HL Deb 13 May 1980 vol 409 cc132-93

4.10 p.m.

House again in Committee.

Baroness STEDMAN

If I may support the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, he and I had rather lengthy—I hope usually friendly—correspondence on this subject a couple of years ago when the earlier Bill was going through. We thought that we had gone as far as we could to meet the point he so adequately described today. Now we have a new Bill it might be sensible if it is written into the legislation. I therefore support the amendment.


Knowing the great experience of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, when I first saw his amendment I made a number of researches into what he said, what happened on Second Reading, two years ago and into the sections of the Acts referred to in his amendment. What impressed me about his submissions was that this is a matter which concerns the average domestic holder. He would want full cover for those engaged in car-sharing. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, referred realistically to the problems that the domestic car driver may have with his insurance company. Therefore it seems to me, prima facie, unless the Minister can persuade me otherwise, that there is at least a case made out for reconsideration of the wording of the Bill in relation to this matter. Clarification in regard to the use by the average domestic holder seems to be an important social matter in relation to this part of the Bill.


I too should like to support this amendment. I also recall when the House was considering the 1978 Transport Act that there was doubt over the insurance issue. Eminent legal opinion has indicated that the MIB's undertaking was hardly worth the paper that it was written upon. It is a difficult matter to deal with because enforcement is a problem. Defects do not seem to come to light until a car-sharing passenger is killed in an accident. Fortunately, this has not so far happened frequently. This amendment seems to clarify the position in insurance and appears to fit the bill at a time when the practice of lift-giving is being encouraged.


May I begin by saying to the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, that I can assure him and other members of the Committee about their concern. I will endeavour to do that in a moment. May I say that I entirely accept what my noble friend Lord Lucas said, that this is not a matter that should be passed over lightly. It is one of considerable importance and arguably one of the most important aspects of this part of the Bill. My noble friend said very fairly that this amendment is precisely the one that he put down in 1978. I suggest that it disregards the most important factor of all; namely, what has in practice transpired since his amendment was put down two years ago. I will come to that in a moment. It is a cardinal principle of this Government that statutory regulation should be avoided except when it is demonstrably necessary, and my noble friend Lord Lucas has not convinced me that it is necessary here. I will endeavour to convince the members of the Committee. The purpose of the compulsory insurance provisions of the Road Traffic Act 1972 is to ensure that funds are available to meet the cost of compensation for damages awarded to an injured third party or, in the case of death, to his dependants, in respect of a common law liability incurred by the user of a motor vehicle. This requirement covers passengers, and cannot be avoided by whether or not they are contributing towards the cost of their journey. Passengers are required by the present law to be covered by insurance against personal injury, whatever the use of the vehicle or conditions under which they are carried, and I state categorically that neither the provisions of the Bill nor the proposed amendment would have any effect on these requirements.

There is absolutely no question of any award of damages for death or injury to passengers or other third parties not being paid. Their position is protected unconditionally by arrangements of long standing between the Minister and the Motor Insurers' Bureau under which the bureau is required to meet any unsatisfied judgment for personal injuries if for any reason the negligent driver was uninsured. None of the provisions in the Bill affects those arrangements in any way. The only possible uncertainty is over the motorist's own liability to his insurers, coupled with the question of damage to vehicles and other property.

I say this as clearly as I am able: We are satisfied that motorists who share their cars are fully safeguarded as far as insurance is concerned by the undertaking given by the motor insurers in 1978 and sent to all their policy holders. This makes clear that the condition in insurance policies prohibiting use of the vehicle "for hire or reward" does not apply to car-sharing arrangements provided that not more than seven passengers (to be increased to eight by the Bill) are carried; and that passengers are not being carried in the course of a business of carrying passengers; and that the total contributions received do not involve an element of profit. I simply cannot conceive of a motorist taking contributions within the provision of this Bill and of the undertaking being accused of driving uninsured, or of an insurance company repudiating the undertaking. Someone who pretends to be operating a non-commercail car-sharing but is in fact in business is, of course, in a different position—and rightly.

I should like, furthermore, to point out that we know of no problems which have arisen in this area since the undertaking was given. However, to clarify the position still further, Clause 2 of the Bill defines when a motorist may accept contributions from his passengers without risking being in the course of a business of carrying passengers. As long as the fares paid do not exceed the running costs for the vehicle of the journey, including an amount for depreciation and general wear, and as long as the arrangements for the payment of fares were made before the journey began, then the journey will not be treated as made in the course of a business of carrying passengers.

We have discussed the car-sharing provisions in the Bill with the Motor Conference. They do not think it necessary to alter their undertaking and are happy with the Bill's provisions on car-sharing. We have fully discussed this as I have said, and I repeat—because I think it is of great importance—that they are happy as to that. They are against reference in the main legislation to car insurance such as my noble friend Lord Lucas is pressing for; they consider this to be both unnecessary and undesirable on the ground that it would be an interference in the contract between the motorist and his insurer. It is significant that whereas in 1978 the insurance side worried the AA and the RAC, both organisations are now completely satisfied with the working of the undertaking. Neither we nor the Motor Conference are aware of any insurance problems stemming from the undertaking or car-sharing generally and neither the AA nor RAC have commented adversely about the provisions in the Bill.

In the light of this, I cannot accept that the kind of interference in the contract between the motorist and his insurer which this amendment involves is either necessary or desirable; indeed, in so far as the amendment would act only in relation to personal injury while the undertaking applies to the whole of the policy, it would actually be a retrograde step. In view of this, I ask my noble friend to consider withdrawing his amendment.

4.19 p.m.


I wonder whether the Minister would forgive me if I extract from something he has just said the words that appear to be an understanding with the insurance companies but shall not include any clement of profit."? I wonder whether in uttering those words he was either quoting by way of complement the amendment which he said was unnecessary when we were dealing with the question of car-sharing, or whether it just occurred in his brief and he was merely reading it out?

How necessary, when the Government come to reconsider the wording, as the noble Lord promised they would, it now becomes that words such as were suggested do in fact occur. It is all very well to talk in terms of understandings with insurance companies. Some of us who have the greatest respect for and the most cordial relationships with our insurance companies know that others have found to their cost that a debate very often occurs when an insurance company feels either that it has an excuse for repudiating liability or a reason for recovering from the party insured. Would it not be very dangerous if, purely in reliance on the clause we were considering a moment ago that there would in fact be no element of profit, the person sharing the car did not have brought to his notice on any view, though I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, very, very clearly the necessity of not having any element of profit in the charge that was being made?—otherwise he might indeed find himself liable to his insurers in view of the very words mentioned by the noble Lord the Minister.


What I said when I touched earlier on the point of profit still stands. We cannot ignore what is surely the most significant factor of all, to my mind. We must look at what has happened and at the experience we have had in the two years since this very same point was made in detail in an amendment in the same wording. It was discussed and debated at some length then, and obviously at that time it must have given rise to concern. What has been the experience? What could be better as a guide to us than that? The evidence is that we have observations by those very important bodies such as the AA and the RAC. They have to be people of standing in this whole scene, and they have said categorically, "We are satisfied". The Motor Conference has also said, "We are satisfied". If they all say they are satisfied then, while I take the point which the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, put forward so ably, as always, I think that in the context of where we are standing in relation to this amendment we are entitled to say: "We can be satisfied on this". Certainly, I am.


I am obliged to those of your Lordships who have spoken. If I may, I should like to start right at the beginning with the 1972 Act. I am no lawyer, but in Section 145 (3) (a), we have this, in respect of requirements in relation to policies of insurance: the policy … must insure such person, persons or classes of persons as may be specified in the policy in respect of any liability which may be incurred by him or them in respect of the death or bodily injury to any person caused by, or arising out of, the use of the vehicle on a road; … It goes further in subsection (4) and says this: The policy shall not, by virtue of subsection (3) (a) above, be required to cover … any contractual liability ". Notwithstanding what has been said about the intentions of car-sharing, there comes this matter of money, and as soon as money changes hands a contract is entered into. It is no good at the end of the day the AA, the RAC, or anybody else, arguing that the amount of money involved does or does not constitute a contract. This matter is primarily going to affect what I call the domestic policyholder, and these people are not people who can or do afford to take this kind of argument through the courts. In any event, if one were bold enough to do so this would be a test case and it would cost a fortune. Most of us would shy away from it.

Of course the Motor Conference are happy: if I belonged to that body I should be delighted that the law was not going to apply to me and that in this instance I could rest on an undertaking I give, on an understanding between me and the Government. That past Governments have relied upon it and that there has been no difficulty or no claim does not reduce the strength of my argument. I would anticipate, judging by what Her Majesty's Government have said throughout these debates, that car-sharing is going to increase considerably. That is the hope, the intention and the desire. Therefore, the law should be enacted now rather than when it is too late.

Ailesbury, M. Falkland, V. Lee of Newton, L.
Airedale, L. Fisher of Rednal, B. Listowel, E.
Amherst, E. Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Ampthill, L. Gaitskell, B. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L. [Teller.]
Auckland, L. Galpern, L. Loudoun, C.
Aylestone, L. Garner, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L. [Teller.]
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Glenkinglas, L. McCarthy, L.
Balogh, L. Gordon-Walker, L. Maelor, L.
Banks, L. Goronwy-Roberts, L. Minto, E.
Barrington, V. Gosford, E. Mishcon, L.
Blease, L. Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Oram, L.
Blyton, L. Grey, E. Paget of Northampton, L.
Brockway, L. Hale, L. Rhodes, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Hall, V. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Hampton, L. Rochester, L.
Byers, L. Hatch of Lusby, L. Ross of Marnock, L.
Cairns, E. Hayter, L. Sainsbury, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Henderson, L. Sandford, L.
Clwyd, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L. Seear, B.
Collison, L. Hylton-Foster, B. Sefton of Garston, L.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Irving of Dartford, L. Sempill, Ly.
Craigavon, V. Jacques, L. Shinwell, L.
Crowther-Hunt, L. Janner, L. Simon, V.
Darling of Hillsborough, L Jeger, B. Skelmersdale, L.
David, B. Kaldor, L. Spens, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Kilbracken, L. Stamp, L.
Davies of Penrhys, L Killearn, L. Stedman, B.
De Freyne, L. Kilmarnock, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Denington, B. Kinloss, Ly. Stone, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Leatherland, L. Strabolgi, L.
I must confess to some little surprise at having the support of the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman: of course, I am delighted. The reason she gave for supporting my amendment was that events have changed in two years. She now believes it would be right to include this provision. My noble friend Lord Bellwin argues that we should look at our experience of what has happened in two years. He said I disregarded the practice. He said nothing had happened. I am absolutely delighted: indeed, it would be a tragedy if anything had happened and I hope nothing happens in the foreseeable future, because that, too would be a tragedy.

I do not quite know where the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, now stands, but I believe that my case is better than that of my noble friend, and I am going to ask your Lordships' Committee to decide whether my case is better than his.

4.27 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 3) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 104; Non- Contents, 84.

