HL Deb 16 May 1980 vol 409 cc453-538

11.11 a.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.— (Lord Bellwin.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD ALPORT in the Chair.]

Clause 11 [Duration of road service licences]:

Lord TEVIOT moved Amendment No. 41:

Page 11, line 37, leave out from beginning to ("on") in line 7 on page 12 and insert— ("(1) Subject to section 10, a road service licence shall continue in force until surrendered by the holder unless at the time of the granting of the licence the traffic commissioners for special reasons determine that it shall continue in force only up to and including a date specified in the licence, in which case it shall continue in force only up to and including that date. (2) If, where an expiry date has been specified, ")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 41 and to speak to Amendment No. 42. I notice that my amendments have the same effect as Lord Underbill's Amendment No. 43. They would, in fact, rewrite Clause 11 so as to allow permanent road service licences rather than increase the period from three to five years, as is presently provided in the Bill.

The intention is solely to remove bureaucracy, for fear of that word becoming rather overplayed, and, indeed, would in no way cause stagnation to the licensing system. I would expect my noble friend to approve of this amendment, or anyway the intention behind it. After all, driving licences are issued to persons until they reach 70 years of age, so there is already a precedent for this kind of thing.

One way in which this can be done is normally by making road service licences permanent. That need in no way be equivalent to stagnation, as I have mentioned, because powers of surrender, revocation, suspension and variation are provided in the Bill, as in existing legislation. It cannot be stressed sufficiently that the intent of the revised Clause 11, here proposed, is in no way to protect existing operators. It is entirely to streamline the system, and reduce costs to all concerned. Indeed, it can be foreseen that the traffic commissioners would be more likely to revoke a permanent licence in favour of another operator, or to grant a competitive licence, if they thought that it was in the public interest so to do, than they would be to act against a licence which would shortly be coming up for renewal.

Your Lordships will appreciate that the proposed wording for this clause goes to some lengths in stressing the revocation, suspension and variation provisions, precisely because the adoption of permanent licences should not be seen as a negative step. In fact, subsection (3) (b) is repetitive, certainly in respect of Clause 10, the revocation clause, and could be left out with no loss to the practical working of Clause 11 in the wider context of road service licensing. It is largely window- dressing to allay doubts and suspicions, which may be expected in some quarters. Yet any such opposition would be illogical and unfair because the Government, themselves, are proposing to extend licences from three to five years' duration.

From a comparison of the proposal with the existing clause in the Bill, one sees that subsection (1) is omitted because it is not relevant if licences are either, and normally, permanent or expire on a date fixed by the traffic commissioners. In subsection (2) the effect is to substitute permanent validity for a five-year term while retaining shorter period licences where the traffic commissioners consider it appropriate. Reference to the right of the holder to surrender the licence as well as the traffic commissioners' powers under Clause 10, is also intended to emphasise the flexibility of the proposed system.

Subsection (2) exactly copies the wording of subsection (4) in the Bill, except with the addition of the words, "where an expiry date is specified". The addition seems desirable if this is to be the exception rather than the rule. Subsection (3) is also substantially a repetition of the Bill's subsection (4), although the general reference to …operation in the public interest of sections 5 to 10

in paragraph (b) is added to emphasise that not only the powers of revocation and suspension under Clause 10 apply but also that the traffic commissioners have powers of variation, and that the whole intention is to use the licensing system to serve the public interest. I beg to move.


It is with pleasure that I support the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, in the amendment that he has moved. As he has rightly said, the effect of the two amendments in his name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Morris, is precisely the same as the effect of the amendment which stands in my name and that of my noble friends.

The effect would be that if the two amendments moved by the noble Lord were approved, the wording of the new clause would be precisely the wording which is in our amendment. In addition to what the noble Lord has said, I need only add that this is an effort— which I am sure is what the Government want— to reduce some bureaucracy in the licensing procedure. In particular, I would urge that it does not remove one iota the safeguards that are essential, and which can be found in Clause 10; they remain. Therefore, so far as I and my noble friends can see, there is no reason whatever why the Government should not accept this amendment.


I rise to support my noble friend and, indeed, noble Lords opposite on this particular amendment. I believe that it would be an improvement to the Bill. I do not wish to repeat the argument, but I should like to raise one particular matter which I believe is important. It may be argued that with permanent licences there will be more variation of licences and less income from licensing fees, which at present cover the traffic commissioners' costs when dealing with variations. That is true, and it was considered whether or not there should be reference in the proposed clause to fees for variations of licences. This was not done because it was considered that it would be out of keeping with the general practice in this respect.

Fees are generally provided for in the 1960 Act, but details are left to regulations, currently the Public Service Vehicles (Licences and Certificates) Regulations 1952, and that would seem to be the appropriate way of meeting the present situation. However, it can be said that the operating industry accepts that, with permanent licences, fees for variation would probably have to be introduced. This point should certainly be considered. I should be very much obliged if my noble friend Lord Mowbray and Stourton could meet this point when he responds to this amendment.


The three noble Lords who have tabled amendments have spoken to them and explained just what they seek to do. I also understand that this is a matter about which the Confederation of Passenger Transport feels quite strongly. Obviously, we in the Government welcome the interest which is being shown in saving paper work and bureaucracy, and I pay tribute to noble Lords on all sides of the Committee who have this in view. However, timeless road service licences, I agree, would allow services to be made, but there are some advantages in having regular renewal procedures. The Bill, as it is, will make it easier for new applicants to obtain licences. The competition they would afford established operators is, we believe, a healthy discipline, a challenge, but we fully recognise that there may be routes where the commissioners are satisfied that it would not be in the public interest to grant more than one or two licences.

Once the licences, or licence, had been granted, other operators would not, under the amendment, ever be able to challenge and replace the incumbents, even though they might be able to provide a better service, except when a licence was surrendered or came up for renewal. That is why we regard it as important, because, if you entrench somebody in something— it is the same with all of us— we tend to get monopoly conditions and tend to be idle, and we do not tend to think up new ideas to see whether the service can be improved, or even cheapened.

But the knowledge that a licence will have to be renewed, and objections possibly faced that the service can be run better, is a further spur to operators to provide the best service they can. At the end of the day that is what we are trying to see happen— the best service. We have cut down the paper work by extending the usual duration up to now of three years for a licence to five years, but we believe that renewal serves a useful purpose. I hope that noble Lords will consider what I have said, because I think there is a strong point not to entrench someone for ever.

11.32 a.m.


I hope that in the course of today's deliberations noble Ministers opposite will find occasion to admit arguments which appear sound, and not then succeed their tribute to the soundness of the arguments by that fatal word "however" which the noble Minister has just used. I wonder whether the Minister could tell us, in view of the way in which this House and another place have been treated by the Government, of examples of economy— which, on this side of the House, we welcome— where efficiency is not impaired and where administration is improved.

I would ask the Minister whether, with the usual efficiency of this Government, they have worked out the saving that would be caused if this amendment were passed. That is the first question I ask the Minister. I shall be so surprised, having regard to the time that this amendment has been before the Government, if such an exercise in their economy campaign has not been carried out. No doubt the Committee will be treated to a full answer.

The next thing I should like to say is that the Minister's point that this would grant licences in perpetuity, and therefore would prevent the ability to look at the situation when a normal renewal date came about, is negatived, if he will look at the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, supported by my noble friend Lord Underhill and others. It is negatived by the words in the fourth line of subsection (1) in the amendment: that it shall continue in force only up to and including a date specified in the licence ". That means that if the traffic commissioners have ever got in mind the considerations that the Minister has mentioned, what they can do perfectly easily is to insert that the licence shall last for five years, or whatever it may be, in which case the licence then expires. But in cases where a permanency is the obvious thing to have, subject to the safeguards of Clause 10, they will be enabled to save an awful lot of administration and cost. I wonder whether the Minister, in the light of what I have ventured to say, will give an answer to my first question on the saving of cost, and an answer to my second question as to why, in his view, those words do not entirely meet the point he has made to the Committee.


