to pick up.

These are two very real disadvantages. In this case, I believe that they could well he a disadvantage to the consumer as well. I am quite tempted to press for something, at any rate in the rural areas about which my noble friend Lord Cranbrook is so concerned, because, with the breakdown of the very poor public bus service in so many country areas, a private hire car is the only means for many people to get out of the village in which they live. I feel that it is an important distinction to make that the private hire vehicles have not the same advantages as taxis and I hope that, when the noble Lord is considering the points which have been made—and I am sure that he will do so—he will bear in mind that, here again, private hire vehicles do not get the benefits which taxis do, yet the same kind of conditions are being applied to them all the time.


Before the noble Lord, Lord Harris, replies, I should like to ask him to take into consideration the point that my noble friend has just made. What is worrying about practically the whole of this Part of the Bill concerns what I may call the rural district councils, which contain what was formerly an urban district which, very properly and rightly, wishes to extend the power over private hire vehicles which it has over hackney carriages in its area. When the powers of the 1847 Act are extended over the whole district, the effect will be felt in the smallest of parishes. If the noble Lord can think of some way of restricting this effect to those parishes where there are hackney carriages and where it is necessary to make up the streets in allowing for them, all my objections to these provisions would immediately be met.


May I deal first with the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. We shall have the opportunity of going into the rural aspects of the Bill on a later Amendment and I should like to reserve my comments until then. I intend no discourtesy, as I am sure the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, will appreciate.

The noble Baroness is of course quite right in saying that there is some degree of discrimination against the owner or driver of the private hire vehicle, in that he cannot wait on a hackney carriage stand of the kind provided for in Clause 54. That is obviously true. He cannot ply for hire. That is also true. There is one other major distinction between them; namely, there is a fairly rigid price control so far as the taxidriver is concerned which has to be set on the other side of the argument, as I am sure the noble Baroness will recognise. Here there is a degree of control over the pricing policy of the man who is driving a taxi, which does not apply to the person who is making available his private hire car. In many cases it is a matter of individual negotiation, and sometimes, in a rural area of the kind which has been referred to, there is a monopoly position so far as one particular proprietor is concerned.

I recognise that there is validity in the core of the argument of the noble Baroness. We are moving towards a situation where there will be more similarity of control as between the drivers of one type of vehicle and the drivers of the other type, whereas rather different conditions are applied to them. I recognise the validity of that argument. I have pointed out previously, and I do so again now, that it is not obligatory on any local authority to use the powers in this clause. It is a matter for debate in the council chambers of the local authorities as to whether or not those authorities implement this clause. In the more rural parts of the country they may well decide not to implement it. But that is a matter for the local authority; they are the elected representatives of the local community, and I should have thought that it is right for them to take that decision, subject to taking into account the interests of the local taxi trade and the local group of private hire operators.

Baroness YOUNG

I thank the noble Lord for that reply. Of course I am not against Clause 54, as I hope I have made quite clear. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, has rightly drawn attention to the point that there is a limit to the amount a taxidriver can charge, whereas, so far as I know, no limit is insisted upon as to what a private hire vehicle operator may charge. It is what the market may bear and what he thinks to be appropriate. I take that point and I hope that he, too, will consider it in relation to Amendment No. 63A which he has kindly said he will look at. If the market is to operate, it must operate consistently, and I believe that this is another point which needs to be looked at very carefully.

Clause 54 agreed to.

Clause 55 [Prohibition of other vehicles on hackney carriage stands]:

Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendments Nos. 65 and 66:

Page 53, line 21, after (" be ") insert (" prescribed or ").

line 22, leave out (" sections 54 and 55 ") and insert (" section 54 ").

The noble Lord said

These are both drafting Amendments. Under Section 54 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967, road signs may be " prescribed " or may be " authorised " by the Secretary of State, and the first Amendment inserts the necessary mention of the alternative " prescribed ". Mention of Section 55 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967 is not necessary in this context and the second Amendment deletes the reference. I beg to move these two Amendments together.

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Clause 55, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 56 [Fixing of fares for hackney carriages]:

On Question, Whether Clause 56 shall stand part of the Bill?

5.4 p.m.


The prohibition on other vehicles using hackney carriage stands deserves further investigation. We believe that circumstances are not always as straightforward as one might suppose, and the clause as drafted admits of further investigation. There may be a clash of interest here. That clash may occur at particular places, such as stations managed by British Rail where there are opportunities for private hire—and they work very well indeed—or there may be a lack of a certain opportunity. It would be helpful if the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, could explain in a small measure what Clause 55 is intended to do. I assume that it goes with his previous Amendment in regard to road signs under the 1967 Act.


I thought that we had considered Clause 55 and that we were now on to Clause 56, which deals with the fixing of fares for hackney carriages.


I am obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich. My remarks relate to the previous clause. We were running somewhat fast in Committee.

Clauses 56 and 57 agreed to.

Clause 58 [Hackney carriages used for private hire]:

On Question, Whether Clause 58 shall stand part of the Bill ?

Baroness YOUNG

Am Ito understand from this that in the fixing of fares when a taxi is used as a private hire car a taxi-driver must maintain the charges that he would maintain as a taxidriver and that there cannot be a contractual arrangement, as in the case of a private hire firm? I hope that that is the correct interpretation of the position, and I ask for confirmation of that point.


I prefer not to give an off-the-cuff answer to that question. I have a clear view of what I think this means, but I should like to be reassured before I give the answer.

Clauses 58 to 60 agreed to.

Clause 61 [Fees for vehicle and operators' licences]

5.8 p.m.

The Earl of CRANBROOK moved Amendment No. 67:

Page 56, line 7, at end insert (" one half of ").

The noble Earl said

This Amendment has nothing to do with anything urban or rural. For a very long period I was a member of a local authority. I first joined a borough council in London in 1927. I know how enjoyable it is trying to run a good service and how tempting it is to spend rather too much money on it. Here we have power being given to local authorities to make an absolutely magnificent service of hackney carriages and private hire vehicles, and yet not be in any way responsible for it to the ratepayers. Of course I realise that giving someone a licence to own, provide, or drive any one of these vehicles is giving someone a licence to earn his living in that way. But by and large the total cost is, in the end, paid for by the public whom those people serve, and, regardless of whether they pay part of it as ratepayers or part of it as users, it is the public who pay in the end.