Strauss, L. Tranmire, L. Whaddon, L.
Swinton, E. Underhill, L. White, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L. Vivian, L. Wise, L.
Taylor of Mansfield, L. Wallace of Coslany, L. Wootton of Abinger, B.
Teviot, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Abercorn, D. Elton, L. Merrivale, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Emmet of Amberley, B. Milverton, L.
Allerton, L. Exeter, M. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Amory, V. Gormanston, V. Newall, L.
Avon, E. Gowrie, E. Norfolk, D.
Bellwin, L. Gridlcy, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Berkeley, B. Grimston of Westbury, L. Nunburnholme, L.
Bessborough, E. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Onslow, E.
Birdwood, L. Orkney, E.
Booth by, L. Henley, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Bridgeman, V. Hereford, V. Penrhyn, L.
Brookeborough, V. Hillingdon, L. Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Buxton of Alsa, L. Hornsby-Smith, B. Redmayne, L.
Caccia, L. Inglewood, L. Romney, E.
Cathcart, E. Kilmany, L. Rosslyn, E.
Chesham, L. Kimberley, E. St. Davids, V.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Lauderdale, E, Sandys, L. [Teller.]
Clitheroe, L. Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Savile, L.
Croft, L. Linlithgow, M. Selkirk, E.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Long, V. Sharpies, B.
Daventry, V. Luke, L. Somers, L.
Davidson, V. Lyell, L. Strathspey, L.
de Clifford, L. McFadzean, L. Swansea, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Mackay of Clashfern, L. Trefgarne, L.
Donegall, M. Macleod of Borve, B. Trumpington, B.
Drumalbyn, L. Mancroft, L. Vickers, B.
Ebbisham, L. Margadale, L. Young, B.
Effingham, E. Marley, L.
Ellenborough, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

4.36 p.m.

Lord BELLWIN moved Amendment No. 4: Page 3, line 27, leave out subsection (5).

The noble Lord said: For the convenience of the Committee, with this amendment I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 18, 19, 110, 188, 189 and 192. I said on Second Reading that, as part of our policy of seeking to open up as many ways as possible of meeting people's varied transport needs, I would move at Committee stage an amendment to give a new power to local education authorities to carry fare-paying adults on their own school buses, where they have spare capacity. I added that, at present, the position is that buses provided on contract to education authorities might pick up adults and charge them, but that in the small number of cases where the authorities themselves owned the vehicles, they had no powers to take fare-paying adults. This group of amendments meets the undertaking that I gave, and empowers local education authorities to carry ordinary fare-paying passengers on school buses belonging to them.

There are various features of the amendments to which I should like to draw attention. First, the maximum flexibility will be allowed. It is not only on journeys to and from school that school buses will be able to carry other passengers, but also at times of the day and of the year when they are not required for their primary purposes. That will enable the maximum benefit from the new power to be gained by the travelling public. Secondly, as subsection (2) of the new clause states, in very clear terms, the existing duties of authorities to carry pupils free remains quite unaffected.

Thirdly, road service licences will be required and the traffic commissioners will judge services provided by school vehicles just like those provided by any other operator. Fourthly, the present status of vehicles owned by local education authorities in respect of public service vehicle licensing will be maintained, and operators' licensing will not be required of them. The Government have carefully considered and rejected the case for imposing restrictions on such vehicles that they do not have at present.

It would be wrong to claim that this new freedom is of major importance, or that it will solve the rural transport problem. But it will remove a quite unnecessary restriction on the use of a few vehicles, and I hope that local authorities will seize the opportunities it gives them to provide services that would otherwise not be provided and, at the same time, to earn a little income. I beg to move.


May I first thank the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, for letting a few of us have a note on this clause, which has been very helpful and has enabled us in the last few hours to take a very careful look at it. I must ask: Is this a public transport decision, or is it a decision in an endeavour to get more revenue for education, in the light of the rejection of the proposal regarding school transport? When that decision was taken to remove the proposal to charge for school transport, we believed that we would have the status quo as laid down in the 1953 Act. One important provision there was that, in England and Wales, if there were any vacant seats they could be filled with pupils not entitled to free places, provided that the traffic commissioners gave consent. I want to emphasise that, because I shall come back to it in a moment.

In those provisions, it was also added that consent must not be given if any other transport facilities are available. Up to then, there were tighter provisions in Scotland; any spare seats had to be given free to any pupils who were not entitled to free transport. The noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, has made it quite clear that there may be only a few authorities which will be affected by this, but I would stress that the numbers are irrelevant; it is the principles which matter.

Under the proposals, there is now to be power to pick up and therefore, presumably, to set down passengers on journeys to and from school in connection with free transport where the vehicle is owned by the education authority and, in addition, the power to run a stage bus service during the day when the vehicles are idle and also at weekends and during school holidays. We are very pleased to note that it is made absolutely clear—the noble Lord stressed this himself—that road service licensing will be required in both of these cases.

At present, as I have already stressed, if there is a desire in England and Wales to pick up pupils for payment in addition to those who are entitled to free transport, the consent of the commissioners is needed. I emphasise that consent must not be given if other transport facilities are available. These two provisions do not appear anywhere in the new clause. If that is the instruction given to traffic commissioners in connection with a very limited scheme, why are those instructions not going to be given to the commissioners in connection with this greatly extended scheme?

If I read the new clause correctly, we must bear in mind that it does not cover merely rural areas or isolated areas with limited transport. It covers all areas. This could be another example of adopting what appears to be a useful innovation in order to provide additional transport, and then finding that it could severely damage existing services. If an education authority decided to run a bus service—which it would have the right to do, provided the commissioners approved—no doubt they would run it where it was profitable, otherwise they would not trouble to run it. It would be ironic if, as a result of this scheme, an education authority damages a public service scheme running in the area of that authority, because in general it will be a shire county.

Incidentally, may I ask the noble Lord whether the phrase "local bus service" needs improved definition? What is "local"? Does it mean the area of the education authority only? If so, it seems to me that it should be made quite clear in the Bill, otherwise they could run a stage local service in someone else's locality.

Viscount SIMON

If the noble Lord will forgive me for intervening, can he explain to me what he is dealing with? I cannot relate what the noble Lord is saying to the amendment, which is simply to leave out subsection (5). The noble Lord spoke about a new clause.


The noble Lord said that he was speaking to a number of other clauses, including Amendment No. 110, which is the major amendment. That is the one upon which I am spending most of my time. I was asking whether or not the word "local" required better definition. Presumably there is no provision for any district council which may be affected to be consulted on these proposals. It would be a very difficult situation if the district council itself had a passenger transport undertaking and yet the education authority was going to apply to the commissioners for a service in that particular area.

The noble Lord said that he thought the various provisions which are not going to be covered would be unnecessary in the case of education authority buses, but I would put it to your Lordships that this is most unsatisfactory and even dangerous. When I look at the provisions which are not going to apply, Section 15 relates to powers of, and facilities for, the inspection of public service vehicles. Why is that not going to apply to a school bus? Section 16 relates to the need for a PSV to have a certificate of initial fitness, yet it has been said that that will not apply in this case. Section 17 relates to the power of a certifying officer or a PSV examiner to prohibit the driving of an unfit public service vehicle, yet that provision is excluded. Section 18 relates to the need to have a public service vehicle operator's licence. Why is a school bus which is to be used, provided the commissioners agree, on a local bus stage service not required to have a PSV operator's licence?

Then we find that Section 144 of the 1960 Act is not to be included. Section 144 provides that a person shall not drive a public service vehicle unless licensed to do so. Why should a school bus which is running on a local stage bus service not have that requirement which every other stage bus service would require? Surely this is ill considered. It may even be dangerous from the standpoint of safety that these items are going to be excluded although they apply to all other public service vehicles.

While there are features in this amendment which may appear to be an encouraging development so far as providing transport in a few areas is concerned, it is fraught with many problems. Therefore I am wondering whether or not this is a case of a hastily contrived amendment which has not been thought out, consequential upon another decision taken by this House.


May I join the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, in thanking the noble Lord the Minister for his help in sending us copies of the notes in relation to some of the new clauses? When I listened to him making his submission in relation to his amendments, I thought he was very persuasive and that what he said should have support, but having regard to what I have heard now from the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, I must say that I am a little confused. It is entirely my fault for being confused, because while I was struggling to take my seat, having been a Teller in the Division, I missed the numbers of the amendments to which the noble Lord the Minister said he was speaking. May I therefore ask for his indulgence and apologise to him for not having had that list adequately noted before I made my submissions?


May I, in turn, apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran. I had not realised that one was quite so quick off the mark, or that the extent of the opposition which he was counting was so great as so to delay his return to the Committee.


I am not criticising the noble Lord's efficiency!


I will gladly repeat again the numbers of the other amendments which I am including. They are amendments Nos. 18, 19, 110, 118, 189 and 192.


I am very much obliged to the noble Lord.


If I was unable on the last amendment to persuade the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, of the strength of the case I was arguing, I would at least hope to be more successful on this occasion. May I therefore begin by picking up the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill? The first, and I think the most important to make absolutely clear, is that the intention of this amendment is not in any way to seek to replace what might be lost by a local authority because of what transpired in the Education Bill as regards school transport. I thought that I had said that quite clearly—and I repeat it, though not gladly because I hoped I would not have to do so. But I certainly do confirm that.

As to the other points which were made, the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, said that this could severely damage the existing bus services. With great respect, this really is not so because, all else apart, the commissioners would hardly give a licence if that were so. I have to stress again, if I did not make it sufficiently clear last time, that such a licence would be required.

The noble Lord asked for a definition of "local bus service". It means all that fits within the definition of a stage carriage service.


If the noble Lord will allow me to intervene, I appreciate his explanation but I should like to know this: In what locality would a local bus service apply? Would it be the area of the education authority? If so, that is not made clear in the Bill. Or would it be a local bus service anywhere?


Among other parts of this definition of a stage carriage service, I understand that it covers a 30-mile area, and I would assume that would apply in this case also, but, if I should have any reason to state otherwise I might, at a later date, confirm or deny that.

As to the other points, I think the noble Lord said that consents would be unduly restrictive, but in our view road service licensing does give an adequate safeguard against unfair competition. The other points made referred in the main to the fact that there is a genuine concern—and rightly so—about matters of safety. On that point clearly it must be of the essence of this amendment that local authorities are fully responsible bodies and in our view can be trusted to maintain safety standards; but in any case, leaving that aside, annual testing under the roadworthiness directive will apply to these as to all other large passenger vehicles. It has to be said that the Labour Party was quite content through all its years of government to allow school children to be carried in these same vehicles about which they are now expressing such concern as soon as we are simply allowing adults to be carried in them.

On the point of the drivers' licences, which also is a safety factor, again we prefer to leave it to the local authorities to decide what qualifications to require of their drivers. But I should like to repeat that all such vehicles involved will require road service licences, with all the obligations attached to that. Therefore I cannot go along with all the concern that has been expressed by noble Lords opposite in connection with safety.

I feel that this amendment has merit. It is right that there should be questions as to all the implications of it. It comes at a late date, without too much time to consider it. It covers the key points of safety, but the fact that, at the end of the day it really only concerns a handful of vehicles, leads one to say, "Why have it at all, if that is all it does?" The fact is, however, that it is an opportunity, and I commend it strongly to your Lordships.


Having listened to my noble friend, I must confess that I am not happy with this amendment. I do not know what the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, intends to do about it but I think we should perhaps try to amend it on Report stage. There are certainly quite a lot of things which need to be done to this clause. My noble friend commented on the questions of safety—the PSV fitness tests and the PSV driver, and the fact that these vehicles were being allowed to carry school children, so why should they not carry adults? Also it could be said, why have PSV fitness tests at all, or why have PSV drivers?

The noble Lord also said that it is hardly likely to harm existing services because the commissioners are unlikely to grant licences where there are other services. I am not convinced because if there is a changing pattern I think it is a very dangerous area to allow local authorities to use their school transport vehicles for other purposes—except that perhaps something might be considered whereby existing companies could hire the local authority's vehicles if they saw fit, but only if these vehicles come under the standard requirements, that is, PSV fitness or those that have PSV drivers.

4.55 p.m.