I am sorry, I have not got the exact information on the noble Lord's first question about the amount which would be saved. There obviously would be a saving, I agree. I think that the arguments are finely balanced. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has pointed out that it need not be an open- ended perpetuity situation. It might appear to be that, but the arguments are finely balanced, and what he has said has obvious truth in it. I will, if my noble friends will allow me, take this back and have a look at it again because there is no absolute right or wrong at all. The arguments are finely balanced indeed.


Might I support my noble friend Lord Mowbray and Stourton in his answer. I do not think that Lord Mishcon's argument is terribly good. In fact, there is already provision in the Bill for the commissioners to award licences so far as they wish. One of the great difficulties of entering into an in perpetuity situation is that, provided all goes well, at least on the surface, no applicant at the earlier stage will find himself with an opportunity of getting in.

One of the rather poor things about the licensing system over the years concerns the position which arises where an appeal against an application is made. There are, because of the very nature of the grounds of appeal and the way in which an appeal is conducted, difficulties in some appellants being able to make their points. While here in the Houses of Parliament we can make all sorts of suggestions, while in a court of law all sorts of suggestions and questions can be properly asked and answered, at an inquiry for a licence some of these questions may not be dealt with. Therefore, appellants tend not to make their appeal, waiting for the next time around where they may be able to put a better case.

If one enters into a perpetuity situation, a reasonable licensee may not be able to get in at all. It would seem to me that, even if there is some element of bureaucracy in the system, that is perhaps to the good in that it can act as something of a long stop. I think that on balance my recommendation to the Committee would be to leave the matter as it stands in the Bill.


I am still not terribly happy about this amendment, but my noble friend has said that he will look at it again. My noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth has put in a different opinion from those already expressed, apart from my noble friend. I do not think there is any worry about the perpetuity situation. This is a perfectly good and valid amendment, and something which we can all do to cut costs. This is not the time to decide today. It would be better to leave it to my noble friend to look at it again, and perhaps even to see him and see whether we can come to some better arrangement. On that understanding, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 42 and 43 not moved.]

Clause 11 agreed to.

Clause 12 [Designation of trial areas]:

11.29 a.m.

Lord UNDERHILL moved Amendment No. 44: Page 12, line 30, at end insert ("which shall first have consulted district councils concerned and sections 2 (3) (b) and 2 (5) of the Transport Act 1978 shall apply to such consultations.")

The noble Lord said: This amendment provides that, although an application to be treated as a trial area must be made by the local authority concerned, and the Bill goes on to explain that that is the county councils in England and Wales and the regional and islands councils in Scotland, it shall be laid down quite clearly that the authority shall first have consulted with the district councils concerned.

The amendment also provides that such consultations with the district councils must be meaningful and carried out in accordance with the provisions of the Transport Act 1978, which set out the manner in which consultations shall be carried out between the local authority concerned and the district council in regard to county public transport plans. The amendment provides that this same type of consultation shall be carried out in connection with the consultation we desire between the local authority concerned and the district council.

A number of district councils— about 50, I believe— have their own public transport undertakings and for those alone it would be absolutely wrong if a trial area were imposed over their heads without adequate consultation with the district council concerned. I will give a few examples of these. Bristol should surely be taken into full consultation by Avon County Council. Nottingham, which has an excellent transport system— I know that because I go to Nottingham quite frequently— should surely be adequately consulted by Nottinghamshire County Council if it wished to consider a trial area. The noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, knows from his local government experience the merry dickens there would be if his local authority was not consulted fully in a matter of this kind.

It should be emphasised also that many counties assumed public transport responsibilities only under the recent Act, whereas these 50 undertakings have been running their own bus undertakings for many years, and most district councils over a long period have had experience of transport policies working with operators. It may be said in reply that of course the county council will carry out consultations. As we have said on previous occasions: Why, then, not write that into the Bill? Why not also write in that those consultations shall be in accordance with those laid down in the Transport Act 1978? I hope the Government will accept the amendment, which I believe meets the wishes of the Association of District Councils.


On this occasion I find myself supporting the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, although I should tell the Committee that I am speaking more on behalf of my noble friend Lord Sandford who, but for a most urgent and pressing engagement, would have been here today. He has asked me to speak on his behalf, although it is a matter with which I have sympathy. It is also right that I should tell noble Lords that my noble friend Lord Sandford is president-designate of the Association of District Councils. My noble friend and I take the view that, particularly in a trial area where the role of the traffic commissioners would be absent, it is even more necessary that the local transport undertakings and the people involved should be consulted.

Consultation is something I have argued in your Lordships' House and in other committees, notably on the Energy Bill. It is hard to describe. An exchange of letters could be held to be a consultation, but that is not quite what is meant by the amendment; that wants full and proper consultation. It is in the spirit of this Government that the amendment should be accepted, in that their aim is to get local people to manage their local affairs. How can they do that unless they are consulted?

The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, mentioned a number of undertakings and, as he said, about 50 local districts are operators. I would pick out two groups of examples. The first is Plymouth, Portsmouth and Southampton, with varying degrees of success in their transport undertakings, which are quite substantial and which have important business, commercial and port facilities behind them. If any change in transport arrangements were being considered, it is vital that full consultation should take place with those important factors. My second group might be Blackpool, Brighton and Cleveland, all heavily involved in the tourism business. Again, it is vital in promoting and regulating tourism that any matters affecting transport should come to the attention of those concerned.

The amendment might best be described as one in the sweet reasonableness bracket. I cannot at the moment see any objection to full consultation being written into the Bill. It would ensure that everybody knows where they are. It would put on the authorities a positive obligation and give those district councils which wish to engage in it the opportunity to respond, and I hope the Government will accept the amendment.


This is one of the few amendments to which I have been anxious to rise and reply. Indeed, I have been sitting here with pins and needles because if anything has bedevilled local government in the years since reorganisation it has been the whole business of the division of functions and the requirement, statutory and otherwise, for consultation. Considering the frustration and aggravation that have occurred between councils of county and district status in the metropolitan and shire areas throughout the country over this matter of consultation, I ask noble Lords not to think of this as a simple matter. By all means let us talk of sweet reasonableness. When the original local government reorganisation took place, it was assumed that once the different tiers had been set up they would work together and collaborate, but it just does not normally happen like that. On the other hand, perhaps the worst aspects of it have occurred where it has been laid down that there shall be consultation. That is where the problems start.

County and regional councils will, of course, hold discussions about trial areas with district councils, operators and others. The Bill fully recognises the interests of district councils in trial areas. For example, I draw attention to Clause 14 (2) which requires would-be operators in trial areas to give notice to district as well as county councils; and to the provisions in Schedule 2 about the revocation of designation orders. Moreover, the notification requirement in Schedule 2 (2) makes it obligatory for county councils to notify district councils and others of any proposal to apply for designation and to forward any representations received to the Minister.

The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, said I would say— and I certainly do say— that it is inconceivable in practice that a county council would not be prepared to establish a dialogue with the major interested groups; and several of the counties actually interested in trial area experiments are already holding such discussions. But we are not willing to require consultation— which, as I know so well from much experience in recent years, can be a cumbersome and a delaying procedure— before (and that is the operative word) a county council applies for designation; nor are we willing to forge a link with the over-elaborate consultation procedure which the last Government devised for public transport plans.