Possibly, my Amendment as drafted is too drastic, but I hope that the noble Lord might consider this point and devise some way better than the one I have devised of making the local authorities in some way responsible to the ratepayers for this service; otherwise I can see great danger of it being made unnecessarily expensive and costly to the general public. I beg to move.


I am afraid we are in the position that we disagree with the proposition of the noble Earl. I do not know whether he would also wish to discuss his other Amendments; whether he wishes to take them together or separately. I am in his hands.


They are separate. This one has nothing to do with them.


Then let me address myself to the noble Earl's first Amendment, which is to the effect that the amount which can be recovered by the council should be limited to not more than one half of the costs incurred in inspections, the provision of taxi ranks, administration, control and supervision. I think I should make it plain that it is the clear view of the Government that, as far as possible, a local authority should seek to recover the whole of the costs incurred by it in the provision of services such as licensing and trading. Where fees for licences are charged, this recovery may be effected by setting the fees at such a level as to recoup the local authority's cost; and the recently published report of the Layfield Committee notes that there is a case for regular review of licence fees to ensure that these cover the full costs of administration. After all, licence fees will be a cost factor to be taken into account by an operator when setting the rate for the hire of a vehicle, and by a taxi owner in any representations which he may make to a district council when making an application for an increase in the rate of fares. Licence fees will therefore be passed on to the customer who uses the vehicle; and, as licence fees increase, so fares will tend to increase to reflect this.

I put it to the Committee that it really is inappropriate to consider subsidisation—because that is in fact what is being proposed by the noble Earl—by the community in favour of people who are engaged in business and who wish to have a licence from the local authority so that they can carry on that business. There are many pressures on local authorities at the moment, as the noble Baroness has pointed out, and, as to the idea that one would say, " One will not allow you to charge what would in fact be the economic price for the licensing system ", it does not appear to me that this is the time when we can afford a policy of that kind. I think the local authority should have the right to pass on the whole cost of the licensing system, and I just do not believe that, at a time like this, subsidisation is any answer.


I feel my noble friend Lord Cranbrook will be very dismayed at what the Government have had to say about this, because the essential point is this. What fees are going to be recovered for the granting of a licence? As we discussed a little earlier, it is surely a matter of opinion whether a vehicle should be inspected and duly licensed four or five times during the year. In our view that would be wholly unnecessary, because we believe that the number of inspections necessary in a situation of this sort would probably be two at the outside. The Government have recommended that four is highly desirable, and one can understand that, if there is a large number of inspections, possibly the licensing fee will be greater; but from these Benches we have contended that this should not be necessary. A thorough inspection carried out by a licensed inspector twice during a year is, in our view, probably a sufficient protection for the public.

What my noble friend has suggested is indeed a degree of subsidy, but, nevertheless, the person who is going to pay in the end is the consumer. It is going to be passed on to the consumer in the form of higher charges. If we can reach agreement on a number of inspections which is agreeable to the trade generally and satisfactory to the Ministry, this would be a far more acceptable way of approaching this subject.


I entirely agree with what the noble Lord has said. I do not want to see this subsidised, but what I do want is that the public should know what is being spent and should have some chance to control it. I do not think that this sort of cost will be looked at by the district auditor, and if some provision of that nature could be made so that the district auditor, or even the internal auditor, could make some comments on anything which has been done grossly extravagantly, I would be perfectly satisfied. Perhaps the noble Lord could have a look at that between now and a later stage to see whether there could be devised some method of control over what my noble friend has said could be looked upon as being unnecessary expenditure.


Without giving any guarantee, I shall certainly look into the point which the noble Earl makes, but I do not want to impose on local authorities more complicated accounting procedures which will simply have the effect of being an additional burden on a local authority. I think it is quite right, as the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, has said, that if a local authority were to carry out and were to insist on carrying out a wholly unreasonable number of inspections, clearly the cost of licensing would escalate at a most perturbing rate, and I have in fact already guaranteed to look at that point. If I may say so to the noble Earl, I think this is a factor of some importance. As I have said, I will look into it and, of course, I will consider what the noble Earl has just said.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.17 p.m.

Lord AIREDALE moved Amendment No. 68:

Page 56, line 23, leave out ("twenty-five pounds") and insert ("ten pounds").

The noble Lord said

Perhaps we could discuss Amendments Nos. 68 and 69 together because they are so very closely related. This is an Amendment to a paragraph in subsection (2), which prescribes the maximum fees chargeable; but it is very useful to have subsection (1), which states precisely that upon what the revenue from the fees is able to be spent. The three heads of expenditure are stated there in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c). Paragraphs (a) and (c), I think, can fairly be said to be common to both the taxis and the private hire vehicles paragraph (b),

the reasonable cost of providing hackney carriage stands, of course applies exclusively to the taxis, as we know so well, having just discussed Clause 54.

The noble Lord just now frowned upon subsidisation. I was so pleased to hear this. I am sure the last thing the noble Lord wants is for private hire vehicle operators to be subsidising taxi operators in the provision of hackney carriage stands. I should have thought that there was an absolutely manifest case here for a lower maximum fee for the private hire vehicle, and for the private hire vehicle operator, than applies in the case of a taxi, simply because the private people do not get all the services upon which the vehicle licence fees are expendable. Bear in mind, furthermore, that the operator's licence under paragraph (c) of subsection (2) applies only to the private hire vehicle and not to the taxi, so that the private hire operator has to have two different licences. This surely makes out a good case for a lower maximum fee in the case of the private hire operator than in the case of the taxi operator.

I am not inextricably wedded to £10; I plucked that figure out of the air. The point I am making is that, in justice, there ought surely to be a differentiation here and that, whatever are to be the fees under paragraphs (b) and (c), there should be a lower maximum than under paragraph (a). I beg to move.