The Earl of MINTO

I apologise to the Committee for the fact that I was not present at the Second Reading of this Bill and perhaps I should declare an interest in it, in so far as I happen to be a deputy traffic commissioner for the traffic area of Scotland. I have not had the advantage enjoyed by certain noble Lords today of having placed before me the information that has obviously been of great use to them, so I may be speaking marginally out of place. However I should like to say this to your Lordships: if I have read the amendments correctly, we are in a position where the education authority will be able to use the school buses to all intents and purposes as stage carriages and although they have road service licences—and that provides a certain defence mechanism—the vehicle would not need to comply with PSV standards. As a traffic commissioner, that concerns me very much indeed.

The education authority would not need an operator's licence and the driver of the vehicle would not need a PSV licence. I think that is what has been said by other noble Lords and that is my interpretation of this particular amendment. If this is true, then I consider that this relaxation is really indefensible. As traffic commissioners we have enough trouble already with works' buses taking people to work. Admittedly, I suppose the people on those particular buses are to a certain extent defended by the Health and Safety at Work Act, but that would not apply in this particular area and I do not think there is a record of proof that the education authorities are good operators. The local authority transport undertakings are extremely good operators and they have to comply with all the restrictions of the traffic commissioners. Then suddenly along comes the education authority, which have no operating experience whatever, and they have these relaxations made for them. Speaking as an individual traffic commissioner—and I have to say that, although I know that my view is shared by many of my colleagues—I do not like this amendment one little bit.


So far as the Scottish side is concerned, the Scottish education authorities' duty to carry pupils is in no way affected by this clause. Their first duty will continue to be to pick up pupils, as at present. I can only repeat what I said earlier, that this relaxation, freedom—call it what we will—which it is proposed to give to local education authorities is only to provide stage carriage services, and the traffic commissioners (and J suppose it is most apt that the noble Earl himself is a traffic commissioner) will have their normal responsibility to ensure that competition is not unfair. So long as we are satisfied about the safety aspects, then I think this minor relaxation that is proposed should be made within the context of all this Bill seeks to do, which is, if you like, to make freer the opportunities for everyone to improve the facilities for transport throughout the country, which, in my view, really fall short of what we want them to be. Therefore, I hope your Lordships will accept this amendment.


The noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, has said that this is a minor matter, with the number of vehicles involved. I am sure your Lordships would agree that it would not matter if only half a dozen were involved. We all know that there have in recent years been a number of most unfortunate accidents affecting public service vehicles, and we cannot play ducks and drakes when we are moving passengers about. The noble Lord said the commissioners would hardly give a licence. Well, why have we got in the present provisions, in the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1953, that before consent is given to an education authority to use its bus to pick up children other than those who are being taken free the commissioners must be satisfied that there are no other transport facilities available? That is the instruction now.


In England.


In England and Wales. Why is there any doubt about putting that in the new clause so as to give a direction to the commissioners as to exactly what they should do? I cannot see why. We are looking at it from that angle.

We are looking at it also from the point of view of safety. I would reiterate that the Act is quite clear, the clause is quite clear. It states the sections which will not apply. I will not weary your Lordships by going through them again. But they are very important safety provisions. If there was only the one, the fact alone that the driver—although he or she may be on a stage bus service because the commissioner has granted a licence—need not be a driver licensed to drive a public service vehicle, should make us very doubtful about approving this particular clause. In the absence of any definite assurances to this Committee that

Abercorn, D. Elliot of Harwood, B. Mancroft, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Elton, L. Margadale, L.
Allerton, L. Emmet of Amberley, B. Marley, L.
Amory, V. Exeter, M. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Auckland, L. Falkland, V. Merrivale, L.
Avon, E. Ferrers, E. Milverton, L.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Ferrier, L. Morris, L.
Bellwin, L. Forester, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Berkeley, B. Fortescue, E. Newall, L.
Bessborough, E. Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Norfolk, D.
Birdwood, L. Gainford, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Boyd of Merton, V. Geddes, L. Onslow, E.
Brookeborough, V. Gisborough, L. Orkney, E.
Cairns, E. Glenkinglas, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Caithness, E. Gormanston, V. Penrhyn, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Gowrie, E. Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Cathcart, E. Gridley, L. Redmayne, L.
Chesham, L. Grimston of Westbury, L. Romney, E.
Clitheroe, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Sandford, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Sandys, L. [Teller.]
Cork and Orrery, E. Henley, L. Savile, L.
Cottesloe, L. Hereford, V. Selkirk, E.
Craigavon, V. Hillingdon, L. Sempill, Ly.
Croft, L. Inglewood, L. Sharples, B.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Killearn, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Daventry, V. Lauderdale, E. Soames, L. (L. President.)
Davidson, V. Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Strathspey, L.
de Clifford, L. Linlithgow, M. Swinton, E.
De Freyne, L. Long, V. Tranmire, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Luke, L. Trefgarne, L.
Donegall, M. Lyell, L. Trenchard, V.
Drumalbyn, L. McFadzean, L. Trumpington, B.
Ebbisham, L. Mackay of Clashern, L. Vivian, L.
Ellenborough, L. Macleod of Borve, B. Wise, L.
Ailesbury, M. Crowther-Hunt, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L.
Airedale, L. Darling of Hillsborough, L. Howie of Troon, L.
Ampthill, L. Davies of Penrhys, L. Hylton-Foster, B.
Aylestone, L. Elwyn-Jones, L. Ilchester, E.
Baker, L. Fisher of Rednal, B. Irving of Dartford, L.
Balogh, L. Gaitskell, B. Jacques, L.
Banks, L. Galpern, L. Janner, L.
Blease, L. Glenamara, L. Jeger, B.
Blyton, L. Gordon-Walker, L. Kaldor, L.
Boothby, L. Goronwy-Roberts, L. Kilmarnock, L.
Brockway, L. Gosford, E. Leatherland, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Lee of Newton, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Hale, L. Listowel, E.
Byers, L. Hall, V. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. [Teller.]
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Halsbury, E.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Hampton, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Collison, L. Hatch of Lusby, L. Loudoun, C.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Henderson, L. Lovell-Davis, L.

the clause will be looked at with great care with a view to bringing improved provisions to the Report stage, I must ask the Committee to divide on this particular proposal.

5.4 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 4) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided:

Contents, 101; Not-Contents, 91.

Lucas of Chilworth, L. Ross of Marnock, L. Strabolgi, L.
McCarthy, L. Rosslyn, E. Strauss, L.
Maelor, L. St. Davids, V. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Minto, E. Seear, B. Teviot, L.
Mishcon, L. Sefton of Garston, L. Underhill, L.
Northfield, L. Shinwell, L. Wallace of Coslany, L. [Teller.]
Oram, L. Simon, V. Walston, L.
Paget of Northampton, L. Somers, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Peart, L. Spens, L. Whaddon, L.
Phillips, B. Stamp, L. White, B.
Rhodes, L. Stedman, B. Willis, L.
Ritchie-Calder, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B. Wootton of Abinger, B.
Rochester, L. Stone, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

[Amendment No. 5 not moved.]

5.12 p.m.

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 6: Page 4, line 14, at end insert— (" (7) Where a fare is paid for the carriage of a passenger on a journey by air, no part of that fare shall be treated for the purposes of subsection (6) as paid in consideration of the carriage of the passenger by road by reason of the fact that in case of mechanical failure, bad weather or other circumstances outside the operator's control part of that journey may be made by road.").

The noble Lord said: I think that we now come to an amendment which is genuinely not too contentious. Most airlines make contingency arrangements for the transfer of passengers by coach between airports when aircraft are diverted, for example, because of adverse weather. Those of us who live in Scotland have had this happen to us all too often, I am very sorry to say. There is some uncertainty as to whether these services need road service licence. On the one hand, as passengers have paid a fare, albeit not one originally intended for coach travel, the service needs a licence. On the other hand, the passenger buying an airline ticket does not expect to travel by coach and in the normal event he does not make a coach journey. When in emergency he does make a coach journey, he does not make any payment for it.

If a licence is needed, there is further uncertainty over who should hold it—the airline, the ground handling agent or the coach operator—and there have been time-consuming disputes over that. We see really no need for such diversionary services provided on a contract basis, to be subject to road service licensing. This amendment will put the issue beyond all doubt in future, and I hope benefit all airline travellers who land in the wrong place. I beg to move.

Viscount SIMON

I wonder whether the noble Lord can tell us whether the amendment should not also refer to people who are carried when there is a railway breakdown, which is also something that happens. I should have thought that it was exactly the same as the situation which arises with the airways. I do not know whether the provision can be extended perhaps by an amendment at the next stage of the Bill?


Although I spoke to what was the most common cause or the reason for it, if one reads the words I think one finds that it covers those situations as well.

Viscount SIMON

I do not read it as saying that. It says: Where a fare is paid for the carriage of a passenger on a journey by air ". So, apparently, it would not cover a journey by rail.


I have an idea that that may be covered by some other provision. However, I shall write to the noble Viscount on that point and, if necessary, if it is seen fit, we shall add something at a later stage.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 3 [Classification of public service vehicles as stage, express or contract carriages]:

Lord UNDERHILL moved Amendment No. 7: Page 4, line 27, after (" fares ") insert (" at not less than the prescribed amount ").

The noble Lord said: I shall be very brief as regards this amendment, because it is really in the form of a probing amendment to ascertain the Government's views on the matter. We are proposing that the words: … at not less than the prescribed amount should be inserted when dealing with the question of fares for local bus services—that is, the normal stage services. We propose that not less than the prescribed amount should be laid down quite clearly.

We all know the problems of bus fares and the increasing problems in many areas for the travelling public. We want to be assured that there will be no possibility of fares being unduly excessive and, therefore, we have tabled this amendment in order to ascertain the Government's views upon the issue. I beg to move.


I do not think that this is really an amendment which your Lordships would wish to see pressed. I suggest that all that it possibly achieves is to exclude certain services where fares were less than some prescribed amount from any categorisation at all. We used to have the magic figure of 21p. There is no indication of what this prescribed amount in future is supposed to be. The effect of the amendment would be to remove the requirement for a road service licence from certain presumably cheap local services. I cannot believe that the Opposition really wish to see licensing requirements for public buses dependent upon what fare is charged. But it is still quite an intriguing thought.


In the light of what the noble Lord has said, we shall read very carefully the words that he used when we have the Official Report and decide whether or not to put down an amendment at the report stage. Therefore] I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 8: Page 4, line 35, leave out (" conditions ") and insert (" requirements ").

The noble Lord said: This is purely a drafting amendment. I beg to move.

5.18 p.m.

Lord UNDERHILL moved Amendment No. 9: Page 4, line 35, leave out from (" conditions ") to (" of") in line 42 and insert (", namely—

  1. (i) no passenger may be set down at a place less than 30 miles, measured in a straight line, from the place where he was taken up; or
  2. (ii) some point on the route between those places is 30 miles or more, measured in a straight line, from both ").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 9. Both the section in the clause and our amendment may seem very confusing—to be honest they would certainly have been confusing to me unless I had had some guidance on the matter. However, a very important matter is contained in the amendment. The Government have decided—and this is made clear in a later clause—that an express service shall be taken out of necessity for road service licensing. The requirements laid down in this subsection, therefore, determine whether or not a particular service shall be an express service and, therefore, taken out of the requirement for licensing. Hence the wording must be precise.

The Minister pointed out during the Committee stage in another place that, on re-examining the definition, as drafted in the original Bill, it was noticed that in some circumstances the result could be that the service is an express service when running in one direction, but not for the return journey. The consequence of that would have been that it would be de-licensed for the outward journey but would require licensing for the return. So the Government very wisely decided to make the position, as they thought, clearer and changed the wording. I repeat that the wording must be precise, but we are not satisfied that the wording in the Bill achieves that.

Perhaps I may point out to the Committee that there could be a situation of an operator, with a stage service route of say 29 miles, run as a stage service, fully licensed. Another operator may decide to extend the journey to 32 miles and he assures the authorities that no passenger will alight fewer than 30 miles from where he was picked up. There will be no need for him to license. Yet both of them will run on the same routes. Perhaps I could give an example, and I shall give it slowly.