If a county council wants to combine the two sets of discussions, there is nothing in the Bill which stops it from so doing. Not for a minute do I believe that the degree of useful discussion of trial areas will in any way be increased by compelling county councils to discuss these areas as part of a statutory consultation process. This entire matter of the division of functions between the different tiers in local government is a sensitive one, and, as I have said, it has caused much heart- searching and other problems for local government. I hope that we do not allow ourselves to become involved in this issue and thus make the situation more difficult. I hope that in view of what I have said, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

11.42 a.m.


I had hoped that a Scottish Minister would have been present to give us his reaction to this matter. I should like to remind your Lordships of the Bill, which later became an Act, for reorganising local government. When that Bill was before your Lordships one thing stuck in the gullets of everybody. That was the creation of a regional authority which included within its area five county councils and half of the population of the whole of Scotland. Your Lordships threw out that proposal; you would not wear it. However, it went to another place where it was of course restored by the Conservative majority.

When one considers both what we are doing here and the power that has been given to a regional authority— that particular regional authority to which your Lordships objected, and to which I objected when in another place— surely it makes sense to insist upon consultation. Here is a regional authority which stretches from Oban right down to Ballantrae, and which takes in Glasgow itself. I can assure your Lordships' Committee that there is very considerable heart-searching about this. Where do we want these trial areas to be?— not in the great industrial areas, such as the area covered by the Greater Glasgow Passenger Transport Authority, but rather in many of the rural areas.

The Minister pleads difficulties in regard to the statute, but it was his Government who were responsible for the statute and who left the definition of some of the functions very blurred indeed and, who, at any rate in Scotland, caused functions to be duplicated by district councils and regional authorities. I do not think it good enough to plead the matter in that way. There is a case here for ensuring that the regional authority, which is the initiating authority, does not act over the heads of district authorities, such as Kyle and Carrick, which is far away from the Glasgow area— the heart and centre of Strathclyde— or some part of Renfrewshire, or some part of Ayrshire. I believe that this approach is very sensible and is the minimum that should be expected.

It is all right for the Highlands and Islands, because the Islands authorities are all-purpose authorities. But where there is a division of authority, and where transport is so vital— far more vital to the rural areas than it is to the industrial areas, which already are fairly well catered for— there should be some measure of consultation before the trial area is decided on.

I hope that the Minister will look at this matter again. I, too, have had all the kind of experience that he has spoken about regarding division of authority between district councils. Very often the division was between large city areas— which became district authorities— and the regional authority. It is no use denying rights to a district authority, which is vitally concerned in this matter, in respect of statutory consultation involving the regional authority before a scheme is initiated.


With respect, in the context of this discussion, it is absurd to speak of denying rights to district authorities. We are discussing a right, that has been requested, to statutory consultation. That is what we are talking about. To suggest, as did the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, that a trial area would be designated without a district having the right to make its representations and views known is absurd. As I have said, there is a clear requirement for discussion; Schedule 2 refers to this sufficiently clearly. If I am right, I think that this is covered on page 54, though perhaps my memory is wrong there. Can your Lordships' Committee imagine that a county council in contemplating this kind of very extensive proposal would take no notice of the district councils? That would be unheard of.

As your Lordships may know, I come from a district council, not a county council. That is my background, and I was on what might be called the receiving end of this kind of thing. I can tell the Committee that it was not lack of consultation that we complained about. We may have complained about the lack of ability to influence the decisions made after the consultation, but lack of consultation certainly was not a problem. It was not a problem then, and I suggest that it will not be one now. I am absolutely certain that, if only as a result of this discussion in your Lordships' Committee today, those who are contemplating— and already there are some, as I have said— applying for trial areas within their areas, will ensure that the degree of discussion that takes place will not be less than is required.

I have no hesitation in asking the Committee to look at the practicality of what we are talking about, and then it will be seen that it would be wrong to require a statutory notification to be written into the legislation. That would make the position far worse than it otherwise would be.


Before the noble Lord sits down, may I say that he is of course quite right in that the protection to which he referred appears on page 54 of the Bill. But in line 41 of page 53 that protection is preceded by the following requirement: Before making such an application the local authority concerned shall … notify … To use the expression of the noble Lord, Lord Ross of Marnock, what is sticking in the gullet is this rather dictatorial, autocratic word "notify".

I can appreciate what my noble friend has said about the tiers of authority, but in another context I can think of one county council whose interests include commercial cities as well as a rather sparsely populated area. A place such as the New Forest is a large area with many ponies but few people, and in such a case it may be decided by the county authority that a trial area would be appropriate. I do not think it is good enough merely to issue a notice in a newspaper or to write to the district council, in order to "notify". There should be a better word— one that does not place too heavy an obligation on the county authority, yet which at the same time allows the reverse situation to apply; that is, gives the district councils an opportunity to put matters forward, rather than merely respond to a notification. I think that is where the difficulty lies. I hope that my noble friend can find a better way to describe what he wants and one which would perhaps meet some of our objections.

11.50 a.m.


I will not trouble the Committee for long, and I hope I will not repeat any point which has already been made. As one who has always been a lover of local government, I must say that I listen with deep respect to anything that a colleague of mine, and a very worthy colleague of mine— the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin— has to say on the subject. I regard him as such an expert that, indeed, I would hope that the words that he has uttered this morning will be given in evidence to the inquiry that we were discussing at Question Time— namely, that involving the Inner London Education Authority— because I regard his comments on the division of functions as being so pertinent that I am sure the Government will be most interested in his observations on what happens when functions are divided and art not looked after by one authority which can plan the matter with some amount of competence. But having dived away and dealt with that point with a twinkle in my eye, and having observed an accompanying twinkle in the eye of Lord Bellwin, may J revert to the question which is before us.

This is not an urgent matter for decision by an authority. We are dealing here with a new concept, and that is one of a trial area, where, as we know, there will not be any question of licensing restrictions. That is by no means a matter that one has to decide as a matter of urgency, where one is held up, as it were, from making a practical decision by the necessity for statutory consultation, which the Minister seems to feel is always an elongated process. On this occasion, in the case of the matter with which we are now dealing, it is no embarrassment whatsoever. I do not understand what the difficulty is in regard to the Government's acceptance of this amendment. It has been pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, that notification is imperative. Indeed, in his closing remarks he mentioned notification when I think that Hansard ought to correct the matter. I think he was dealing with consultation, and I am sure the Official Report will correct it. But he then went on to say that after notification there is bound to be consultation, and he said, indeed, "Who could imagine an authority, given the power under this section, which would not consult? "

In fact— and I think it is within all your Lordships' experience— there are authorities which, by reason of their size (and I will mention none in particular at this moment), are looked upon by other bodiee in local government as being somewhat dictatorial. They resent it; and, just in order that we may cover (I ask the Minister) those authorities that may not behave in the way in which he imagines they should, just in case they behave in a very autocratic manner and say, "We have notified; that is our duty, and we will consign the representations that are made after notification to the local government wastepaper basket"— always a very full one, if I may say this in Committee— we believe it should be written into the Bill. I see no difficulty in the Government accepting this amendment. Consultation, they say, will take place. Let us try to cover those authorities which do not behave as they should behave, and see that consultation in fact takes place in all circumstances because it has been written into the statute.