The effect of the noble Lord's Amendments—and I am reassured to hear that it is not intended—is that he would be introducing subsidisation on the day that this Bill went on to the Statute Book if the figure of £10 were to be written in rather than £25, because I am informed that it costs the local authorities a great deal more than £20 at this moment. Although I am buoyant about this country's economic prospects and about the fact that we are beginning to cut back the level of inflation, it would be a little unrealistic to assume that there was going to be no inflation over the next year or two. Therefore if the figure of £10 were to be introduced immediately, one would be introducing immediately subsidisation. That is why the maximum figure of £ 25 has been written in.

To take one example, one particular district has informed us that the real cost of their existing licensing arrangement is £17; whereas the noble Lord's Amendment—and, as he said, he plucked the figure out of the air—would mean a subsidy of £7 a licence, which I am sure he would not wish to press. It is very difficult to work out what is a realistic figure in a situation of this sort. It seems to me, with respect, that £25 is not unreasonable.

On the second point; namely, the particular issue of hackney carriage stands—and I did not realise that he was likely to move into that area as far as this particular Amendment is concerned—I will look into it.

Baroness YOUNG

Before the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, speaks again, I might say that I am not clear that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, really answered his point. I think that he would agree, as I do, that there should not be a subsidy to the general operation, but the particular subsidy that he talked about is not a general subsidy but the fact that the private hire vehicles are not getting the same service and are not getting—as in subsection (1)(b)—the reasonable cost of providing hackney carriage stands.


I am sorry that I did not make myself clear. I said that I did not realise that that point was in the noble Lord's mind. Now that I do, I will look into it.

Baroness YOUNG

I am grateful for that because, looking at subsection (2), the fact is that there will have to be a licence for the private hire vehicle plus a licence for the operator; so that it is going to be £50for him, with fewer services.


I am glad that I did not nail my colours to the £10inextricably. I am glad to hear the matter is going to be looked at. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of CRANBROOK moved Amendment No. 70:

Page 56, line 28, at end insert—

(" Provided that, where a controlled district includes any parish or community with less than seven hundred local government electors, the fees chargeable—:

(i) for the grant of a vehicle licence in respect of a private hire vehicle housed in and owned by an operator living in such a parish; and

(ii) for the grant of an operator's licence to any such operator;

shall not exceed one twenty-fifth of any fees charged under paragraphs (b) and (c) of subsection 2 above.").

The noble Earl said

This is a small point affecting a small number of people, but it is a number of people who have been very much affected by the recent reform of local government because up to the time when the new districts came in they were living in villages which were part of rural districts and most of the members of the council would know the problems of small parishes. But now they are much larger districts which, as I implied just now, are never likely to have hackney carriages in them. They are districts in which the greater proportion of the population are now urban people who do not really have the background to enable them to understand the difficulties of a rural parish.

Before I put down these Amendments I consulted the Association of Local Councils in London. I consulted similar associations in my own part of the world ; they agree with my contentions and support me. The consultation document on transport pointed out that the number of private cars in rural areas had increased very considerably and merely by reason of that fact those people who did not own their own private cars were infinitely worse off than they had been before. Hospitals and everything of that nature have been centralised so that everything is further away.

When we come to discuss the consultation document—and I do not want to weary your Lordships by discussing now something that we should discuss much later—we shall have to meet the difficulties of rural areas and small villages with no bus, and never likely to have one, because they cannot support the necessary amount of traffic. They are some distance from the bus route and from the nearest railway. In these days as the number of men employed in agriculture grows fewer, if people are to continue living in the villages a great many of them must commute to work. Those small villages have patients of perhaps two or even three doctors' partnerships in two or three neighbouring towns and with two or three surgeries to get to.

Even if a small (in quantity of visits) bus service is subsidised, it cannot take the young men in the village away to work ; it cannot take the other people who have to go to the doctor's surgery or make visits of that nature. And when we come to look at that, although the Consultative Document only refers to the subsidisation of bus services and possibly of train services—although they suggest the abolition of the train services and their substitution by bus services—I think it inevitable that we shall be forced into looking upon the village private hire car as being an essential means of transport for the small rural villages.

Ex hypothesi, a small village does not provide sufficient clientele to make it a highly profitable occupation to run a village private hire car. A great many villages do not have them. In those that do—and I am fortunate enough to live in one of them, which I find particularly useful since some of the infirmities of old age make me rely on my wife to drive me about and she does not like doing it too often—most village taxis, as we usually call them, are subsidised in some way or the driver is subsidised in some way. He may be an old-age pensioner or he may have run the village garage or something like that ; but although it does not lose money, he must arrange it to go to the appropriate doctor's surgery at the appropriate times. To some extent, it is a social service run by an individual who has probably lived in the village all his life.

I believe that we are going to have to subsidise that in some way. I think it would be disastrous to add anything to the expenditure whether it is by the inspections to which we have already referred or, certainly, by adding to the cost of licences. We may have to come down to subsidising the insurance policies, which are becoming increasingly heavy when a man has to insure against his paying passengers. I hope that the noble Lord will be prepared to accept the spirit of this Amendment—I would not guarantee its drafting—so that we can not only keep our existing little private cars in the existing villages, but encourage them in others. I beg to move.


I should like to support this Amendment most strongly. Only a week ago the House were discussing a Motion on the needs of the elderly, and transport—especially rural transport, to which the Amendment refers—was discussed as part of the total problem of the needs of the aged. I do not believe that is the only aspect of this particular problem. The question of isolation of rural areas affects all age groups. It has been the policy of the National Association of Local Councils to stress this fact for certainly the past decade. The policy of the National Association has been to seek the reinforcement of other forms of local transport. They have sought to find some acceptance in Government circles of the proposal of the post bus which has met this need to some extent in other countries, but it is rare indeed that local authorities have taken up this particular form of local transport.

So we return to the question of the local private hire service and the invaluable service it provides for the local community. One can imagine circumstances where older people—possibly those who either have never owned a motor car or have reached an age where they have been deprived of a driving licence—are not able to be picked up by friends and neighbours because they live a considerable distance away. Therefore they lead a life of almost Medieval isolation. Without a local private hire service they would be isolated. My noble friend has brought forward a real case. There is a second point on medical grounds which is once again reinforcement of what my noble friend has said. This should be stressed because the prescription service—to which he did not specifically refer—is a matter of great interest. to the National Health Service.