I do not expect the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, to deal with this in his reply because that would be unfair, but it will be in the Official Report, and so he could check for a later stage whether this example covers the question that we have in mind.

There could be a service from Manchester to Stoke-on-Trent, with a picking-up point at Sale; and on leaving Sale the bus would proceed along the A556 road, joining the M.6 at Junction 19. It then proceeds south to Junction 16 and takes the A500 straight into Stoke-on-Trent. That route would be entirely within the 30 miles of Sale and Stoke-on-Trent; therefore, it would be licensed. However, if the operator decided to continue on the M.6 to Junction 15 and double back on the A5006 and the A500, it would add only four and a half miles to his journey; but the route would then be taken outside the 30-mile limit and the service would be wholly freed from licensing.

We are advised that the amendment which we have tabled will deal with that situation and, therefore, it is an important amendment. The amendment also simplifies the wording of subsection (3) (a), at the same time as removing some uncertainty. This is done by replacing the word "is", which is associated with the words "every passenger", and substituting the words "no passenger may"; in other words, it relates to what passengers are authorised to do—except, of course, in an emergency—rather than to what may actually happen, say, if someone decides to leave the bus before the stop to which he has booked, with or without the authority of the driver. Therefore, the amendment tidies up subsection (3) (a). However, we believe that the most important part of the amendment is the amendment to paragraph (b) , which would deal with the situation which I tried to explain in the particular example which I quoted. I beg to move.


I hope that when my noble friend replies to this amendment he will give it due consideration. It is a very important amendment, but it is not an emotive or contentious one, like those which we dealt with earlier. But if, as the Bill recognises, there is still a need for road service licensing—thank goodness!—it is a mistake to provide loopholes. I do not wish to repeat the arguments that have already been presented, but I have also been given another dog-leg anomaly. I am sure that there must be very many. The example that I have been given is where the 30-miles' distance from either place will be exempt from licensing, as licensing is intended to be under this new legislation. The example I have been given is of a service from Leicester to Northampton and, quite obviously, the M. I has been chosen. If a coach leaves the motorway at Junction 16 and takes the A45 into Northampton, that route is entirely within 30 miles. Therefore, it should require a road service licence. However, you could have someone, who is not very scrupulous, who, by continuing to Junction 15 and doubling back into Northampton, adding only four miles to the journey, can operate the service without a licence.

In another place the Minister agreed that it was anomalous to have a service licensed in one direction but uncontrolled on the return journey. I submit that this is the wrong answer to this anomaly. As has been shown, this is a loophole, and good sense suggests that it should be overcome by the proposed amendment. Finally, I agree that the simplified wording of this subsection will be appreciated by those who are on the receiving end of this legislation—the bus and coach operator, and the travelling public.


I, too, had gathered that there has been much talk about whether Clause 3 (3) (a) provides a loophole for operators to escape road service licensing for services between places which are, in fact, less than the specified distance apart, by taking a roundabout route. The answer surely is that the clause does, indeed, permit roundabout routes, but provided that every passenger goes at least 30 miles in a straight line in the process. That really is the basic criterion; that is what really matters on this point. It is not only the distance between places on which the amendment concentrates, but how far each and every passenger must travel.

As the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, and my noble friend Lord Teviot said, I cannot comment on the specific instances that they gave. I would simply say that from listening to them the mind boggles. No doubt there are many other and even better examples that could be given. But, in practice, I cannot see operators making a great profit out of running bizarre routes just to cheat the system. What passenger wants to waste his time going all round the houses? What kind of a business would the operator have, and for how long, if he indulged in such practices? I should not think too long. A slight deviation where places are, say, 29 miles apart is certainly foreseeable, but I do not believe that such a practice will undermine the purpose of the express carriage definition; that is, to protect vital local services.

At the moment, I cannot say more on this amendment. I take the point that my noble friend Lord Teviot made as to whether or not in another place this would be looked at, or even whether it could be looked at at another stage in this House. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, whose amendment this is, that I shall certainly discuss the point with my honourable friend.


I am sure that the Committee will be grateful to the noble Lord the Minister for the usual courtesy which he showed in saying that this matter will be further discussed. It is only upon that basis that I ask him to consider something which I do not think he has considered in his reply. First, it is a very nice picture to paint of those who operate transport that they would not dream of getting the advantage of an express service, which means that they would thereby be de-licensed, or would not require a licence, and would therefore not wish to think in terms on any way in which they could surreptitiously obtain that advantage. I am sure that that applies to all the transport operators known to the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin; but some of us who have knowledge of other transport operators are in a more unfavourable position than he is, and we would not put it past them, if I may put it in that brief way.

I think that the Minister was, in fact, dealing absolutely correctly in his reply with the point under subsection (3) (a) (i) where he spoke about the passenger having to be set down 30 miles or more, measured in a straight line, from the place where he was taken up. The noble Lord said—I think very sensibly—that the passenger would get rather annoyed if he were taken on a circuitous route and if his journey took longer than it should, and that the traffic operator would thereby lose business. I think that the noble Lord forgot the word "or" and the fact that it is paragraph (ii) which is the main point of my noble friend's remarks and the remarks which I believe were made by the noble Lord, Lord Teviot.

The vital point is that in paragraph (ii) one is dealing with the measurement of a straight line in regard to the journey itself, and this has nothing to do with the passenger involved concerning his being set down. As I said, the last thing in the world that anyone on this side of the Committee would want to be is ungracious. The noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, has said that he will look at this matter and see whether or not it should be covered at a later stage. I think that my noble friend Lord Underhill will be content with that statement, and that other Members of the Committee will wait with anxiety to hear the results of the reconsideration.


I too am happy that my noble friend is taking this back and looking at it again, because the express bus side has been something of which the country can be proud. Express coaches have taken on routes going all over the country, backwards and forwards. You can get from practically anywhere to everywhere without having to cross London. It is one of the most flexible services there is. Anything that could upset something that is so clearly successful would be a great pity, so therefore one is very pleased.


In view of the generous gesture by the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, that he will give this matter consideration, we will withdraw this amendment. I am not a legal expert but you will notice that the words used in paragraph (ii) are from either of those places whereas in the amendment it is "from both". That is the important question which should be considered. In view of the assurance given, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.32 p.m.

Lord UNDERHILL moved Amendment No. 10: Page 5, leave out lines 1 and 2.

The noble Lord said: This is a rather simple amendment. It proposes the deletion of the first two lines on page 5. This would take out reference to an express service being a tour or excursion when deciding whether or not a service should be taken out of licensing requirements. If the 30 miles requirement is met then the Bill proposes that, if the journey is an excursion or tour, that finishes the matter. If, however, the service is not an excursion or tour then it is necessary to supply particulars to the traffic commissioners. This has nothing to do with licensing, for which there is no requirement as regards an express service.

I mentioned this on Second Reading. Time and time again I have looked through the arguments in another place on this matter, and I cannot see why this provision is in the Bill. The definitions of excursion or tour and of express carriage service given in Clause 36 are not too helpful. It states: ' excursion or tour' means a stage or express carriage service on which the passengers travel together … to one or more other places and back ".

That confuses me even more. It may be my confusion and not anyone else's. A stage carriage service is surely one for which a road service licence is required. Why should an operator running an express service have to supply information to the traffic commissioners but another operator, running say a daily service from London to Blackpool as an excursion for three summer months, does not have to give such information? The distinction made between tours and excursions and express services would appear to be unjustifiable. Therefore, the amendment suggests taking these words out of the subsection and if need be the position of excursions and tours could then be dealt with separately outside this particular clause. I beg to move.


As the noble Lord said, this matter was discussed in the House of Commons, and I thought my honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary had rather the better of the argument. I am slightly surprised that it has been raised again in almost the same fashion in this House. As was said in the other House, the requirement in Clause 3 (b) (ii) that express service operators have to notify details of their services to the traffic commissioners is designed to import a degree of commitment by the operator to the running of the service. This is not done for any perverse reason but to give a commitment that it is going to provide a long distance inter-city service; a regular, dependable, and direct method of public transport from one place to another.

Thus this provision is designed, without being in the least a hardship to the operator, to give the passenger some assurance—it is the would-be passenger who wants to know—that there is a long-term regular service. If there is no requirement for the traffic commissioners to be told about it, it is not published. This is designed to help the public, the passenger travelling long distances. It is some assurance that the service will run, and to make competition between operators open and fair, discouraging "pirates" who could choose to run or not to run at whim. That is the position for the express service.

The position with excursion and tours is totally different. These are not by nature services designed as a quick and efficient method of transport between A and B. They are not a regular service, but they are nearly always part of some holiday package or pleasure trip, with passengers possibly alighting and rejoining the coach at various stages along the journey which has been organised beforehand by the tour organiser. I do not envisage many cases where these types of service could compete with regular express services. It would in our view be unnecessarily restrictive and bureaucratic and contrary to the whole spirit of the Bill to impose on excursion and tour operators the type of requirement suggested by the noble Lord. I hope that the noble Lord will take a common-sense view of this and not an extreme view. It is a matter of common sense for the public that the operators on the regular route just notify the traffic commissioners. But if we had a House of Lords staff trip organised to Brighton, why should they have to tell the traffic commissioners? Look at it in the common-sense context, I beg of you.


On this amendment I find myself agreeing with the Government. I think that my noble friend has very well explained this sort of business about having to tell the commissioners every time you are going to take a party out somewhere. This is somewhere where a bit of red tape can be cut out with no harm.


I shall have a careful look at the noble Lord's words in the Official Report. In the light of what he has said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.38 p.m.

Lord UNDERHILL moved Amendment No. 11: Page 5, line 10, at end insert— ("Failure to comply with this condition shall mean that the service shall be a stage carriage service and all the conditions appertaining to a stage carriage service shall apply ")

The noble Lord said: This is a simple amendment, which I hope the Government will accept. At Second Reading I stated that I could not see any reference to any penalty should the operator of an express service fail to send the required particulars to the traffic commissioners. I have found the answer in the helpful Notes on Clauses which the Minister made available to us. This states: Failure to notify a service which would otherwise have been an express service will make it a stage one service"— that is, a stage service— and hence be subject to road service licensing ". That was in the notes, but I cannot find that specific provision in the Bill. It may be there but it is rather obscure, and I have not seen it. If it is in an obscure place in the Bill, then surely it is desirable that it should be absolutely clear. We therefore propose the addition of the words in the amendment to make it clear that these conditions shall apply. I beg to move.

Viscount SIMON

Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, can help me. The amendment says "failure to comply with this condition". There are in fact two, if not three, conditions, are there not? Does this apply to all or any of them?


We are referring to the condition in the clause that the information must be supplied, but we are also saying that once the information has been supplied, all the conditions applying to a stage carriage service should apply here. The important thing is that if it is a condition and if it is not complied with, the clause then says that therefore the service must be a stage licence, simply because the conditions have not been complied with and the details have not been sent in. We want to make sure that is added to the Bill because I am sure that is the intention of the clause.


I think I can help the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, and the noble Viscount, Lord Simon. The amendment is not necessary because the Bill already provides what is sought. The definition of an express service works by stipulating two conditions, both of which must be satisfied for a service to be classified as express. The first condition—the 30 mile rule—we have already discussed. The second condition—that of notifying the traffic commissioners—is what concerns noble Lords opposite. I can reassure them that satisfying the notification requirements is as much a part of the basic definition of an express service as the 30 mile rule. If the service has not been notified, it is not an express service. If it is a service at separate fares, then it will be a local service, requiring a road service licence, and the sanction in Clause 4 (5) will bite. I hope that in the light of that reassurance, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.