Perhaps the only comment I can make that might be helpful is that if there is concern, as my noble friend Lord Lucas has said, about the word "notify", as opposed to any other word, certainly I would undertake to consider that word and discuss it with my right honourable friend. If the word "notify" is what really is the problem, then, by all means, there may be a better word. I would not presume to be so sure as to say that there is not— that I do not know— but I would gladly undertake to discuss it. But I would still have to stand on my basic argument, because I know from so much bitter experience of the terrible problems and the cumbersome delays to which this statutory requirement could lead. I feel more strongly about this, perhaps, in the case of this amendment, than I have in the case of any other amendment to this Bill— and noble Lords opposite have seen me discuss many of them. Here more than in any other instance is where I am so sure what it would lead to if we laid it down that there should be a statutory requirement to consult. If those words go into the Bill, then there will be all sorts of trouble and your Lordships who had put them there would not be very happily thought of by those who had to be on the receiving end of what we had done. Therefore, with the assurance that I will certainly take it away and discuss the word "notify", and pass it on to my right honourable friend in case there may be a better word, perhaps the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.


I know the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, is trying to be very helpful, but, really, what different word can there be which conveys what we want? Instead of "notify" there could be "inform"; there could be "intimate". But they have nothing to do with consultation; there can be no other word but "consultation ". Therefore, much as I should like to agree to withdraw, I do not think we possibly can on this occasion. If it is suggested that these words should not be put into the Bill, why is it necessary to put into the Bill under Clause 14, to which the noble Lord referred, that operators must give information to local authorities and district councils? If that is going to be done automatically, why put that into the Bill? Schedule 2, on page 53, says that they must notify district councils. If there is going to be this automatic goodwill, why put that into the Bill? It is put into the Bill to make certain that it is done. Therefore, we want this put into the Bill, the district councils want it put into the Bill, as my noble friend Lord Mishcon has said, to safeguard the situation. Therefore, much as I should like to be helpful, on this occasion I think we must insist on this amendment.


Before the noble Lord sits down, I think I can give a few words of comfort to my noble friend on this, having listened very carefully to what has been said. The industry, which detests the idea of trial areas— there is no other word for that; or, rather, not "detest", it distrusts the idea of trial areas— I do not think feels terribly strongly about this one. I think the Committee should pay attention to my noble friend's long experience. Also, we have listened to other noble Lords with long experience in local government saying that consultation can go on and on. I think that on this amendment I shall be voting with the Government.


Before the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, presses his amendment, I should in fact like to ask him not to do so, in that my noble friend has made a positive effort, which I find really quite acceptable. The kind of words that I should have preferred to see are such words as "shall consider such representations". That would cut out, as it were, this long harangue that my noble friend Lord Bellwin foresees. At the same time, it would require the county authority to consider representations. It gets away from this wretched dictatorial word, "notify". If the goodwill expressed by my noble friend Lord Bellwin is there— and I believe it is— I should have thought that we could find a phrase which was totally acceptable to all of us.

The Earl of SELKIRK

May I venture to point out to the noble Lord who has just spoken that these very words appear in Schedule 2, paragraph 3, where it says … before making a designation order the Minister shall consider any such representations", and any representation whatever must be sent to him when the application is made. I make this remark because I really think that this is totally unworthy of a Division in this Committee. We have had far too many Divisions in this Committee on trivial matters, and I think this is quite unworthy of a Division.

My noble friend Lord Bellwin speaks with the utmost authority on local government matters, and I cannot believe that district authorities and county or regional authorities are not on speaking terms. I entirely agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Ross, said about Strathclyde, and, indeed, I helped the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, in what he did there; but, really, to pretend that there is no communication between district authorities and county or regional authorities is a piece of nonsense. If there is disagreement, then we must reform the whole Local Government Act. I hope the noble Lord will not divide the Committee. That really would be carrying this matter much too far.

12 noon


As somebody who served for 20 years on what was the largest local authority in Great Britain with all-purpose powers— Birmingham— I must say that I get a little dismayed when people in Whitehall— and, it might be, people in this Palace also— always feel that they know best. I think that the noble Lord who is answering must have felt in his previous office that the local representatives, those at the grass roots, very often know more about their particular areas and their particular points of emphasis than do, with all respect, the people in Whitehall who bring forward recommendations. We are arguing about semantics: whether it be on the issue of "consider representation" or anything like that. What we are asking for is that those locally democratically elected representatives should be consulted. In this connection, it is important to note that in the other place on 24th March (col. 1007) the Minister said, regarding the trial areas, that they will be not necessarily whole counties but perhaps towns and even suburban or urban areas.

There are examples of dissatisfaction not only because of what my noble friend Lord Mischon has said— that in, perhaps, one area there is a council that feels superior to all the others— but because in parts of the country, in the shire areas, there are political considerations that must be taken into account. If one looks at the results of the recent local government elections one sees that quite clearly in some of the large towns; and I particularly draw attention to those in the North East. It is important, I think, for those political considerations also to be taken into account.

What surprises me more is that Government Ministers always hide behind Answers to Questions in both Houses by saying that consideration of the problem is still going on with many interested bodies. What we are saying is that perhaps it could be taken into consideration that these are interested bodies. In the same way as Government hide behind things when they do not want to come to a firm conclusion, surely we can say that local authorities in Great Britain should have this consideration in the first instance and not at the end when there is an appeal to the Minister.


With respect to the noble Baroness, there is no use in complaining that the Government are not making up their mind when an amendment is moved to which noble Lords object because we say that we have made up our minds. What is requested by this and by other amendments is that the Government should change their mind. We should not be criticised then for not making up our minds. What is important is that we come along to Committee stage to consider line by line and word by word, if necessary, all the possible implications of what this could mean as legislation. Therefore, it is right and proper, by all means, that we should discuss; but please do not criticise the Government for (if you like) being willing to discuss. I should have thought that— despite the reservations that the noble Lord, Lord Underbill, had about what is in a name, what is in a word— it was very much a gesture on the part of the Government that we said that we would be willing to look to see whether there is a better term than "notify". I did not say that there was a better term; I said that we would undertake to look to see whether there was.

As my noble friend Lord Selkirk said, basically we ought to accept what happens in practice. With respect, I will not accept from anyone that I am not aware of what takes place in local government. I spent years involved in it. I, too, was an elected member. I was on the receiving end. I was from a district and not from a county. How long will it be— at Report stage— before the county councils get a pressure group to come along and bring their representatives to put forward an amendment against what the district councils suggest should be done today? We must come to some conclusion on this. I said that I would take away and consider the word "notify"; and I repeat it. Beyond that I cannot go.


Before we come to a conclusion on this, may I put to my noble friend that there seems to be very little between the sides on this. Everybody agrees that it is inevitable, essential and sensible that there should be some consultation of some sort before an application is made. The question is whether we make it statutory or not. If we make it statutory, I should have thought that we should express it in rather more detail; and I am not certain that the amendment is quite appropriate for that reason. Would my noble friend consider the possibility, for example, that before making an application the local authority should be under an obligation at that stage to notify the district council that they have under consideration the possibility of making an application? They should then convene a meeting of the district council within a certain time in order to consider the various implications and whether, say, the applications should relate to the whole area of the council or to parts of it, and to which parts of it— and, in Scotland, to the whole area of a regional council. This is what ought to happen. The only question is whether it be mandatory or not. If it is not mandatory, the 21 days is far too short. That is a point to which my noble friend must have regard.


If I may speak for a moment, I have no experience of local government, but I have had a little experience of the law, albeit a long time ago. I should like to draw the attention of the Minister to the very page, page 54, that he quoted— Schedule 2. In paragraph 4 on that page, there appears, in (a) , "shall notify ", and in (b), "shall consult". That, to my mind, means that there is an indication of two different meanings of the two words. I would ask the Minister to consider that when he takes this away.