May I also support my noble friend's Amendment. One of the most disastrous things which occurred on the reorganisation of local government was not something which was intended—that the town should get to know the country and the country should get to know the town ; the tendency has been for the town to swamp the country, and for the country to be forgotten except for a nice weekend out in this beautiful weather. I trust that the Government will bear in mind that there are many people who live in deep rural areas who live there all the year round. We are not referring to these people being there in good weather, but in the depths of winter when the question of transport may become vital. I appeal to the Government to give the greatest thought to what my noble friend has said because certainly in the areas that I know well it has become a very difficult problem with what is becoming an ageing population, due to the young people leaving for the town centres for whatever work may be available.

5.34 p.m.


Let me begin by saying that I very much agree with one part of what the noble Earl said : there has been a clear development of difficult transport problems in some rural areas because of the cut-back in public transport arrangements, and so on. I fully recognise that the private hire vehicle does in many cases fulfil a most useful public service. I accept that right away. I take the point which the noble Lord, Lord de Clifford, made, where he developed a similar argument. The difficulty is that we have to consider the effect of what the noble Earl is suggesting.

I do not want to waste time on drafting points. I recognise straight away that it is very difficult to draft an Amendment to a Bill correctly first time. Therefore, I will not argue, as I could, that the Amendment is defective. The question to which it is right to address ourselves is whether the Amendment is right in principle. The difficulty about the Amendment is its arbitrary character. It says that if there are fewer than 700 local government electors, there will be—let us put the matter bluntly—an element of subsidisation. First of all, I am not clear why the figure of 700 is used. I do not want to make a debating point but, nevertheless, it is obviously an arbitrary figure. Apart from that, we are talking about a parish in a controlled district. If this Amendment were carried there would be a different level of licence fee in the rest of the district to the level of fee obtaining in this particular village because it has fewer than 700 inhabitants.

One possible consequence—which I am sure is unintended—is that a substantial number of owners of licensed vehicles might decide the most sensible and profitable action would be to garage their vehicles in any parish of fewer than 700 people. Therefore the amount of subsidisation would escalate at a fairly remarkable rate. Apart from that, it is very difficult to argue that there should be one level of fee in an area of more than 700 inhabitants and a totally different level of fee in an area of fewer than 700 inhabitants. It would he arbitrary; it would be generally recognised by many to be unfair. I do not in any way underestimate real problems in many rural areas. I in no way dissent from what the noble Earl has said on that. But I suggest this is not the right way of dealing with this particular problem.


Of course, the figure of 700 local government electors is purely arbitrary. I used that because it meant a population of round about 1,000 which I believe is the relationship between the one and the other. There is a Census only every ten years and a new registry of electors every year. I do not think the noble Lord attaches much importance to that argument. The cut-off comes at that size of population and that is about right. I know my own district fairly well; once you get up to the village of about 1,000 the smaller buses tend to run at a profit and the service is much more frequent. A few such villages have the doctor's surgery there and a number of shops. That means that nobody has to make a visit very often outside the village to buy something. At some point, whether you call it a 1,000 or 2,000 population, this break comes where the necessity for a private hire car becomes less important and, moreover, the population becomes large enough for there to be quite a considerable call upon it and for it to be profitable without any subsidy. Therefore I do not think the point made by the noble Lord has a great deal of weight.

I considered the point made by the noble Lord as to whether it was possible that people might find it profitable to go into a small village and put their car there and operate from there; but, just by reason of the fact that these places are likely to be isolated, I doubt very much whether it would pay a person to put in his private hire car—or two or three cars—in a small village so far from a centre of population to which he probably has to go to earn his living. The difference is not going to be very great. If you suggest £25 and it is only £24, I would have thought that the coming and going to centres of population to pick up passengers and people who have hired you would probably far outweigh that. We could get round that quite easily by saying it should be confined to the owner and operator of one car.

As to the other points made by the noble Lord, I do not think any of them are insuperable and I should like an assurance from him that he will look at this again. It is a real problem, in rural parishes, as other speakers have said. I am convinced that we shall have to come to something like this for rural parishes in the end and it would be a mistake not to do it now, because after all this is typical of the rather half-baked way in which this part of the Bill has been brought forward without any great consideration being given to it.


Before my noble friend withdraws his Amendment, if that is his intention, may I just say to the noble Lord who is replying for the Government that I do not think he has a true picture of the type of existence which these people in small rural districts have to lead. These are the people for whom my noble friend is trying to provide a service. I should be very happy for this Amendment to go through, certainly as regards the principle of it, as I cannot see that you can offer a suggestion that someone should park taxis because it is cheaper to do so, when the reason for producing this Amendment is that at the moment it is so far away that there are no taxis. It is one of the situations where people in these small communities—apart from the arbitrary figures—really need a service of this kind; and people arc not going to come and use it for profit in bigger places. I trust that the Government will think again about this.


If I may take just that point and what the noble Earl has just said, I think it is wrong to assume that every parish of fewer than 700 people is a long way from any urban area. That is not true, although of course many are. But we are talking here about legislation which is going on to the Statute Book and will apply equally to the parish in a controlled district which is a substantial difference from an urban area and to another parish which might be very close indeed to an area of significant urban population. I must come back to the fact that it is unrealistic to deal with problems in rural areas by having two different levels of licence fee; one for an area of more than 700 inhabitants and the other for an area of below 700.

I fully recognise the strength of conviction of the noble Earl and I also recognise the problem, but I do not believe this is the way to deal with it. Although I will, of course, consider what the noble Earl has said, I would not wish to be other than honest with the Committee. There are real problems involved here and I am not optimistic about the chances of resolving them before the Report stage, because I believe this proposition is wrong in principle.