Without wishing to detain the Committee on this matter, and while accepting what the Minister said, I cannot see where it is stated precisely in the Bill; if the noble Lord tells me it is to be found elsewhere in the Bill I will of course apologise. If, however, it is an assumption, then would it not be better actually to have the words in the Bill? Everybody agrees with what I said—there is no argument about it—so why not include these words so as to make the position absolutely clear?


The noble Lord is right to say it is not stated in the Bill, the reason being that it is not considered necessary to state it for the observations I made, and that is still the position. I can only repeat my assurance that the wording of the Bill is such that without specifically referring to the point, it is covered for the reasons I gave and which I am sure the noble Lord does not want me to repeat.


In the light of those remarks, although [shall consult further on the matter, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.43 p.m.

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 12: Page 5, line 18, leave out (" paragraph ") and insert (" subsection ").

The noble Lord said: This is a simple drafting amendment. The use of the word "paragraph" is clearly incorrect; it should be "subsection".

Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

5.44 p.m.

Lord UNDERHILL moved Amendment No. 13: After Clause 3, insert the following new clause: Signs on vehicles (.—(I) Notwithstanding anything in any enactment:

  1. (a) no passenger vehicle of less than eight seats which carries passengers for hire or reward, or for payment of any kind, other than a hackney carriage licensed to ply for hire under the several enactments in force within the United Kingdom for licensing such hackney carriages, shall have affixed to the roof, thereof, a sign of any kind of description;
  2. (b) nothing in paragraph (a) of this subsection shall prevent a District Council from requiring, or allowing, an identification sign, or mark, on a Private Hire Vehicle licensed under Part II of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976:
  3. (c) no vehicle being used to give lifts for payment under this Act. or the Transport Act 1978, shall carry any sign of any kind or description on any part of the vehicle indicating that the vehicle was being, or is used, to give lifts for payment.
(2) If any person contravenes the provisions of this section he shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding two hundred pounds and to a daily fine of twenty pounds.").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this new clause is to prevent private hire cars and cars giving lifts for hire or reward from carrying on the roof of the vehicle a display sign or, in those cases where a district council authorises an identification sign, that sign shall not be illuminated. I am sure the Committee will agree that there is clear need to differentiate between a hackney carriage licensed to ply for hire—which carries a sign which, when lit up, means that the vehicle is available for hire—and other vehicles which are not hackney carriage licensed carriages. I understand that the organisation concerned with the taxi trade is very much concerned about the absence of this provision. At the conclusion of the discussion of this matter on Report on another place, the Minister stated:

"I give an undertaking that the Government will seek to meet the spirit of the new clause in another place. I hope that in the light of that assurance, the honourable Member will withdraw his clause".—[Official Report, Commons, 24/3/80; col. 1065.]

On that understanding, the amendment was withdrawn in the other place. I assume that the reference to "another place" can refer only to this place, and that is why this amendment has been tabled. It is in the light of the Minister's helpful observation—that the Government would seek to put the matter right in this place—that I hope the Government will do so and accept the new clause.


I accept much of what the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, said about the importance of the licensed taxi trade and of the protection which taxi licensing gives to the public. Without therefore denying that private hire cars are also an invaluable part of our transport system, I agree that taxis and their users deserve protection from people who pretend to be taxis by putting up signs on their roofs which closely resemble those used by licensed taxis.

However, I am afraid I cannot accept the clause as drafted. It raises issues of policy on which we are consulting my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. Even so, as indicated in another place, and as the noble Lord rightly said, the Government are prepared to accept the principle behind the first part of the clause which would increase the distinction between taxis and private hire cars. It will be in this place—which, in the context of what he said, was "another place"—that I will table a new clause on Report.

On car-sharing, my reactions are that I am not attracted by the idea of a total ban on all types of advertisement or distinguishing marks by private motorists, but I accept that any prohibition that applies to commercial hire cars should also apply to private cars, and I will cover this in the amendment I table for Report. I trust that in those circumstances the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the new clause.


I am grateful to the Minister for that statement. Naturally he will not expect me to commit myself to being completely in favour of the Government's new clause when it is tabled, particularly in the light of the reservations he made, but as a new clause will be presented on Report, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 1 [Public service vehicles: conditions affecting status or classification]:

Lord BELLWIN moved Amendment No. 14: Page 52, line 14, at end insert (" except where the local authorities concerned have approved the arrangements under which the journey is made as designed to meet the social and welfare needs of one or more communities, and their approvals remain in force. (2) In relation to a journey the local authorities concerned for the purposes of this paragraph are those in whose area any part of the journey is to be made; and in this sub-paragraph "local authority" means—

  1. (a) in relation to England and Wales, the Greater London Council or a county council;
  2. (b) in relation to Scotland, a regional or islands council.").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment is to restore a provision introduced in the Transport Act 1978 which has inadvertently been removed in the Bill as it stands. The present provisions for what are called "social car schemes" enable bodies like the WRVS to advertise publicly the arrangements they make for sharing cars for social or welfare purposes. The Bill, of course, removes the current restrictions on public advertising for private car-sharing, so special provision for social car schemes is no longer needed for that kind of arrangement. But social car schemes can also make use of taxis and hire-cars, and under the Bill public advertisement for sharing those vehicles will still be restricted.

What this amendment does is to put back a special exemption from the advertising restriction for local authority approved social car schemes. I should just emphasise that we are not concerned here with taxi-sharing initiated by the driver, but by the passengers or organisers of the scheme who agree among themselves to divide up the total fare. The driver or owner of the vehicle derives no financial benefit from the arrangements. I beg to move.

5.50 p.m.


I am sure that the Committee will not at all wish to oppose the spirit of this amendment. The only reason why I rise is to ask a question, since a definition may have escaped me. I am sure that the Committee will not wish vague words or phrases, that could be misunderstood, to appear in a schedule which they were about to approve. The amendment refers to meeting the social and welfare needs of one or more communities ". Perhaps I have overlooked something, but I have not found in the Bill as at present drawn any definition of "communities", which is a vague term which calls for some definition. One does not know whether in this instance a community must exist within the areas of the local authorities concerned, though one imagines that it would. Furthermore the word itself is very vague and general. The Minister may feel that another word should be chosen when he reviews the matter at Report stage, or that there should be a precise definition of the word "communities".


All I can say on this point is that the wording is precisely the same as that in the 1978 Act. What the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, says is of itself valid, but if the wording were acceptable in the 1978 Act and has caused no problems, it might not be unreasonable to assume that the same would again apply. However, there is no reason why I should not say that we shall have a look at this matter to see whether there is a practical, clearer definition which would be better and to consider that if it would be better, why it should not be included. The noble Lord will excuse my saying that a commitment I cannot give, but I certainly give an undertaking to look at the matter.

Lord UNDERHILL moved Amendment No. 15: Page 53, line 6, at end insert— (".In the case of a journey to a particular destination the passengers must not include any person who frequently, or as a matter of routine, travels, at or about the time of day at which the journey is made, to or to the vicinity of that destination from a place from or through which the journey is made.").

The noble Lord said: It will be noted that there is another amendment (Amendment No. 16 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Teviot), which is in precisely the same terms as this amendment.

The Government are accepting that road service licensing should be retained, albeit in some limited form, for all stage bus services. I think it is generally agreed that this is not in order to protect the operatives as such, but to ensure that the public are given the best possible transport service. Therefore it is remarkable that at the same time it should be proposed in the Bill that there should be a relaxation of the conditions under which a contract carriage may carry passengers at separate fares in possible competition with a bus service and in a way which could make a mockery of the Government's own road service licensing provisions. The purpose of the amendment is to reintroduce the existing provision which prevents the carriage of regular passengers in these cases. Unless the amendment is approved—if there is to be improved wording, that would perhaps be better—the revised provisions for contract carriages could adversely affect existing bus services. It is on those grounds that I beg to move the amendment.


The case for this amendment, or these amendments, has been well expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill. I hope that my noble friend will take kindly to this amendment, as he has done to others. I do not want to repeat what the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has said, but rather to express surprise that in certain instances the Bill can be described as being so contradictory as to require licensing, in the public interest, while then, with, respect, the Government sometimes appear to be cutting at the very roots of their own provisions.

It could also be said that the Government are trying to protect themselves from criticism, if, and when, the new licensing system is found to be ineffective in introducing new public transport services, but, at the same time—because a licensing system is against their philosophy, —to make sure that it does not work. The Government can then with greater conviction abandon the whole licensing system.

The reintroduction of this paragraph from the existing Schedule 12 to the 1960 Act will protect services available to the general public. It will mean that the provision of a fare-paying, so-called "contract" service for the few will not lead to failure of a service available to the many. If the contract service is useful to the travelling public as a whole, then I affirm without any doubt that the traffic commissioners will readily grant a road service licence for it. The Government must not label these sincere and distinguished public servants as being negative and restrictive merely because that suits them. I know better than that.

I should like to consider some rather strange statements made in another place when this subject was being debated. Replying to the debate in Committee, the Minister claimed that the idea contained in the present amendment was unenforceable. However the very words are contained in the existing law, and have been for at least 20 years. I previously mentioned the year 1960 when, incidentally, we on these Benches were in power. During those earlier years, there have been no problems over enforcement. Perhaps my noble friend when he replies will tell the Committee why there should now be problems.

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary, Department of Transport, said: Contract carriage will be taken out of the road service licensing requirements, and we cannot sec anything objectionable in that ". When challenged, he corrected this, and said: The right honourable gentleman has successfully identified the change. Regular arrangements were not contract carriages before. We are making sure that regular arrangements are contract carriages and therefore outside road service licensing ". With great respect, I feel that this is rather confusing.

In support of Amendment No. 17 (to which the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has referred) I quote the same source. My honourable friend admitted: it is not right that clubs should be set up for the specific purpose of organising travel and to take advantage of the contract carriage arrangements ". The need for licensing was further demonstrated when the Parliamentary Secretary said: We toyed with the idea of excluding all excursions and tours, but there are plainly circumstances where they could be thinly-disguised ways of competing with existing stage carriage services ". Given the need to protect stage carriage services in certain circumstances, we could not do that". Need I say more? The Government must not seek to have it both ways. Therefore I beg to support the noble Lord's amendment, even as I urge on the Committee the merits of Amendments Nos. 15 and 16.

5.58 p.m.


Judging from what has happened this afternoon I should not have thought that the Government were at all seeking to have it both ways. This amendment illustrates perhaps rather dramatically the difference in approach between the Government and the Opposition. We are determined to sweep away unnecessary controls and restrictions, and we believe that people are most likely to get the transport they require if they are free to arrange it themselves. The Opposition believe in controls and are apprehensive of freedom. We should prefer to hear less about the adverse effects on established bus operators of the formation of commuter clubs and more about the frustrations that commuters now feel when they have no alternative to the inadequate service that the licence-holder chooses to provide; —or at least their only alternative is the one that they take: the private car. Why should commuters not be able to band together to improve their lot?

As the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, very fairly said, the amendment deliberately seeks to put back the operations of commuter clubs and the like into road service licensing, from which the Bill specifically frees them. As such it is unacceptable to the Government, and I hope it will be to most of your Lordships. There will still be adequate restrictions to protect the licensed stage carriage operation. We would have to resist this amendment.


I should mention that, although reference has been made to Amendment No. 17, I have not spoken on No. 17 because it is a separate principle. I have been dealing solely with the principle contained in Nos. 15 and 16, which have the same wording. I am sorry that the noble Lord has said that, while the Government in their proposals are determined to sweep away controls and restrictions, we on this side are apprehensive of that and apprehensive of freedom. What I thought we had made absolutely clear time and time again is that what we are apprehensive about is damaging the general network of public services. That is what we are concerned with, and that is what will worry people living in the rural areas. As I said when I spoke on Clause 1, although you gain in a limited way in one direction you may do immense damage to the network of public services in this country, which is a credit to this country and the envy of the world. That is what we are worried about, and I hope it will be seen in that context.