I thank the noble Lord for his comments and my noble friend for his concern, but I have to say

again that it is laid down in Schedule 2 that there should be notification. I have no doubt in my mind that there will be notification and if any application came forward— and this surely is the key to the whole matter— where any district council was able to say, "We were not notified, not consulted properly", is it seriously thought that the Minister, in those circumstances, would then approve a trial area? It is just not on. The longer we discuss this, the more I get confused as to why the Government do not accept this. There must be some reason why the Government will not accept it. What we are trying to do is not to leave an issue for the Minister to sort out; but to ensure that, before the application goes to the Minister, it will have been sorted out between the county and the district. I do not accept that we are trying to waste time on a trivial matter. It is right of this Committee to exercise the democratic will. We believe the right of the district council must be written into this Bill and they should be given the chance to put their point of view before it goes to the Minister. This would save a lot of time. We must therefore insist on the amendment.

12.8 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 44) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 47; Not-Contents, 52.

Amherst, E. Hale, L. Oram, L.
Aylestone, L. Hall, V. Peart, L.
Banks, L. Halsbury, E. Robbins, L.
Beswick, L. Hatch of Lusby, L. Ross of Marnock, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Henderson, L. Sainsbury, L.
Brockway, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L. Spens, L.
Collison, L. Janner, L. Stamp, L.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Kaldor, L. Strabolgi, L.
David, B. Kilmarnock, L. Underhill, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Leatherland, L. Wade, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. [Teller.] Wallace of Coslany, L. [Teller.]
Fisher of Rednal, B. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Gaitskell, B. McNair, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Galpern, L. Maybray-King, L. Wigoder, L.
Goronwy-Roberts, L. Meston, L. Wilson of Radcline, L.
Gosford, E. Mishcon, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Auckland, L. Cathcart, E.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Avon, E. Cottesloe, L.
Alport, L. Bellwin, L. Craigavon, V.
Ampthill, L. Belstead, L. Cullen of Ashbourne, L.
Atholl, D. Bessborough, E. de Clifford, L.
Do Freyne, L. Hylton-Foster, B. Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Kinnaird, L. Redmayne, L.
Derwent, L. Kinross, L. Reigate, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Long, V. St. Davids, V.
Ellenborough, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L. Sandys, L. [Teller.)
Emmet of Amberley, B. Lyell, L. Selkirk, E.
Fortescue, E. Mancroft, L. Soames, L. (L. President.)
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Margadale, L. Swinton, E.
Gainford, L. Marley, L. Teviot, L.
Glasgow, E. Morris, L. Trumpington, B.
Grey, E. Mowbray and Stourton, L. Vickers, B.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Orr-Ewing, L. Vivian, L.
Powis, E.

Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

12.17 p.m.

Lord UNDERHILL moved Amendment No. 45: Page 12, line 40, leave out (" Subject to subsection (5) ")

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, may I speak also to Amendment No. 49, which is conditional upon Amendment No. 45? In the interests of time, I am going to speak only briefly; but this is a really vital amendment. The provision at present in the Bill proposes that a trial order shall not be revoked— that is, terminated— before the end of the period laid down in the designation order. We regard it, frankly, as somewhat irresponsible that an order cannot be revoked until the end of the period for which it is designated. It is permissible for an order to be for up to five years and, assuming that the agreement was given by the Government for an order for a trial area to be for five years, there could be utter chaos in that area. The whole of the experiment could be falling down, complete failure.

Unless the Minister has power to revoke the order before the date on which the order should expire, then not only are the operators going to be in a difficulty but the travelling public in that trial area may be placed in complete difficulty. Therefore we are asking that this subsection be totally removed. There will be other provisions which we shall come to after this amendment which will deal with how an order can be revoked; but for the Government to say that once they have given authority for a trial area designation it cannot be ended, it cannot be revoked under any circumstances until the end of the period, is irresponsible and is not playing fair with the travelling public in that particular area. I beg to move.


My Lords, on this amendment, I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, in all that he said regarding the industry and the travelling public.

I gather that in the House of Commons amendments were moved which would act as a safety valve permitting the discontinuance of a trial area within the period of three years— then prescribed as the minimum period— should it be found that the trial was agreed by all concerned to be a failure, and that it would be damaging to continue it. In Committee my right honourable friend the Minister, Mr. Norman Fowler, said: I have listened carefully to my hon. Friend's arguments and those of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East and I think that they have presented a strong case, not least on the point mentioned by the hon. Gentleman at the end of his speech. Therefore, I give the Committee an undertaking that we shall examine the arguments once more. The Minister later went on to say: However, as a reservation, I must seek to preserve the position of the new operators who will come in, and I believe that, too, is reasonable, because in seeking to achieve the change that my hon. Friend and I both want, we must have a position whereby they will have some sort of guarantee that their investment in new equipment will not be wasted. But I think that there are ways in which we can tackle that problem. Therefore, I advise my hon. Friend and the hon. Gentleman that I will gladly give an undertaking, since I recognise the strength of their arguments, that by Report we shall examine their arguments further and have talks with the Association of District Councils on the matter… In the event, at the Report stage the Government claimed to give flexibility to the Bill by allowing the designation order to specify a minimum period which would be not less than two years and not more than five years. In reality this did nothing to improve the situation. Indeed, it could mean that a trial area would have to continue for five years causing the utmost damage to the public transport, as the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, said.

Protection of the operator providing new services in the trial area was by way of a road service licence—for an unspecified duration—following termination of the trial. As the Minister has made it clear that he regards three years as the necessary period to encourage investment on the part of the operators, the proposal is unnecessarily open-ended. The amendments now proposed seek to meet the specific points made by the Minister, while maintaining the principle of permitting a safety valve in the event of a trial area proving unworkable.


I am sure that the Bill is right to make trial area designation orders irrevocable for a period of at least two years: it was reduced to two years. For a trial to be taken seriously by operators, the public or local authorities, it will have to last for a significant period of time: otherwise the opponents of trial areas will press from the first day for revocation, adducing any withdrawal of any bus service as evidence that the trial has failed, and the energies of local authorities will be directed to dealing with such pressures rather than getting on with the trial itself. Similarly, new operators need an assurance that a trial will last long enough for markets to be tested and, presumably, some profits made: otherwise they will never make the investment needed.

I have listened to what has been said and I have read in other places about some of the disasters it is presumed may ensue in a trial area; and I must say that they seem to me to be gross exaggerations. I think we are right to give county councils the option. Let us be absolutely clear. We are imposing nothing on anyone: they will have the option of having route licensing entirely abolished in their area. We shall then see whether freedom or control best serves the public interest. Noble Lords will not be surprised to know in what direction my instincts lead me. I entirely accept that many people sincerely disagree with me. Well, the trial areas will provide evidence, but I am sure they must be proper trials undertaken seriously by all concerned, and I am convinced that these amendments will militate against a proper trial.

If trial areas are a sucess then a future direction will have been pointed—and what a prize that would be. If, on the other hand, they show themselves not to be a success, then so be it, but to give the right to set them up and then so to dilute that right that it cannot in practical terms succeed is really to make a mockery of the whole idea. That is why we cannot accept the amendment.


I am sure the Committee will have listened with respect to what the Minister has just said but I do not know that the respect will necessarily be accompanied in this case by sympathy or understanding. Under the Bill it is not an irresponsible person who will be dealing with the question of ending trial periods: it will be the Minister. The Minister cannot do it, as I understand the position, unless it is on the application of the local authority. From what the noble Lord has just said, one would have gathered that it was the local authority which had been given the power to end the trial period designation order. It is the Minister. Obviously, he will have before him all the considerations that the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, has pointed out—the harm that would be done, the reckless nature of making this application so far as the local authority is concerned, before it should be. But to write into an Act of Parliament a definite prohibition so far as the Minister is concerned so that he cannot, in spite of the local authority having applied, end the trial period of experimentation, in spite of all the chaos that was referred to by the noble Lord opposite in his, if I may say so, very useful speech, and to bar the question of ending the experiment in an Act of Parliament is, I feel, foolhardy.