I wonder whether the noble Lord has thought of what would happen in a district in which there was a seaside town which had implemented the 1847 Act, because there were hackney carriages there and a sufficient population and number of visitors to make them essential. Under the last Local Government Act that seaside town, let us say, is thrown in with a rural area which never has had and never is likely to have hackney carriages. Unless, for some reason or other, the new district chooses to extend its powers under the 1847 Act, you would have exactly the same position as the noble Lord now says is entirely wrong. You would have the new Act applying to the urban district in which the 1847 Act applies. Unless, for the rather specious reason which the noble Lord himself gave about a matter at an earlier stage of our debate—just for the sake of having " a tidy-up business "—it was not extended (and I would hope that sensible district councils would not extend it) you would have the whole of the rural area, which has been hitherto outside that town where the 1847 Act applied, not having to get licences at all; and you would have licences in the town to which the 1847 Act applies.

I think that if the noble Lord or his advisers would scratch their heads a little more they could bring forward an Amendment to my Amendment which would make it tidy, discreet and entirely proper to deal with this problem. We know this problem exists and that it has to be resolved, and the sooner the better. I am quite prepared to withdraw my Amendment now but shall certainly put it down for the Report stage. I hope that perhaps the noble Lord will have reconsidered it and tried to tidy it up. I will put it down as soon as I can so that the noble Lord may move Amendments to it if necessary. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.48 p.m.

The Earl of CRANBROOK moved Amendment No. 70A:

Page 56, line 31, leave out (" at least one local newspaper ") and insert (" all of the local newspapers ").

The noble Earl said

This is to meet the difficult situation which can arise in these new and rather large rural areas which are all within one district, where quite a number of people take a London paper and perhaps just the local rag which comes out once a week. I am not sure whether the major paper which circulates in the area will meet all conditions that are required. I realise that in some towns where there are a lot of very small papers, if everybody takes the major one this is quite ridiculous; but again I think we must try to meet this rather difficult situation where you have the Little Plumpton Gazette and the Little Piddleton Gazette coming out one on Wednesday and one on Saturday. I beg to move.


The one thing which is absolutely certain is that the noble Earl will be a very popular man among the advertising managers of local newspapers. Unhappily, I am not able to be quite as forthcoming as I am sure they would want me to be on this matter. There are two problems. First, it is a common feature of many pieces of legislation to require publication in a local newspaper, and it is very difficult to treat taxis and private hire cars differently. Secondly, it is sometimes very difficult to know what constitutes " all of the local newspapers ". If I may give one example, the Bristol Evening Post has a circulation area covering a very substantial part of the South-West of England, but that newspaper would be the first to agree that its circulation in some areas is very small indeed. If there had to be an advertisement in all of the local newspapers, that one would obviously profit greatly.

But that is not the central objection. There is a degree of imprecision in the language, and there will also be substantial additional cost for a local authority. Finally, it is only right that I should make this point. The people mainly concerned with any proposal of this kind will be well aware of it, and they will not have to wait for the circulation of a newspaper which carries an advertisement before they are put on warning as to what is proposed. It is right that there should be a statutory requirement, but as I have tried to indicate the form of words chosen by the noble Earl is rather difficult to accept.


I am afraid that I must come straight back and say that I believe my noble friend is absolutely right. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, has no idea of the situations which exist in these rural areas. I live in a rural area which has a county newspaper, three town newspapers and an evening newspaper, all of which are local and most people will read one of those. But one of them has a very small circulation and if you want to conceal something, which has been known to happen, you put the advertisement in that one. If you want something to be known about, then you put the advertisement in the one with the large circulation. The approach to this matter is quite wrong, because it is the citizen's right to know. I think my noble friend has an extremely good point here, and all the local newspapers which circulate in an affected area should carry an advertisement.


I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, will think about this point a little more. One always argues from the particular to the general, but it so happens that in the area in which I live there are two fairly large local papers, one based on Norwich and the other based on Ipswich, and some people take in one while other people take in the other. There are also a number of very small local newspapers, which are the only local ones that many people take. It is probably true that in a large number of cases something will get around on the grapevine, but if advertising in the Press means anything it ought to mean something like I have proposed. I do not know whether the noble Lord or the Home Office would define the Norwich paper or the Ipswich paper as the one which ought to be advertised in in my district. Perhaps the noble Lord could look into this matter a little more, because country districts are very different from large metropolitan areas and their difficulties must be met.

Baroness YOUNG

Before the noble Lord, Lord Harris, replies, may I give him one other reason for reconsidering this matter ? He will know that Clause 61 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill is based entirely on the Plymouth City Council Act, and is an exact replica of Section 28 of that Act. This is one of the difficulties which one gets into when one tries to make applicable to the whole country something which is applicable to Plymouth.


This is the last time that I shall say this to the noble Baroness. I give her that guarantee. I am sure that that was one of the many arguments which my honourable friend deployed in the Standing Committee before he was outvoted by the noble Baroness's friends. The point is that the Bill states that there should he an advertisement " in at least one local newspaper " ; in other words, it is discretionary. Of course, there is always a risk that a local authority will try to publish an advertisement in a newspaper which has virtually no circulation, but we have to accept the fact that, broadly speaking, local authorities are made up of responsible and reasonable people who do not behave in that fashion. Furthermore, I suspect that the language of this clause is similar to that in many other pieces of legislation dealing with matters very different from the control of taxis and private hire vehicles. I will look at the point again with pleasure, but I doubt very seriously whether " all of the local newspapers " makes a great deal of sense, given the fact that it creates a great deal of imprecision.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.57 p.m.

The Earl of CRANBROOK moved Amendment No. 70B:

Page 56, line 32, after (" out ") insert—

(" the total expenditure incurred in carrying out each of the functions defined under subsection (1)(a), (b) and (c) of this section and the total amount received in fees for each type of licence specified in subsection (2)(a), (b) and (c) of this section.").
The noble Earl said

This Amendment is intended to prevent purely arbitrary action on the part of a local authority, which could charge on its licensing costs a considerable number of overheads, without the unfortunate people whose licensing costs are being increased having any knowledge of the reason. We hope that inflation will be so well controlled that this will happen very rarely—after all, it would hardly have happened at all between 1920 and 1930—and changes are necessary only in periods when there is inflation of the currency or of the desires of a local authority. As I said, it ought not to happen very often if an organisation is run well, and if costs are going up there are many ways of cutting down. As the noble Baroness suggested, the number of licences might be reduced. But I think that the people who will have the cost of their licences increased are entitled to have this information, and this seemed to me the only way of making it known. I beg to move.