This is just one of the proposals in the Bill which we are trying to amend, by Amendments Nos. 15 and 16, to try to avoid those people who do a regular daily journey taking contract services when there are other services which they ought to take, or which are available for them to take. If they do not take them, then it could be that the established bus service gets weakened, and when that gets weakened then services are taken off because nobody is going to run unprofitable services. That is the angle we are worried about: the preservation and, what is more, the development of the best possible public transport service for our people. This is a small indication of the damage that could be done to it.


The noble Lord did not say, or even suggest, really, that the established services would be damaged: he said that they may be damaged. Does he have any doubt on this particular issue?


Naturally, I would be challenged in your Lordships' House if I said that they definitely will be damaged. What I am saying is that there is a possibility, and if there is a possibility then we have to avoid it. It all depends on the circumstances in the area; it all depends on the effectiveness of the transport service in that area; and it depends on whether that particular route is one which is being run by cross-subsidisation. I know that noble Lords opposite do not like us constantly talking about cross-subsidisation, but this is something which enables a great number of routes in the rural areas to be run. They may be damaged, and we want to avoid that possibility.


I would only add, as I said before, that this is fundamental. In fact, we do not see it at all as the noble Lord has said. We see an opportunity here, indeed, to improve that which needs improving. There are many people who would disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, that what we have is so fine and so wonderful. I think there is a great need for improvement here, and what we are proposing will meet that need. That is why we cannot accept the amendment.

On Question, amendment negatived.

[Amendment No. 16 not moved.]

Lord UNDERHILL moved Amendment No. 17: Page 53, line 28, at end insert— (" (2) In this paragraph references to a club or association do not include references to a club or association whose activities are directed to the provision of road transport facilities, whether for members of that club or association or for others, such provisions not being merely incidental to its other activities.").

The noble Lord said: There has been some discussion on this already, but not from me. Therefore, I will be very brief; but for the same reason as advanced in the case of the previous amendment, I move this particular amendment. We are trying to protect the Government's own revised licensing provisions, and that is a point I want to emphasise. This amendment seeks to prevent the formation of travel clubs which have as their sole purpose the provision by hired vehicles of a contract service which would otherwise be provided by a licensed stage bus service. Therefore, as I said on a previous amendment, the intention is to safeguard local bus services from possible (I emphasise that word "possible") increased competition from uncontrolled contract carriage operations. It is because we are so jealous—and I hope that noble Lords opposite share that feeling—of our network of public service operations that we do not want to see them damaged, and I hope that the noble Lord the Minister will be able to accept this very simple amendment to remove one possible avenue of difficulty. I beg to move.


I apologise for speaking previously to Amendment No. 17. I should have paid slightly more attention. One does not like to get confused, but sometimes we try to take two or three things together, and in the case of one notable piece of legislation earlier this year we got into the most awful muddle. So I apologise to the noble Lord, but I would say now what I said then.


I certainly sympathise with my noble friend. Indeed, he made the case for me. I was very much in the same position myself at regular intervals during the day. As to this matter, I do not want to add much to what I said on the previous amendment except, perhaps, to say that we intend to allow, and indeed to encourage, commuter clubs and parents' associations to arrange transport for their members to and from work or their children to and from school. I believe there is real scope for this. I must emphasise that there will still be adequate restrictions to protect the licensed stage carriage bus operator. Commercial organisations will not be allowed exemption from road service licensing; nor will vehicles which stop to pick up and set down, and charge fares which vary according to distance travelled. Unlicensed stage carriage services will not be permitted. We must always remember that the vehicles used by those clubs will be full public services vehicles, and operated by people with operators' licences. It is only road service licences that will not be required.

On Question, amendment negatived.

On Question, Whether Schedule 1 shall be the first schedule to the Bill?

Viscount SIMON

I want to ask a question about the first paragraph of Part 1 of this Schedule. It reads:


The making of the agreement for the payment of separate fares must not have been initiated by the driver or by the owner of the vehicle …".

It is a very common thing, which many noble Lords will have experienced when there is a big queue for few taxis at a lonely station, that when a taxi arrives the first person goes to the taxi driver and wants to go to, say, Muddleswick. The driver then says, "Does anyone else want to go to Muddleswick?" Is that going to be illegal under this schedule? It is a very useful provision.


I must confess, if I have heard the noble Viscount correctly, that I am not aware that the proposal would prevent that. Should it be otherwise, I will certainly come back and say so. I believe that the proposal does not in any way affect it.


By coincidence, I was discussing this today with a taxi driver. I am sorry to tell the noble Lord that he informed me that in the metropolitan district of London it is illegal for a taxi driver to invite other people into the taxi. A customer may invite another to share, but the driver may not. I do not think it would in any way cut across the schedule that we have already.

Viscount SIMON

I am obliged. The difficulty at country stations is that other passengers in the queue often do not know where a particular place is, so it is the taxi driver who is the catalyst in this proceeding. I am glad to hear from the noble Lord that he is not likely to be had up in court.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Clause 4 [Road service licences]:

Lord BELLWIN moved Amendment No. 18: Page 6, line 4, after (" to") insert (" subsection (4A) and ").

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

Lord BELLWIN moved Amendment No. 19: Page 6, line 9, at end insert— (" (4A) Subsection (4) does not apply—

  1. (a) to a road service licence held by a local education authority or, in Scotland, an education authority;
  2. (b) to a road service licence granted in respect of a community bus serice within the meaning of section 5 of the Transport Act 1978.").

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this amendment, too. I beg to move.

6.15 p.m.

Lord BELLWIN moved Amendment No. 20: Page 6, line 10, leave out (" Subject to subsection (7) ").

The noble Lord said: For the convenience of the Committee, with this amendment I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 21, 22, 36, 52, 60, 61, 68, 69, 70, 71, 88, 89, 100, 103, 122, 132 and 133. These amendments put together, in a manner which I hope you will consider is neat, logical and consistent with normal policy relating to criminal liability, provisions which are scattered in the 1960 Act and in the Bill, may I say, like raisins in a pudding. Some of the order provisions (for example, those in Sections 146(2) and 147(2) of the 1960 Act which relate to breaches of regulations about the conduct of drivers, conductors and passengers) impose strict liability which might lead to harsh results. These older provisions and those in the Bill will, if these amendments are made, all be brought together into the pattern which was considered appropriate when the Bill was being framed That pattern is as follows.

For what might be called "organisational" offences—those where the accused is likely to be other than an individual person—such as the provision of a stage carriage service without a road service licence, the offence is cast in terms of strict liability (so as not to put unfair burdens of proof on the prosecution) but there is provided the defence that the accused had taken all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to avoid the commission of the offence. In other cases, the offence is cast in terms of strict liability, but there is provided the defence that the accused had a reasonable excuse—which would, of course, include the excuse of having acted with all due diligence. I commend to your Lordships these amendments. They would achieve a worthwhile shortening and simplification of the legislation; they would achieve consistency and accord with what I understand to be the normal policy relating to criminal liability.


It is with some heartburning that I find that I have to differ from the noble Lord on what he regards as a simplification of the Bill. It may be a simplification for the purposes of codification and draftsmanship, but I do not think that is the sole consideration that will be in the mind of the Committee. We are dealing in this Bill with a list of offences for which members of the public may be brought before a court and in respect of which they may have convictions, in respect of which they may be fined and in respect of which as a result of the convictions they may lose a licence.

As in the Bill as drawn and before this amendment was proposed, in respect of each one of those offences, all that one had to do was to look at the clause and it would be seen whether or not a defence was available to the citizen. As the noble Lord correctly said, there were two sets of defences. One was whether some good reason could be given by the person charged as to why he had failed to observe the section, in which case a defence was available. In the other set of circumstances, it was a question of whether there was mens rea, a guilty intention, whether the thing had been done knowingly or not.

I would suggest that merely to have the excuse of economy of wording and, by that, deprive the subject of looking at an Act of Parliament in respect of matters which are criminal and in respect of which, I repeat, he may be brought before the court, is not right. It is obviously right, I would submit, that the defence should be there in the same clause as that in which the offence is described.

As a lawyer I ought to be perfectly content that lawyers, on looking at this Bill, would look for a clause where the defences are set out and where the various provisions of the Bill are contained so that advice can be given to the client as to whether or not he has a defence. It will not only be lawyers who will be looking at this Bill, and it will not only be those who are capable of giving advice. I therefore ask that further consideration should be given to this matter before we put away the various defences that are available in another clause so that they have to be ascertained from that clause instead of being set out in the very clause in which the offence is mentioned.

The noble Lord the Minister will always be admired for two qualities: one is the clarity with which he speaks; the other is a matter which we take for granted; his complete and absolute integrity. I do not in any way impugn that integrity when I point out that in clustering together these clauses he completely unwittingly said—and he mentioned Amendment No. 100 among them—that they were classified merely in this new clause and no alteration was being made. Either some official slipped up or there is a mistake in the noble Lord's notes because he would not have misled the House. Clause 23 of the Bill is a serious clause. It deals with the duty to inform traffic commissioners of relevant convictions and matters of that kind which obviously are of the utmost importance in regard to the granting and revocation of licences. Clause 23 (5) says: A person who knowlingly fails to comply with subsections (1), (2) or (3) or with any requirement under subsection (4) shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £200 ". Therefore the only defence here would be that the person did not know. Under subsection (2) in Amendment No. 122 Clause 23 (5) is included. Instead of it being a question of having a defence only available if he knowingly did it, one finds that there is now a defence available which is completely different if one looks at subsection (1), which is now applicable. A person can have a defence if he manages to prove that there was a reasonable excuse for the act or omission in respect of which he is charged. That opens an entirely different avenue of defence. If I do not reveal a conviction which I have or which an employee of mine has—a very serious matter—and I prove that when I failed to do that I did not knowingly so conduct myself because I did not know-about the conviction, it is an entirely different matter to have a defence available that I had a reasonable excuse.

The reasonable excuse might be that I was hiding it from my wife and therefore I did not want her to know about it and therefore it was reasonable that I shoud not have revealed his defence at the particular time or that I did not want it to appear in the local Press, or whatever. That is an entirely different defence from that of knowingly.

When the Minister considers my main point I hope that he will show that when he included Amendment No. 100, saying that there was no difference being made at all that that was not quite true.


While I have a certain amount of sympathy for the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, I am sure that he will draw great comfort and indeed entertainment if he reads Lord Bellwin's speech on Second Reading. If I remember rightly, he made very clear a consolidating measure regarding public service vehicles was in train. This will help the first point that was made.


I am grateful to my noble friend for his intervention. Regarding "knowingly", the "knowingly" formulation is defective in two respects. This matter was discussed at some length in another place. The word "knowingly" appears now instead of the words "without reasonable excuse" which were originally in the Bill. They were removed as a result of an amendment made in another place at the behest of the Opposition. It will be agreed that this substitution was unfortunate. It would cast on the prosecution a burden which it would not otherwise have and which might be unduly onerous. On the other hand, it would cause injustice to a person accused who may have done or omitted to do something knowingly but blamelessly—for example, failure to supply information through illness.

I have to stand by the amendments that were agreed by the law officers. I cannot withdraw the amendment, but I will assure the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, that the point he made about Amendment No. 100—and, indeed, any others that give him cause for concern—will gladly be looked at very carefully indeed. Before the next stage, I will have gone thoroughly into any other aspects that may give possible rise for concern. If the noble Lord wishes to bring anything to my attention, he knows I will do that specifically because the point he makes is a very fair one and one must be concerned. I certainly undertake to look at them all again. But I cannot at this stage withdraw the amendment.