I hope that the Minister, on reflection, will have faith in the Ministers of his own Government or of any other Government that may be democratically elected, and I also hope that he will have a little bit of touching faith in local authorities, whose virtues in regard to fairness, consultation and so on he so eloquently described a moment ago. I hope he will have enough faith in both to see that the trial period would not be ended without all the considerations he mentioned being taken into account. But, as I say, to stop anybody from being able to end the experiment not before a minimum period of two years as the Minister said, but before the period specified in the original trial order, which cannot be less than two years or more than five, is a very different consideration. He may be faced with a Minister, a local authority and everybody else who want to end the experiment and cannot, so that this House and another place will presumably have to be burdened with an amendment Act in order to enable this to be done. It is foolhardy.


It really turns upon the point of the minimum period and, as we saw from the discussions in another place, my right honourable friend moved from three years to two, I think in recognition of the validity of the fears expressed then. They have been expressed again today. I think that is right. The fact is that if you are to have trial areas at all— and I accept there are many people who would not wish to see them— if you accept for the moment that they are going to take place, then you need to draw a balance between, on the one hand, a guaranteed period of time sufficient to encourage operators to, if you like, have a go and, on the other hand, the need to take into account the real concerns that have been— I think, not unfairly— expressed as to what happens if it all goes adrift—


Will the Minister allow me to intervene only in order to help him? I think the Committee might be assisted if they were reminded that in another section of this Bill the operator will be protected. It may be that through an amendment he may be protected for a lesser or a longer period, but if the Minister were to say that this would be subject to all the proper protection for the operator, who may be allowed to continue for a certain time in spite of the revocation of the trial period designation order, I think the Committee might know they were then dealing with a very just issue. Since the operator is going to be protected under this Bill anyway, what, please, is the validity of the noble Lord's argument?


I shall come back to the point I was trying to conclude— namely, whether two years is, on the one hand, a sufficient period to make worthwhile the investment and all that goes with it and, on the other hand, is not too long should in fact there be some failure on the part of the services being provided. That really is the dilemma and that is the point we are talking about now. Clearly, my right honourable friend in another place felt that moving from three to two years was an attempt to get that balance, and, so far as I am aware, that is still the position today. I accept the point that the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, made about the difference between two and, possibly, up to five. If it were two. I do not know how far he and the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, would feel happier—


Much happier.


I presume of course that they would be happier. Whether they would be happy enough, I do not know. I suppose in some ways, as I am putting the point at the moment, it is slightly academic, but it is a very interesting and important point that they have raised. As regards what the amendment calls for, I do not know that I can be helpful. I think I have to recognise that if there was any shifting on this point, there would be a very real danger.

Let us be frank about it. Might it not be that that is what those who very fairly, but very vigorously, oppose the idea of trial areas would like to see? Might it not be that the whole thing would fall on its face, because no one would be willing to come in, make an investment and take a chance? That is really the nub of why I do not think I am able to make a move in the direction of the proposers of the amendment. But just as my right honourable friend did in another place, I entirely take and understand the points being made, and appreciate the concern. But I fear that I cannot take it further than that.


I should like to come in briefly here. It is said that if the period is two years, people will not have a go and make the necessary investment, and that is fine. But, equally, if anybody is to embark on something like this, they must plan ahead. They must know what they are doing even before they do it, and they must ensure reasonable success. They should not take a gamble on something like this. We are thinking about the public in this issue.

To take another situation, we moved from Greenwich Mean Time to British Standard Time, which I think was brought about by Mr. Roy Jenkins some years ago. We had British Standard Time for three years and it greatly inconvenienced the people in the North of England. There was wide consultation and I believe that, after three years, there was a unanimous decision to revert back to Greenwich Mean Time. That is quite different from this situation and there was no investment involved. I am sorry that the noble Lord divided the Committee on the last amendment, when the Committee was quite full. At the moment, the attendance is quite thin, but if there is a point to make it is this one, and I hope that the noble Lord will press the amendment.


Before the noble Lord responds, I think, on reflection, that the point I was making earlier about two and five is very apposite. I wonder whether it might meet the concern, if I say that the Government will take this away to consider seriously making the minimum period two years and, possibly, abandoning the five. It is a point that I touched on a moment ago. I said that it seemed to me that there could be merit in that, and the more I think about it, the more I am inclined to think there is. That could possibly be a halfway house, which I am sure will not satisfy those who are against the trial areas. But, at least, it will allow sufficient room for us to proceed with the trial areas, to which we are quite committed. I offer that as a suggestion.


The noble Lord is being extremely helpful. Even before he got up, I was going to surprise him by saying that he had been helpful so far as he had gone, because what we are arguing about is not the minimum period of a trial area being two years, or the maximum period of a trial area being five years. What the Bill says is that the period for the trial area can be a minimum of two or a maximum of five years, and whatever period is designated it cannot be revoked before then. If the noble Lord is saying that he will give serious consideration to writing into the Bill— I do not mind whether he keeps the minimum of two and the maximum of five years— that no designated area shall be revoked before two years, which I gather is what he was saying, then we should be prepared to accept that. In other words, it would give a period of two years for the operators to run, to see whether a scheme was successful. That would be reasonable. What we are worried about is the fact that the Minister could make an order for four or five years, which could not be revoked before the end of four or five years. That seems nonsense. If the Minister will give serious consideration to putting in that, regardless of its length up to five years, an order shall not be revoked before a period of two years, we shall consider that very reasonable and will withdraw the amendment.


I do so confirm. That is the point I was making.


Before the noble Lord sits down, I wonder whether he is undertaking to bring in a change in the Bill at Report stage.


We are talking about the procedural way of dealing with the matter. I think I have made it quite clear. It would always be open to noble Lords opposite to return to the attack in any way they wished, if such adjustments as were made by Report stage were not in line with what I have intimated. But I feel quietly confident that they may well be so.

The Duke of ATHOLL

I hope that my noble friend will not bring in a two-year minimum and maximum period. As a great believer in free enterprise, I am sure that it is essential to give the trial areas a reasonable amount of time to work, and I should have thought that the original three years minimum might have been a fair compromise, if it was also going to be the maximum. Obviously, as has been frequently said, a great deal of investment will be involved, and I do not see how people can be expected to put up the amount of money required if they have a guaranteed time of only two years. I have the feeling that the experiment may well take considerably longer to prove either a success or a failure. I very much hope that my noble friend will not be taken in entirely by the blandish- ments of noble Lords opposite, attractive though they are, making it a minimum and maximum period of two years.


I am grateful to my noble friend for his help. It is, as I have said, a difficult point but we are not talking of a minimum and a maximum. It is the minimum that we are concerned about. Noble Lords opposite were concerned that if a period of over two years was designated, then below that it would not be possible for there to be revocation. Clearly if something is going quite well and is being successful, that is what we all want. The concern of noble Lords was that if something had fallen on its face and was a disaster, no one could move below what could have been a period of up to five years. I recognise that, and that is the point that I want to make. But I think that my noble friend need not be too concerned that we would talk of maxima and minima in this way. A two-year period is the key one here, and it is the revocation aspect that we are concerned with.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

12.38 p.m.

Lord UNDERHILL moved Amendment No. 46: Page 12, line 41, leave out from ("order") to ("and") in line 42.