The proposal here is that in the body of the advertisement which is published " in at least one local newspaper " there should be a statement from a local authority of its receipts and expenses; in other words, it would have to justify in an advertisement a decision to change the level of its fees. I am not totally convinced that this is the right way of dealing with this problem. So far as I am aware, there is no suggestion in relation to any other group of fees charged by local authorities that they should, as it were, publish an abstract of accounts. If the electors take the view that an authority is behaving in an arbitrary fashion, they can of course examine the accounts; and a matter can be raised with the district auditor if it is felt that a local authority is behaving wholly unreasonably. But once we move into this area of justifying decisions in advertisement columns, I am not sure where we end. Will it be suggested—and I suppose it could be—that if there is a change in the rents of council houses a local authority should publish a detailed abstract of its housing revenue account?

One could go right the way through a large number of services provided by a local authority and say that there had to be some form of justification in the advertising columns of newspapers. I do not think that this is right. If a local authority wants to vary its fees it can do so only by resolution and, quite apart from the advertisement, there has to be debate in the council chamber. There are ways in which local authorities can be made to justify their decisions but I do not think that the way to deal with them is in the advertising columns of newspapers. The way in which you make people justify a decision is in democratic debate. That is the best guarantee of fairness by a particular local authority, not a statement in the advertising columns of a newspaper. I am not sure that this would be of enormous benefit to people who had any doubts about it.


When I referred to the Amendment whose number I cannot read without putting on my other spectacles, but the noble Lord knows which one it is, he said then that this matter would not be subject to audit by the district auditor. If all these things were subject to the audit of the district auditor, we would see them in the accounts of local authorities and any ratepayer could demand this information at any moment. If this matter is to be outside the accounts of local authorities so that ratepayers will not have the right to demand an explanation—and since it is not going to fall on the rates they will not have that right—it does not seem to me to be right that a person who wants to appeal against it, and machinery for appealing against it is included here, should not have the power to do so.

I should be perfectly satisfied if the noble Lord could tell me that there will be an Amendment to give owners, drivers and the like the right as individuals to demand this information. Then the position would be perfectly satisfactory. This provision ought to be included in the Bill. The only alternative is to publish the reasons, but people have been given no real reasons. They can say that this is too expensive but they have no means of establishing that it is too expensive. Perhaps the noble Lord will think a little more about this Amendment, for I cannot believe that he has thought out the full implications. It is no good giving the right to appeal to people if they do not know the reasons on which they can base an appeal.


I hesitate about using any form of words which implies that I am likely to take a different view at Report stage from the one I take now. I do not believe that a requirement of this kind is reasonable. It will impose an additional marginal cost on local authorities which I do not believe is justified, nor do I believe that using the advertising columns of newspapers to justify an increase in licence fees is reasonable. As I have indicated, there is a provision whereby any local government elector can inspect the accounts of a local authority and question its auditors. That power is conferred by Section 159 of the Local Government Act 1972. That is the way in which one can try to establish whether a local authority is behaving wholly unreasonably and, as I understand it, that is the only situation we are talking about. There is some degree of assurance given to a private citizen if he believes that a local authority is behaving in that manner, but I do not believe that an abstract of accounts in the advertising columns of a newspaper is the way to deal with this problem.

The EARL of CRANBROOK I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment, but in doing so I must tell the noble Lord that I shall put down another Amendment because I believe that justice must be done.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 61 shall stand part of the Bill ?

Baroness YOUNG

It may well be that my noble friend Lord Cranbrook has not worded his Amendments in quite the appropriate way, but he is making a very real point that I hope the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, will look at. I appreciate that the Minister cannot give a guarantee that he will accept the noble Earl's Amendment or even guarantee to bring back an Amendment on Report. Nevertheless, the point that the noble Earl is making is that in many instances country areas have not been subject to the working of the 1847 Act, that by this Bill they will now find themselves subject to that Act and to restrictions on private hire vehicles, and that in the case of private hire vehicles what is a very real alternative form of transport will suddenly have been put into a legal straitjacket which it did not wear before. Naturally enough, people living in the country are fearful that in a very real sense they will be worse off.

We shall return to this point on Clause 66. However, there is a real danger that we could be making life more difficult for people living in the country, just at a time when everybody is trying to get more flexible forms of transport. If the noble Lord could reconsider any of the matters in that light, I think it would be very helpful.

Clause 61 agreed to.

Clause 62 [Taximeters]:

Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 71:

Page 57, line 13, leave out (" without lawful excuse ").

The noble Lord said

I beg to move Amendment No. 71, and at the same time I wish to speak to Amendment No. 72. These are drafting Amendments to put the words, " without lawful excuse " in their right place in the clause.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH moved Amendment No. 72:

Page 57, line 14, after (" taximeter ") insert (" without lawful excuse ").

On Question, Amendment agreed to. Clause 62, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 63 [Offence due to fault of other person]:

6.8 p.m.

Lord AIREDALE moved Amendment No. 73:

Page 57, line 17, after (" an ") insert (" alleged ")

The noble Lord said

Clause 73 provides that if an offence by one person is due to the fault of another person, then that other person may be charged with and convicted of that offence. But the clause also says:

…whether proceedings are taken against the first-mentioned person or not ". The question arises: if proceedings are not taken against A, where do you find the oracle that tells you, if proceedings were taken against A, whether or not they would be successful and get the answer right every time? If you can find the oracle you can dispense altogether with prosecutions and just consult the oracle. However, because of the different skills of prosecutors and one thing and another the only way in which you can find out whether an offence has been committed is to prosecute and see what is the verdict. If you are not going to prosecute—and in some cases this clause envisages that you are not—then the most you can say is " an alleged offence by any person ". That is what this Amendment does. I beg to move.


The position on this Amendment is that the clause at present follows the usual form of clauses relating to offences due to the fault of another person which are normally cast in terms of offences rather than alleged offences. The examples are numerous: the Trade Descriptions Act 1968, Section 23, the Medicines Act 1968, the Fire Precautions Act 1971, the Fair Trading Act 1973, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Control of Pollution Act 1974, Section 87(2). The position is that a person is charged with committing an offence; he is not charged with committing an alleged offence, and that in fact is the reason why the language of this clause is exactly the same as the language of similar clauses in other Bills.