The noble Lord could not have been more gracious.

Lord BELLWIN moved Amendment No.21: Page 6, line 14, leave out (" Subject to subsection (7) ").

The noble Lord said: I referred to this earlier. I beg to move.

Lord BELLWIN moved Amendment No. 22: Page 6, line 18, leave out subsection (7).

The noble Lord said: Likewise, I spoke to this earlier. I beg to move.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

6.30 p.m.

Clause 5 [Grant of road service licences]:

Lord UNDERHILL moved Amendment No. 23: Page 6, line 27, after (" require ") insert (" and shall be published by them ").

The noble Lord said: This is a simple but, we think, very important amendment. It seeks to place with all traffic commissioners an obligation to publish details of applications for road service licences. We regard it as essential to do this so as to enable those who may wish to make objections or to make other representations to know of the application. There is a provision in subsection (2) (c) that the commissioners have a statutory duty to consider objections and representations. To enable those who would wish to do this, it is essential that they should have knowledge of any applications. When discussing this proposal during the Committee stage in another place, the Secretary of State said—and I quote from column 668 on 29th January— There is no division between us on publication. We all say we want publication and the only matter of division appears to be whether that requirement should go into the Bill or whether it should be left to be dealt with by regulation ".

In view of that agreement, and it appears to be the intention that it should be dealt with in regulations, we on our part ask, "Then why not put it into the Bill and make the agreement fully complete?" As it is the Government's hope to see a substantial increase in the number of new operators coming forward with applications for licences—I am not arguing on the principle, but that seems to be the Government's hope—it would appear to be imperative that the maximum publicity about such applications should be given. With this simple amendment we feel we shall be helping everyone concerned and meeting what seems to be an agreement on the part of the Government. I beg to move.


The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, speaks very persuasively. As he said, my right honourable friend in another place indicated that there was not really very much between us on this matter. It was discussed at great length in another place and we have fully accepted, as the noble Lord rightly said, the principle of publishing details of all applications for road service licences. But my right honourable friend said he was quite sure that the matter could best be dealt with by means of regulations, as that is quite satisfactory at the moment. It is in any case far more sensible, I put it to your Lordships, to include such procedural matters in subordinate legislation. They may need changing in the light of practice, and regulations are sufficiently flexible to allow that.

As noble Lords will know, regulations are subject to Negative Resolution and therefore can be prayed against within 40 days if they are not satisfactory. My right honourable friend gave repeated undertakings that the requirement to publish would be maintained in the regulations to be drawn up to replace the old statutory instrument.

All details are going to appear: the number of journeys, the route, the bus stops and times of services. Large operators can purchase copies and copies go automatically to local authorities at county and district level. The only thing that will not appear in these reports are the long and detailed arguments in the operators' minds as to why they are going down route X to Y instead of B to C, for example. Those details will not be available because they would probably require volumes to be written about them; but all those details which are relevant to the main point will appear. Therefore I hope that the noble Lord will accept our firm assurances on this point. Of course, the proposed amendment does not prevent regulations being drawn up and it is completely harmless but, by the same token, it is really unnecessary. I hope that, in the light of the assurances I have given, the noble Lord will see fit to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness STEDMAN

The noble Lord has certainly given reassurances so far as the regulations arc concerned, but he has referred specifically to the fact that the local authorities, the county and district councils, would know what was going on and would have the information sent to them. But they are not the only people who are concerned. The general public are concerned about what is happening to these licences: they are the people who are going to benefit, or otherwise, if a licence is granted. The trade unions are concerned because their members are involved if there is a change in plan or a change in routes. All these people are concerned, and surely it would be much better to have it written into the Act that they shall be published and let them have as wide a circulation as possible.


This is a point which has always interested me. Why, when everybody has decided that publication is a good thing, should it then be left to another legislative process—in this case, to be dealt with by Negative Resolution? In that terminology, "negative" is very negative, because these kinds of things do slip away. If the regulation has to be approved by a positive motion then of course it comes up, it is firm and it comes in front of one. On the "negative", it slides away.

It seems to me, not only on this Bill, that there is an element of secrecy about the process. There is a sort of feeling that somebody is going to be denied an opportunity unless they go to a lot of trouble. I do not mind people going to a lot of trouble, but queues of people at offices asking for information seem to me to be totally unnecessary and very wasteful.

If the information is to be published, then let somebody who wants it pay to receive the publication. There it is: it is available on request and the fee is X pence or X pounds. It seems to me it would be far more open—and if I use the description "honest" that is not to imply that not agreeing makes it a dishonest action—to have it in now so that everybody knows exactly where they are.


I should like to tempt the noble Lord the Minister to agree to this amendment and not to continue any argument. I hope that I may persuade him in one sentence, before he rises, by quoting the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, when he was dealing with Amendment No. 3. The noble Lord said then—I made a note of it and he will forgive me, I hope, if I use it on a future occasion— It is a principle of this Government that statutory regulations should be avoided unless absolutely necessary".


May I just say that not only will I excuse the noble Lord for using the phrase but I hope he will do so at regular intervals for a long time to come?


I do it now!


The noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, was quite right in thinking that people should be able to know, but I must have expressed myself rather badly. I did say that, as well as automatically going to local, county and district levels of local authoritities, copies are purchasable and large operators normally have standing orders for them. What I obviously did not make clear was that the applications themselves are also available for public inspection at the offices of the commissioners. Any member of the public who is interested can go to local councils and get them. There is no secrecy about that.

My noble friend Lord Lucas said that the 40-day negative procedure was secretive. I think he underestimates the activities of Members of Parliament in another place and of Peers in this Chamber who are interested in various matters. I am not aware of many things of interest slipping by unnoticed. The intention of the Oppositon in putting this in to the Bill would still be vague: it would still need to be backed up by regulations that would have to be published anyhow. That is my advice.

Baroness STEDMAN

Can the noble Lord say how the general public would know that these were available at the offices of the commissioners if there was no publication about them?


That is a good question, indeed. But you have your local councillor, and I should have thought that if you made it clear to him that you wished to be informed when such regulations were coming along, he could see that you were informed.


There is obviously no difference between us about the necessity for publication, as I said earlier. For the life of me, I just cannot understand why, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said, if there is no disagreement, these four or five simple words should not be put into the Bill. The Government have put down 81 amendments to their own Bill. This is another one which they might have slipped in, having left it out by mistake. It is such a simple little thing and it makes the position quite clear. Why leave this to be dealt with solely by regulation, when by putting in these few words everybody would be completely happy, because we are in complete agreement about the need for publication?

On Question, amendment negatived.

6.42 p.m.

Lord UNDERHILL moved Amendment No. 24: Page 6, leave out lines 28 and 29 and insert— (" (a) where it is proposed that passengers shall be either taken up or set down in the area of any other traffic commissioners the applicant shall at the same time send copies of the application to those other commissioners; and (b) the applicant shall give any such commissioners such information as they may reasonably require for dealing with or disposing of the application ".)

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment is to be of help, when an application for a road service licence is before the traffic commissioners in one area and the new service proposes the taking up or setting down of passengers in an area covered by other traffic commissioners. What the amendment proposes is that when an applicant sends his application to the traffic commissioners for his own area, he shall at the same time send copies of the application to the commissioners for those other areas. Paragraph (b) provides that the applicant shall give those other commissioners such information as they may require. The purpose of the amendment is to enable the commissioners in the first area to consider the application and, if satisfied, to grant the licence. It is understood that at present it will be necessary for the traffic commissioners for the various areas involved each to give a separate licence.

Our intention—I am certain that in this we shall have the wholehearted backing of the Government—is to simplify the procedure in this case and to reduce bureaucracy. We understand that that is what the Government wish to achieve. When this matter was considered in Committee in another place, the hope was expressed that the Minister might reflect upon it before the Bill achieved a later stage. We have tabled the amendment in the hope that there may now have been this reflection and that, in the interests of assisting procedure and removing bureaucracy, the Government will agree to it. I beg to move.


The noble Lord's last words are dear to my heart, but I am not sure that his amendment will do precisely that. I totally accept that he is concerned that applications for cross-boundary services should be dealt with as expeditiously as possible. In practice, traffic commissioners will still work closely together on such applications. Joint sittings will frequently be appropriate. But we should not try to spell out the procedural details here and now. It may be that the final decision will be to require applicants to copy their applications to the commissioners for all the relevant traffic areas, but there are alternatives. It may be simpler to require an application to be sent to only one area, which the commissioners would then copy to all other areas.

I think that the industry will want to be consulted on this, and it is far more sensible to hammer out the details in regulations. Regulations are much simpler to alter—this applies to what I was saying on the last amendment—than are Bills which have become Acts of Parliament. After all, only practice makes perfect, and what we want is flexibility, which the noble Lord wants. We think that regulations offer a better chance of improving procedures later, if we find that to be necessary. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to withdraw this amendment. His right honourable and honourable friends in the other place discussed this matter at great length and did not press the amendment to a Division, so I hope that he will copy them.


If the noble Lord is saying quite definitely that the Government see that there is a case for looking at some improved procedure, and he also gives an assurance that the industry will be consulted, we shall be quite happy to withdraw the amendment.



Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord UNDERHILL moved Amendment No. 25: Page 6, line 29, at end insert (" which information shall be made available for public inspection.")

The noble Lord said: I could not have moved this amendment if the last but one amendment had been agreed. In that amendment which was negatived, we pressed for the publication of applications. This further amendment deals with the question of the additional information which applicants may be asked to supply. In this case, we think it would be asking much too much to ask for all the additional information to be published. But what we do ask is that the additional information should be made available for public inspection, and that anyone who considers there is a case for submitting an objection or other representation must be in a position to see the relevant information. We are not asking for publication. We are asking that all the relevant information should be available for public inspection. I beg to move.


We have already established on the previous amendment that we all agree on the importance of publishing the details of applications for road service licences. In addition to the notices which are published at frequent intervals by commissioners, the applications themselves are available for public inspection at the offices of the commissioners. This is already laid down in regulations: it will continue to be so. I hope that this will satisfy the noble Lord. It really is much the same principle as we were talking about on the last two amendments.


In the light of what the Minister said previously and the withdrawal on that occasion, I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN of COMMITTEES (Lord Nugent of Guildford)

The next amendment is No. 26, and F should point out that in the second line the first "or" should read "on".

6.48 p.m.

Lord UNDERHILL moved Amendment No. 26: Page 7, line 7, at end insert— (" () the likely effect on the public of granting such a licence or the continuity or efficiency of any existing services; () road safety; ").

The noble Lord said: This amendment contains only a few words, but we regard it as of the utmost importance. It will be recalled that during the Second Reading debate, some of us on these Benches made clear our criticism of the emphasis placed in considering applications for road service licences. The Bill proposes a shift in the balance towards the applicant, so that an applicant shall be granted a licence unless the commissioners are satisfied that to do so would be against the interests of the public. The change of emphasis in this direction makes it absolutely imperative that the commissioners shall have regard to the effect of a proposed new service on existing services, and on the important question of road safety.

Again, during the Second Reading debate, a great deal of concern was expressed about the difficult task that would be given to the traffic commissioners in the light of the change in balance to determine the interests of the public. It is essential that the commissioners shall consider not only the interests of the persons living on or adjacent to the proposed route, but the interests of the public in other areas who may be affected by the grant of an application.

I stressed in an earlier debate the effects of cross-subsidisation and, whatever may be the doubts expressed on the Government side, it is a fact that operators, particularly those with an extensive network of routes, run buses on many unremunerative routes from the surpluses they receive from the more profitable services.