The noble Lord said: With the leave of the Committee, in order to save time I should like to speak on Amendments Nos. 46, 47 and 48. These are all part of a package and here we are again trying to be helpful to the Minister. What we are asking for is that the Minister should be able to take steps himself to revoke a scheme, not necessarily only if he has to wait for a request or an application to come from the local authority concerned. That would be the point of our Amendment No. 46. That would enable the Minister, if he himself thought that a scheme was getting into a mess, to consider revoking a scheme if the local authority had not made any application.

The second amendment would give to the Minister the power to act if the local authority concerned made an application for a revocation. The same principle is contained in the third amendment. All we are saying is that we do not want it to be left only to the local authority concerned to apply to the Minister to revoke an order. We think that the Minister ought to have the authority to take steps himself, though still leaving power with local authorities to make an application if they so desire.


I must confess that when we were discussing the last amendment I thought we were dealing with all the amendments up to Amendment No. 49. If I may deal with the point which has just been made, I do not think that I can move any further on this group of amendments. I understand quite clearly the point which the noble Lord is making about who it is that applies for revocation, but in view of what I said previously about the two-year period I do not want at this point to go any further.


I accept the point made by the noble Lord: that if at Report we do get an amendment to Clause 5 which permits earlier revocation than the maximum period contained in an order, these three amendments may be affected. Under the circumstances, we wish at this stage to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 47, 48 and 49 not moved.]

Clause 12 agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Orders designating trial areas]:

12.42 p.m.

Lord UNDERHILL had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 50: Page 53, line 42, leave out ("notify") and insert ("consult with")

The noble Lord said: This amendment involves the same principle as we discussed previously and I should like to have the noble Lord's reaction to it. We do not want to spend too much time upon it, but Schedule 2 lays down that there must be notification. We still believe that the simple word "notify" ought to be changed to "consult with". If, however, the noble Lord feels that he must take the same view as before, in the light of the last decision there will be no point in moving the amendment.

Lord UNDERHILL moved Amendment No. 51: Page 55, line 2, leave out from (" for ") to end of line 3 and insert (" a period of one year or, if the service has been operated for less than two years, until the expiration of three years from the date on which it was introduced.")

The noble Lord said: This amendment deals with the same issue as we discussed before but from the viewpoint of the operator. It is laid down in the Bill that whenever a trial order is ended, the operator of a bus service shall be entitled, as of right, to a road service licence for an unspecified period in order to continue that service in the new circumstances. We agree that an operator must be allowed to see if he can make a success of his operation, but to lay down in the Bill that he must have a road service licence as of right, without there being any specified period, seems to us to be giving far too much to a new operator. As I have said, we recognise that if persons are to be induced to invest in a trial area they must be given some security, but in our view the security proposed in the Bill is far too open-ended.

Our amendment proposes that, in the event of a trial area scheme being revoked before the end of the period designated in the order, the operator should be entitled to continue for a further period of 12 months and that there should be an additional proviso; that if the service which the operator has been operating has been in existence for less than two years, that particular operator shall be entitled to continue the service for a period of three years from the time when the service was started. We are trying to take a balanced, sensible view so as to give to the operator certain rights. We agree completely with the Government about this. However, it must not be an open-ended right for no specified period which is what is laid down in the Bill. I hope that our very simple amendment on this point will be accepted. I beg to move.


Paragraph 6 (2) of the schedule is important. It means that entrepreneurs will not be discouraged from starting services in trial areas and undertaking the necessary investment by the fear that the trial area will be revoked. In those circumstances, they would be unable, because of opposition from others, perhaps even major operators who have been unwilling to provide services while the trial was going on, to get the licence they need. I see no reason why a licence won in this way, which provides a service in a competitive environment, should be discriminated against. It will be a genuine licence, properly granted. Under the Bill as it stands, it will last for five years. I have already said, however, that we are going to look at the period. If noble Lords believe, as they said earlier, that licences should generally be timeless, then so should these.


I wonder whether the Committee have considered the situation that could arise in a matter of this kind. A designation order for a trial area could be made for five years. However, the Minister might decide, as a result of representations and on the basis that the other clause is amended, after a period of two years that the way in which the service has been operated is unsatisfactory. The licence to the operator we are thinking of might have been given for five years. Despite the fact that one of the reasons for ending the experiment might be the way in which that operator had functioned, it would mean that the operator— who may have been the cause of chaos in the trial area— would continue to operate for another three years without the need for any other licence. As the noble Lord, Lord Underbill, said, it is only reasonable that some protection should be given. Your Lordships may feel that to allow this to go on for such a period is unreasonable.


Whether or not an alteration of the kind I intimated earlier when dealing with the previous amendment— a two-year minimum period— would influence the thinking of noble Lords opposite on this amendment I do not know. If it would, then I think they may well care to hold their fire and see whether it takes place. I should have thought that this was relevant. If you are talking about a five-year period and then of a period of renewal beyond, one could talk about a period of three years. But if you are talking of a period of two years, as may well come about, the position might be rather different. I wonder whether noble Lords would care to think of it in that way.


I understood that Amendment No. 51 was in line with Amendments Nos. 45 to 49. My noble friend is going to look at this, so perhaps the period will be a minimum of two years. In the words of the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, perhaps this will be quite satisfactory. Obviously, you cannot have one situation for one thing and another situation for another. I hope therefore that noble Lords opposite will have faith in my noble friend's words.


We will look carefully at what the noble Lord has said when we reach the Report stage. There is just one point I should like to make now: let us say that the order was for five years and it is revoked after two years; that means that he will have the continuation of his licence for another three years. That is what we are worried about but in the light of what the noble Lord has said we will see what comes forward on Report, and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 2 agreed to.

Clause 13 agreed to.

Clause 14 [Duty to publish particulars of stage carriage services in trial areas]:

12.52 p.m.

Lord BELLWIN moved Amendment No. 53: Page 14, line 16, leave out ("stage carriage").

The noble Lord said: For the convenience of the Committee, with this amendment I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 54, 55 and 56. The Standing Committee in another place agreed to a group of amendments which brought the terminology of the clause into line with that of the Bill as a whole. The drafting was certainly improved by these changes, but on looking at the clause closely we have noted that the term "stage carriage" is redundant in four places and that the clause can be shortened by removing them. I should not have thought this was in any way controversial and I hope the Committee will feel able to accept it. I beg to move.

Lord BELLWIN moved Amendments Nos. 54, 55 and 56: Page 14, line 19, leave out ("stage carriage") line 22, leave out ("stage carriage") line 23, leave out ("stage carriage")

Lord BELLWIN moved Amendment No. 56A: Page 15, line 12, leave out ("without reasonable excuse")

The noble Lord said: I spoke to this amendment when dealing with Amendment No. 20. I beg to move.


On the basis of the previous understanding reached with the Minister I will say no more but just wait for the Report stage.

Clause 14 agreed to.

Lord UNDERHILL moved Amendment No. 57:

After Clause 14 insert the following new clause: Exemption from duty to co-operate in trial areas

(" .— (1) Within a trial area the duty of public passenger transport operators to co-operate with one another and with local authorities and to provide information in respect of their operators shall not apply.

(2) The duty referred to in subsection (1) is that specified in—

  1. (a) section 24 of the Transport Act 1968 (in passenger transport areas);
  2. (b) section 151 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 (in Scotland otherwise than in a passenger transport area);
  3. (c) section 1 of the Transport Act 1978 (in non-metropolitan counties in England and Wales).

(3) Section 3 (5) of the Transport Act 1978 shall not have effect within a trial area.")