The point I am making is that he is not charged at all; he is alleged to have committed an offence. I congratulate the Minister on his prodigious industry. Again we are going to have this lamentable Parliamentary situation in which, having got it wrong over and over again we are going to get it wrong another time, instead of, for once, getting it right and continuing to get it right from now on. This is a battle that has been lost in the past and I am not going to retrieve the situation, but it is a nonsense all the same. However, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 63 agreed to.

Clauses 64 and 65 agreed to.

Clause 66 [Saving for certain vehicles]:

Baroness YOUNG moved Amendment No. 74:

Page 58, line 12, leave out subsection (1).

The noble Baroness said

I hope it will not be necessary for me to speak at any length on this Amendment because the Government will come forward with Amendments to this clause. It is not at all satisfactory as it stands. This Amendment to leave out subsection (1) has been tabled because subsection (1) means in effect that a private hire vehicle cannot come into a controlled area unless it is carrying passengers. Clearly it cannot have been the intention of the Government to prevent operators who operate all over the country from being able to move about from one place to another.

During the Second Reading debate the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, gave many examples of how this would work. As I understand it, if, for example, as I live in Oxford and I am arriving at Heathrow, I ask a private hire vehicle from Oxford to collect me, this would be illegal under the Bill. Indeed, I understand that a case is now pending in Liverpool in which a private hire vehicle came into Liverpool to pick someone up and the firm has now been charged with an offence because the car came from outside Liverpool to pick up a passenger inside Liverpool. I am quite certain that it cannot be the intention of the Government to make it impossible for private hire organisations such as Godfrey Davis, Hertz, Daimler Hire, and so on, whose organisations require free passage throughout the country, to be unable to operate. I hope it is not necessary for me to say anything more at this stage because we shall have further debates on this clause. This is a very important matter of principle which I hope the Government will look at. I beg to move.


As the noble Baroness has rightly said, the difficulties arising from the mobility of private hire cars were clearly stated in the debate which we had on 21st June, and not least by the noble Lord, Lord Airedale. I think the noble Baroness would probably agree, and I hope also the noble Lord, that it is by no means clear that the Amendments they have tabled would satisfactorily resolve this particular problem, which is a real problem. We are looking into this matter urgently and intend to bring forward hopefully acceptable Amendments at the Report stage so that we may deal with this problem.


I am delighted to hear that the noble Lord recognises it is a real problem. I mentioned the question of foreign earnings during the debate on, Whether Clause 40 shall stand part of the Bill ? This is a very strong case where we should make the situation flexible for overseas visitors. I do not wish to labour the point and we are willing to accept the situation.

Baroness YOUNG

With the assurance given by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, I bee leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord AIREDALE had given Notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 74A:

Page 58, line 13 after (" district") insert (" or taking them outside a controlled district ").

The noble Lord said

If I thought I would get a similar answer to this Amendment if I moved it, I would not move it.


With such an appeal coming at this time of the evening from the noble Lord it is irresistible to give him the answer that he wants, which is that although it would be impossible for me to predict a guarantee of total satisfaction all round we are going to address our minds to this particular group of issues, not least the one raised by the noble Lord during our last debate, and it may well be that he will be at least moderately satisfied by the Government Amendments which we intend to table for the Report stage.


The only person who ever gave total satisfaction all round was Jeeves.

On Question, Whether Clause 66 shall stand part of the Bill

Baroness YOUNG

I recognise that the noble Lord is going to look at the problem contained in the first subsection of this clause and when he is doing so I think he might recognise not only the problem from the point of view of the consumer wanting to get about but also the difficulty of the private hire operator operating on the border of a district. Once again, this will be particularly hard on people living in rural areas because that is where people may want to ring up a private hire firm. Because they may live in a rural area on the edge of the town, they will find that they cannot hire the car. These are further considerations which I hope the noble Lord will take into account.

Clause 66 agreed to.

Clauses 67 to 70 agreed to.

Clause 71 [Interpretation of Part II]:

6.18 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG moved Amendment No. 75:

Page 59, line 28, at end insert (" or an authorised vehicle examiner approved by a district council ").

The noble Baroness said

I tabled this Amendment to increase the numbers of people who could in fact licence a vehicle. I drew attention to this difficulty before and I hope if this Amendment is not correctly drafted the noble Lord will look at the point. He will see that it will enable the " authorised officer " to mean not only the officer of the district council authorised in writing by the council for the purposes of this Part of the Act but also a vehicle examiner approved by the district council. With that short explanation I hope the noble Lord will consider the matter. I beg to move.


I appreciate the point which the noble Baroness has in mind. I am not sure that her Amendment exactly meets the problem, but I hope that at Report stage I shall be able to bring forward an Amendment which will deal with this particular difficulty.

0Baroness YOUNG

I thank the noble Lord, and with that assurance I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 71 agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Enactments repealed]:

6.20 p.m.


Page 66, line 26, at end insert—

(" 1949 c. 55.

The Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949.


The noble Baroness said

.I think this is quite a simple and uncontroversial Amendment. It seeks to repeal Section 9 of the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 in so far as it applies to England and Wales. Section 9 of the 1949 Act gives district councils powers to acquire information about the ownership of premises for the purpose of performing their functions under Part I of the Act, which deals with the control of rats and mice. These powers are no longer needed as they will be superseded by Clause 15. Section 9 will remain in force so far as Scotland is concerned, as Clause 74(3) makes it clear that the Bill extends only to England and Wales. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether this shall be the second Schedule to the Bill?


I want to raise a point on Schedule 2 which deals with enactments repealed. There are two enactments repealed to which I want to speak; they are the Physical Training and Recreation Act 1937 and the Local Government Act 1972. I want to be sure that the Government are not leaving areas in the new 'Bill which are full of doubt so far as what a local authority may do under Clause 18.