Therefore, it is essential that the traffic commissioners should consider the effect on those who benefit from cross subsidisation, should a new application be granted. There will be no gain if a new operator is allowed to run a service on a profitable route, or just at a profitable time, if we find that this only leads to the withdrawal of other services on unremunerative routes. I would urge noble Lords who are interested particularly in rural areas to note this point very carefully: that instead of securing an increase of services in such areas, the new criteria could lead, if we are not careful, to further damage to services in those areas.

Despite car-sharing and other innovations, a normal bus service is something which we all wish to achieve. Few will disagree that extensive networks are essential for a public bus system that is able to serve the maximum number of persons in the largest number of areas, and cross-subsidisation helps us to do this.

The amendment also refers to road safety. When discussing the question of licences, little has been said about this aspect, but it is a matter which we feel the commissioners should be expected to consider. In my view, the Government cannot possibly oppose the points in our amendment because their inclusion in the Bill will give to the traffic commissioners a helpful indication of the criteria to be considered when applications are before them. We hope, therefore, that this amendment will be included. We regard it as absolutely imperative that the points made in it should be included in the Bill. I beg to move.

6.52 p.m.


This is a most extraordinary amendment. Clause 5 quite clearly makes the test that is placed upon the traffic commissioners, that in granting such a licence they must consider or have regard to the interests of the public. I should have thought that that was quite clear. What this amendment, as drafted, is seeking to do is to place a statutory duty upon the traffic commissioners to consider the likely effect on the public. In other words, they are making it a statutory duty to soothsay or to crystal-gaze on the effect it will have on the public, and as a test I do not think that that is the least bit reasonable.

I should have thought that Clause 5 as drafted is perfectly adequate. The traffic commissioners will take into consideration the safety aspects as well as the interests of the public. Nothing that I have heard the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, say has made me think that this amendment adds anything whatsoever to this clause.


It is important to mention that this affects not only rural areas but also urban areas where public money is being used to subsidise certain bus services because the local authorities think that those services are good for the public.

If I may go back to what was said by the noble Lord on the Front Bench, very often this is because local councillors have worked hard on the local authorities and the PTEs and PTAs to make sure that the services are good for their electors. Therefore, a lot of thought and work by many urban areas has gone into this, as a result of which local authorities have seen fit to subsidise what they think are uneconomic routes.

I go back to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, at the beginning of the debate: the public services are providing a network. It has to be reiterated time and time again that if one is thinking of providing a network, obviously, as it is being provided by a public body, consideration has to be given to what the public wants, otherwise there will be political and electoral repercussions.

One also has to say that because urban areas and municipal authorities run uneconomic routes, what they are going to do if they get competition will not be to pull out of the competitive routes. They will stand their ground; that is where the cream is. They will be the competitors. But they will have to consider pulling out of their uneconomic routes. When I spoke yesterday to members of the Association of Municipal Authorities, I found that there was a feeling that in many areas many of those uneconomic routes which are being run by PTAs are carrying school children. It might be that the PTAs will decide, as the Government cut back on local authority grants, that this is a service to cut out because they are determined to fight for those routes which are fully paying now and to stand their ground where competition is concerned.

I repeat what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill: that it is the services to the general public about which we are concerned. It is those services which are going to suffer because of the breaking down of the network. The public transport system must take into consideration the effect on the public. We have to make sure that both taxpayers' money and ratepayers' money which has gone into the building up of public services is not sacrificed on the high altar of some operator who wants to come in and make a quick buck out of the more lucrative parts of the public network.


May I add a slightly new thought to this debate, especially in view of what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Morris? There is a new onus in regard to the granting of licences. The new onus is not upon somebody to prove that it is in the interests of the public. The new onus is that one has to prove that it is against the interests of the public for the licence to be refused.

There are legal connotations, because an appeal lies from the traffic commissioners to the Minister. I notice from the Marshalled List that an amendment is to be moved by the noble Lord the Minister in which he is going to say that on a point of law one can go to the High Court in England and to the Court of Session in Scotland as to whether the traffic commissioners have acted correctly and as to whether the Minister has acted correctly in law. Your Lordships will be treated to a part of that amendment in which the court is going to be given the power, if the amendment succeeds, to take the place of the Minister and the traffic commissioners and make the decisions itself.

I do not want to anticipate the victory of the Government in regard to that amendment, but I must assume it for one moment. High Court judges are expert upon many things but they are not—so far as one is aware, unless a few of them have had it by way of special experience—experts on the matter of transport and the use of transport by the public, the requirements of the public and what is contrary to the public interest.

Especially in view of the Government's own desire for a whole network of appeals, and whether the traffic commissioners and the Minister have taken the right things into consideration, it is necessary for these matters to be spelled out in this Bill. I repeat that this is especially so when the onus has shifted as it now has. Is it not right that in those circumstances, when looking at whether it is contrary to the interests of the public, matters of safety should be taken into account? Tt is not a good enough answer to say, "But of course the traffic commissioners will, of course the Minister will, and if this amendment succeeds so will the High Court judge or the Judge of the Court of Session in Scotland". If we are to put these matters of a most serious nature into an Act of Parliament they must be spelt out and the two things contained in this amendment are essential ingredients. I therefore especially ask that the legal issues here are made transparently clear.

There cannot be any objection at all to the two ingredients of safety and the whole question of efficiency from the public point of view—the economy of the service from a public point of view, if the grant of a licence is to be made or is to be refused. Therefore, on consideration and with no politics in this at all, from the point of view of clarity and from the point of view of tidiness and in the proper way in which this discretion should be spelt out, I hope your Lordships will agree that this amendment should be welcomed.

Viscount SIMON

I support this amendment and I only want to meet the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Morris. I agree that the wording of the amendment is rather curious. I suggest that it could be met by an amendment at the next stage to delete the words "on the public" so that it reads: '" the likely effect of granting such a licence or the continuity or efficiency of any existing services ".


I think that this amendment highlights the differences that exist between the thinking on this side of the Committee and noble Lords opposite and indeed between the thinking of the Government and the Opposition. I can understand the motives behind this amendment, but I cannot agree that it is necessary or indeed desirable. What we have done in subsection (3) of this clause is to set out in very general terms what the traffic commissioners must look at when considering a licence application. However, let me emphasise that nothing that the Bill says precludes examination of any question or argument which affects the public interest. It is inconceivable that the effect of a proposed service on existing services would not be a major consideration of the commissioners where that was put to them. It is for them to decide, having looked at all such arguments, whether the grant of a licence would be against the interests of the public.

The trouble is that when one begins to list in other than general terms the matters to which the commissioners must have regard, undue weight begins to attach to them. If a number of matters are spelt out, does that mean that others are not to be regarded? For example, if we put in road safety is there some implication that environmental matters are not to be considered? Tn my view the Bill has the balance right now. First, there is the most general of requirements to consider the transport requirements of the area. We have then picked out specifically the county transport plans and policies because the planning role of counties is, in our view (and I think that of the Opposition) of particular importance. Lastly we have made it clear, lest there should have been any doubt, that the commissioners must pay regard to any relevant representations made to them. Let it then be for the commissioners to weigh all the arguments.

Of course, road safety can be relevant to deciding whether to grant a licence or not. Of course inter-relationships between services are relevant—not only financial interrelationships (cross-subsidisation is certainly sometimes vital, if not always as much as has been claimed) but also physical connections between services. The traffic commissioners will of course take this into account without precise statutory requirement. The effect on existing services will certainly be argued before the commissioners either by the local authority (to whose policies and plans the commissioners must have regard) or in objections or representations. If they are not so brought up, the reason will probably be that no one thinks them relevant in that case.

If I may just comment on the observations made by the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, with respect, I think her reference to the school buses was a delightful red herring right across the trail. Can one really see the local education authorities saying "Well, times is 'ard", as Dickens said and therefore the first thing we must do is to stop carrying out our statutory obligations with regard to providing free transport for children to school? I think that is not likely to happen. So far as services to the general public are concerned, the noble Baroness rightly emphasised that this was a key aspect of what this is all about. I entirely agree with her, but we are saying that the proposals we have and the way we propose to improve those general services to the

Airedale. L. Granville of Eye, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Ashby, L. Gregson, L. Rhodes, L.
Balogh, L. Hale, L. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Banks, L. Hampton, L. Rochester, L.
Barrington, V. Howie of Troon, L. Ross of Marnock, L.
Birk, B. Irving of Dartford, L. Seear, B.
Blease, L. Jacques, L. Simon, V.
Boston of Faversham, L. Jeger, B. Stedman, B.
Brockway, L. Kaldor, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Kirkhill, L. Stone, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Leonard, L. Strauss, L.
Collison, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
David, B. [Teller.] McCarthy, L. Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Milner of Leeds, L. Underhill, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Mishcon, L. Wallace of Coslany, L. [Teller.]
Fisher of Rednal, B. Northfield, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Galpern, L. Oram, L. Whaddon, L.
Glenamara, L. Peart, L. Wigoder, L.
Goronwy-Roberts, L. Phillips, B.
public will be a more effective one than the adherence to the cross-subsidisation worries that so trouble noble Lords opposite. The reference to taxpayers' and ratepayers' money struck a chord in my heart, as I am sure the noble Baroness would expect it to, because I know that her interest in the local scene has been very much akin to my own.

The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, hoped that we would not oppose this. By now I am sure he is not surprised to learn that we do oppose it, and therefore I hope he may feel that the hour being what it is perhaps he might withdraw the amendment.


I should like to make just one point. If the noble Lord and other noble Lords opposite will look at Clause 9, dealing with certain excursions and tours he will see that there are clear instructions given to the traffic commissioners that the proposed service would not compete directly with any other road service for which a licence has been granted. It is good enough to put it in that clause; let us put it in this one which is an even more important clause and affects all stage bus services. In no circumstances can we withdraw this very important amendment.

7.7 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 26) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 56; Non-Contents, 96.

Abercorn, D. Gainford, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Glasgow, E. O'Hagan, L.
Amherst of Hackney, L. Gormanston, V. O'Neill of the Maine, L.
Ampthill, L. Gridley, L. Onslow, E.
Auckland, L. Grimston of Westbury, L. Orkney, E.
Baker, L. Hacking, L. Pender, L.
Bellwin, L. Harvington, L. Penrhyn, L.
Belstead, L. Henley, L. Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Boyd of Merton, V. Holderness, L. Redmayne, L.
Bradford, E. Hylton-Foster, B. St. Aldwyn, E.
Brookeborough, V. Inglewood, L. St. Davids, V.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Keyes, L. Sandford, L.
Caithness, E. Kilmarnock, L. Sandys, L. [Teller.]
Campbell of Croy, L. Kimberley, E. Savile, L.
Cathcart, E. Lauderdale, E. Selkirk, E.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Sempill, Ly.
Colville of Culross, V. Linlithgow, M. Sharpies, B.
Colwyn, L. Long, V. Skelmersdale, L.
Cork and Orrery, E. Lucas of Chilworth, L. Soames, L. (L. President.)
Craigavon, V. Lyell, L. Spens, L.
Crathorne, L. McFadzean, L. Stamp, L.
Crawford and Balcarres, E. Mackay of Clashfern, L. Strathclyde, L.
Croft, L. Mancroft, L. Strathspey, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Margadale, L. Swinton, E.
Davidson, V. Merrivale, L. Teviot, L.
de Clifford, L. Milverton, L. Tranmirc, L.
De La Warr, E. Minto, E. Trefgarne, L.
Donegall, M. Morris, L. Trenchard, V.
Drumalbyn, L. Mottistone, L. Trumpington, B.
Ellenborough, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.] Vivian, L.
Elton, L. Wise, L.
Ferrier, L. Newall, L. Young, B.
Fortescue, E.

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

House resumed.

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