HL Deb 01 August 1978 vol 395 cc1234-7

9 Schedule 3, page 22, line 47, at end insert— (" Provided that such fees shall not exceed those prescribed for annual testing.") The Commons disagreed to the above Amendment but proposed the following Amendments in lieu thereof:

10 Page 22, line 46, after ' and', insert'(a)'

11 Page 22, line 47, at end insert'(b) the Secretary of State shall ensure that the scales and rates prescribed for the purposes of this subsection are reasonably comparable with the fees charged under section 45(6) of this Act in respect of the periodic examination of goods vehicles.'.

4.33 p.m.

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth not insist on their Amendment No. 9 and doth agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 in lieu thereof. There is no difference of intent between the Government and Opposition or between this House and another place on the substance of this matter. The Government have made it clear throughout that the level of fees that we have it in mind to prescribe for payment when a lorry is required to be brought to a testing station with a view to the removal of a prohibition on its use would be the same as those charged when a goods vehicle is presented for its annual test. The nature of the examination that would be undertaken would be the same. Its purpose would be to establish whether the vehicle was fit for service on the roads. It has never been part of our aim to make the fee an additional penalty on the operator of a defective lorry whose use has been prohibited. It is, therefore, entirely appropriate that the two scales of fees should be aligned.

All that has separated us is finding an acceptable legal formula that will adequately express our intentions. As your Lordships know, I had hoped to bring forward a Government Amendment having a similar effect to the one first moved by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, at Report stage. Unfortunately, we ran into late and unexpected legal difficulties and it did not prove possible to find a solution in time for Third Reading. The problem was compounded because, I regret to say, the detailed legal advice we received was not received by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and others until shortly before the debate. For this, I express my apologies.

Essentially, the problem is to avoid casting doubt on a principle that a fee for any service (unlike a tax or penalty) is quantified by reference to the cost of providing the service; and at the same time, to overcome the difficulty that not all goods vehicles that can be subject to prohibition, notices are subject to the annual heavy goods vehicle test.

The Government remain sympathetic to those concerned that the fees should not in any sense be penal and we have had the matter looked at afresh in the light of your Lordships' evident concern. I am pleased to say that this has resulted in the Amendment that the Commons have now substituted for the one proposed in this House. It provides what I believe to be a perfectly acceptable solution. In effect it places on the Secretary of State a clear obligation to have regard to the level of fees charged for the annual testing of goods vehicles; yet, at the same time, it leaves it open to Parliament to object and, if necessary, to debate the fees actually prescribed when a Statutory Instrument is laid.

My Lords, we have given this issue a very thorough airing and I am sure that the right course is now to accept the Commons Amendment in lieu.

Moved, That this House doth not insist on their Amendment No. 9, but agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 in lieu thereof.—(Baroness Stedman.)


My Lords, it is in no spirit of lack of graciousness that I say to the noble Baroness, "You see, you can do it if you are pushed hard enough to do it!" All the legal jargon and rubbish that came out in this long letter appears to have boiled itself down into nothing. Here is an Amendment which does exactly what it was I was trying to achieve in my own inexpert Amendment. I must say that I am very happy to accept it. It shows what can be done when there is a will. It is sad that the same will was not displayed on other clauses of the Bill. This is the last of many times that one has been talking about this Bill. May I say it is a particular pleasure to end on a note of agreement.


My Lords, if my noble friend is pleased, then I think that your Lordships should throw your metaphorical coronets into the air. I would gladly do so if I had one with me today, or at all; my grandfather sold it. My Lords, we have been doing a useful job on this Bill. We have had Amendments on inland waterways; we have inserted provisions for the disabled in Clause 9; the Amendment on EEC drivers' hours tabled by my noble friend Lord Lucas has been accepted and remains in the Bill; and now, at the tail end of the Schedule, what he wanted all along has been found to be possible.

I should like to thank my colleagues in another place for persisting in getting these Amendments into the Bill and your Lordships, both in front of me and behind me, for encouraging me in my new task of attempting to tackle transport. Some of the most sharp prods came from behind but the most elegant attacks came from the noble Baroness before me.

On one last note of thanks to the noble Baroness, I met the Secretary of State who was very angry with me for striking out his Clause 9. He told me in firm tones that he was an abolitionist as far as this House was concerned. I put in one plea: that when he is "Commissar for Transport" and has us all swept away to the tumbrils, will he make sure that the noble Baroness gets a comfy seat. After all the hours that she has put in on transport, she deserves special consideration as we make out way to Tower Hill. All of us Lords will be in it together when the time comes. Meanwhile, the word "transport" is defined in the dictionary as having something to do with prison. It also has something to do with "transport of delight". This Bill has been a mixture of both and I thank all noble Lords

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord. I shall not be in a hurry to take up any offer of a comfy seat. I hope to see this House continue for many years even in a reformed state. I am grateful to the noble Lord for the tremendous amount of work that he put into this Bill and for the constructive criticism that he and his colleagues have made. We hope that it is now a better Bill than when it started and that this House has contributed something towards it. I am grateful to all concerned.

On Question, Motion agreed to.