If I may remind your Lordships, Clause 18 is that clause which enables local authorities to support, or to encourage other bodies to support, recreational facilities. When Clause 18 was called in another place, a series of Amendments were moved both in Standing Committee B and at Third Reading and, indeed, I think before that, to try to clarify the position. I understand that the position under the old Acts was fairly clear, and it should have been quite possible for any local authority to know exactly what it could and what it could not support. But as the Bill is now drafted, with these two earlier enactments repealed, there seems to be a grey area as to exactly what is " recreational " and what is " educational ".

If your Lordships turn to the Local Government Act 1972, the section that is repealed in Section 144(1)(b). That old Act stated that a local authority may

provide, … facilities for recreation, conferences, trade fairs and exhibitions or improve …any existing facilities for those purposes ". The word " recreation " is now cut out. It seems to me that if we repeal the word "recreation ", it leaves the powers mainly biased towards business, even though the words could he taken individually as having a much more general application.

If your Lordships turn to the other enactment which is repealed, that is, the Physical Training and Recreation Act 1972, it might well be said that it is perfectly reasonable to repeal it because it is in need of modernisation and deals with more modern and different forms of recreation. Similar powers to its Section 4(1) exist under Section 53(1) of the Education Act 1944. But those powers can only be used with the consent of the Secretary of State for Education and Science, and the local education authority has no discretion to act on them for even the smallest item.

The Government's answer given in another place more than once was that in the area which is in part recreational and in part educational, the powers required can be collected from the other education Acts and similar provisions. But from reading what was said in another place, and from hearing the discussions between honourable and right honourable Members, I have the impression that the Government themselves are not entirely happy that local authorities, under the new Bill, would know exactly what their powers were, and that there was a promise—not in terms, but at least a suggestion—that the Government would look at this again to see whether they could not clarify it. I wonder whether anything further has happened since the debates took place in another place on this rather difficult but small area? I wonder whether the noble Baroness could give me any answer to this point.

I am sorry I did not raise the point under Clause 18, which might well have been a more appropriate occasion. As I was unable to be present at the earlier Committee stage, I have raised the matter under the Schedules.

Baroness BIRK

Clause 18, to which the noble Lord, Lord Henley, was referring, is drafted in order to give local authorities exactly the same powers as they had under the powers which are repealed. This was the purpose of Clause 18. If the noble Lord reads Section 1, again, he will see that this does cover the matter, and the word " recreational ".

So far as Section 144 is concerned, the repeal of the word " recreation " there is consequential on Clause 18. Therefore, this subsection enables local authorities to

provide, or encourage any other person or body to provide, facilities for recreation, conferences, trade fairs and exhibitions or improve, or encourage any other person or body to improve, any other existing facilities for those purposes ". Now that local authorities will have general powers to provide recreational facilities under Clause 18, the power under Section 144(1)(b) of the Local Government Act 1972 will no longer be necessary. The power to encourage any other person or body to provide facilities for recreation will also be repealed, but this need not stop local authorities from trying to persuade others to provide such facilities. I should have thought that that really was quite clear now, and I hope the noble Lord is satisfied with that reply.


I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, in this regard, because he has raised an issue which raised with the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, on Clause 18, the issue dealing with the extent of the repeals of Sections 4 and 5 of the Physical Training and Recreation Act 1937. I will not go over the Amendments which I sought to bring forward to your Lordships and subsequently withdrew, having notified the noble Baroness that I should be bringing forward further Amendments on Report on this subject.

May I say to your Lordships and to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, that there is a problem here on which we are not wholly satisfied, that the Local Government Act 1972 entirely satisfies. I feel it is inappropriate to go into detail at this moment, but the noble Lord has raised a point which we hope to cover on Report.


I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, for her reply, and particularly so since I was unable to give her earlier notice of it. I suppose from her reply that the Government are satisfied that there is no area of imprecision here, and I am glad to know it. But there are a number of bodies—to quote one, the Youth Hostels Association—which are very worried as to whether the areas where in the past they have been granted help towards facilities, may be circumscribed by lack of understanding on the part of local authorities. So I hope that in any circular that the Government may put out under the new Act, they will indicate that the very widest interpretation should be put upon the powers of the local authorities in this regard.

Baroness BIRK

I said in the discussions on Clause 18 that we would be issuing a circular for guidance on that clause on recreational powers. I cannot at the moment see any reason why it should not be made quite clear that there is no doubt about this.

I think I should add, and I forgot to mention it when replying originally to the noble Lord, that we have also checked that the powers concerning education in the Physical Training and Recreation Act 1937, which are not included in Clause 18, are available in the Education Act. We decided that if they were included in Clause 18 there would then be an overlap. Therefore, both the education and the recreation sides are covered. If the noble Lord would like me to do so, I will certainly write to him and set this all out, so that he will have it clearly before him if he wants it to be shown and circulated to other people.


I am most grateful to the noble Baroness.


Before we pass from Schedule 2, which of course covers all enactments repealed, perhaps I should from these Benches say what a pity it is that the whole of the Act of 1847 is not struck from the Statute Book.

Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.

On Question, Whether the Title shall be the Title of the Bill ?

Baroness YOUNG

Before we pass the Long Title of the Bill, I have been in extensive correspondence with both the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, and the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and I am bound to say I am still not satisfied that the Long Title is correct. I do not intend, certainly at this hour of the evening, to go into the question in great detail. The fact remains that the Long Title of the Bill refers only to taxis; it is only covered by Private Acts, not by Public Acts at all, and on taking legal advice I am told that the Long Title ought to be amended.


It is always a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, but, if I may say so with the greatest possible spirit of friendliness, perhaps the Long Title of the Bill is not what I would have selected for this purpose.

The fact is that this is a matter which was tested in Committee in another place, when the Chair took the view that the Amendments which were tabled then were within the Long Title of the Bill ; otherwise they would, of course, have been ruled out of order. That view is also the view of the Government's legal advisers. Although, of course, I will consider the matter again—the noble Baroness has been kind enough to write to me again on the matter—the fact is that we believe that this matter is covered by the Long Title of the Bill.

Baroness YOUNG

I will, of course, accept the noble Lord's assurance that he will look at this again, but I hope that when he does and when he replies to my letter he will let me know which Public Acts cover the point about private hire vehicles.

On Question, Title agreed to.

House resumed : Bill reported with the Amendments.