The noble Lord said: This amendment proposes the insertion of a new clause which is in effect an amendment of the trial area provisions. In our view it is absolutely unrealistic for operators to be expected to co-operate with one another and with local authorities in a trial area experiment in the absence of any regulatory machinery, and it has been confirmed again this morning— even if we had not noted it from the Bill— that there will be no regulatory machinery in a trial area in respect of the services that may be operating there and also the competitive nature of the operations within a trial area.

Within a trial area there will be complete abolition of all road service licensing; nor will there be any attachment of any conditions of operating. The only penalty in a trial area is a requirement that an operator must notify the starting, alteration or withdrawal of a service, subject to a fine of £ 200. There is no question of his having to keep to the terms of what he has said he was going to do. If he fails to notify he is fined £ 200, but if he notifies and does not keep to the terms nothing will happen to him at all.

That is what complete freedom of competition means, presumably, and unless we put this clause into the Bill the existing operator will be expected to co-operate with the new operator, giving him full details of how he runs his services. Surely that is asking too much of anyone: no operator can be expected to do that and possibly help to put himself out of business and, what is more, not provide the sort of service that he ought to provide for the people living in the area. If there is to be competition in these areas then surely what is required is that each new operator must stand on his own feet and not expect another operator to give him all the information as to how he does things.

When the matter was discussed in another place the Secretary of State said that he could see that a distinction must be drawn between the duty of operators to co-operate with and supply information to the council because the county council— or in Scotland the bodies to which it was referred— will have some authority in the area; therefore he thought there would still be a duty for the operator to cooperate with the local authority concerned. But he stated, on 5th February at column 1011: Because trial areas clearly mean more competition, as the right honourable gentleman has suggested, it may be sensible to relieve operators of the duty to co-operate and tell each other what they are doing. I fully accept the force of what the right honourable gentleman has said on that. We would like to give further thought to the intention of seeking to meet his point on Report.

I have looked through the Official Report and I cannot see that, on reflection, anything was done; but I hope this morning the Minister will be able to say that there has been reflection and, while the Government cannot accept our amendment in so far as it includes the provision that operators should not be expected to co-operate with the local authority concerned, he accepts the point— as apparently the Minister did in the other place— that it would be foolish and nonsense (he did not use those words; they are mine, but that is what he meant) to expect operators to co-operate one with another when there is competition in the operation of services.

I hope that the noble Lord will be able to give some assurance that this matter is still receiving consideration, and that on Report we shall know definitely that the Government will be bringing forward an amendment to meet that particular point. I beg to move.


I do not believe that the clause which is now being moved will make any practical difference to the operation of trial areas. I appreciate that there is a difference between the philosophy behind the 1968 and 1978 Transport Acts and the Conservative philosophy behind this Bill. But these clauses are unnecessary. First, there is no proposal to take away the county council's duty to co-ordinate public transport in their areas. They will still be able to exercise this duty through discussion with operators and through their revenue support powers; that is, their powers to make grants. It is wrong therefore to suggest that operators should not co-operate with local authorities in trial areas.

Second, I am not at all sure whether the operators' duty to co-operate with each other, as defined in law, was ever anything more than a pious hope. It is certainly very vaguely expressed in the relevant statutes and, I would think, is virtually unenforceable. There is no evidence, as far as I can discern, that it has ever impeded the way operators behave and, by the same token, it is unlikely ever to be an impediment.

Having said that, and having listened to the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, and his observations about what my right honourable friend said in another place, I have to say that there is merit in his point, and in those circumstances the least I could do would be to give him what at the moment I am not able to give him, namely, a satisfactory comment on whether or not my right honourable friend intended to do as he intimated in the passage that was read out. In the circumstances, I will undertake to speak to the Minister and to find out whether he intends to make an amendment at the Report stage.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for that offer, and in those circumstances I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 15 [Powers of, and facilities for, inspection of public service vehicles]:

1 p.m.

Lord UNDERHILL moved Amendment No. 58:

Page 15, line 25, at beginning insert— (" (1) The Minister shall prescribe in regulations arrangements for the annual inspection of public service vehicles at either official public service vehicle testing stations or, if the equipment provided is adequate, the operator's premises, but no such regulations shall be made until a draft thereof has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.")

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment what we are seeking to do is to lay down statutory provision for the annual testing of public service vehicles. We recognise that there is an EEC directive on this matter and that this will make a start on annual testing as from 1st February 1983. But we can see no reason whatever why this should not be written into the Bill immediately so that annual testing can be laid down now and can start forthwith, as far as testing can start forthwith. The regulations which will have to be framed would, of course, be in accordance with the EEC directive.

With this amendment, perhaps I may speak on a proposal we have later on, that Clause 27 should not stand part of the Bill, because on this issue we support the view of the passenger transport industry that it is desirable that testing of public service vehicles be kept distinct from other vehicles, and the Minister in another place seemed to imply that that may be a view as well. We all know that there have been some unfortunate accidents involving public service vehicles. I am sure the whole Committee will be in full agreement on the desirability for the maximum safety provisions. Therefore, we believe that the passenger public service vehicles should be treated on their own and that the provision for annual testing should be accepted.

In this matter I make no apology on some of these issues for putting the point of view of the industry. Noble Lords opposite will often make criticism of us on this side of the Committee that we do not consult industry. On this issue we have consulted the industry, and they are somewhat concerned that there may be a view in Government circles to change the type of public service vehicle testing. The industry is concerned, and we on this side of the Committee fully support their view, that it is absolutely essential that public service vehicle testing should be in the hands of impartial non-commercially motivated engineers; in other words, the practice now— professional mechanical engineers employed through the Department of Transport— is the way in which the testing should continue. We hope that this provision will be accepted, despite the fact that there is an EEC directive which will make it compulsory later on, so that it can be written into the Bill. Your Lordships will notice that our new clause also provides some points on the question of how the testing should be carried out. I beg to move.


Your Lordships will notice that there is an amendment tabled in the name of my noble friend Lord Morris and myself, No. 63, which is in almost identical form. The only difference between the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, and myself is where we think the provision for annual testing of public service vehicles fits into the Bill. It seems to me that Clause 15 deals with general powers of inspection, Clause 16 with the certification of initial fitness and Clause 17 with spot checks. I see annual inspection as fitting between the last two. No matter, the important thing is that the specific provision should be made for annual inspection of public service vehicles; not that annual testing is new, but with the new European regulations it should now be formalised in primary rather than in secondary legislation.

The arguments in favour of the amendment have already been very well expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill. I only wish to emphasise the importance of these special vehicles to which are entrusted so many lives being placed on a professional and not a commercial basis. If the impartiality of our law courts is guaranteed by the State's intervention, so, too, if on a different plane, must the objectivity of the PSV examiner be ensured by his status under the traffic commissioners. It is for Parliament to ensure that safety in this way is maintained.

The uncertain future for official testing stations means that we are at present in no position to fulfil our obligation to the public. For this reason, and remembering what has already been said in this Committee, and having regard to the Negative Resolution procedure, the Bill must be amended in a way that clearly allows Parliament to form a'proper judgment when the full facts are known, including the extra cost to PSV operators, which could amount to many millions of pounds if only a limited number of testing stations are allowed. This is a secondary factor, but nevertheless one to be taken into account, because it is the travelling public who have to pay the bill. I strongly support the substance of this Amendment.


I do not think there is any great difference between noble Lords and the Government on this amendment, which is on the very important point of annual testing of public service vehicles. I totally appreciate the desire of all noble Lords opposite and noble Lords on this side of the Committee to see such a requirement written into this Bill. However, this amendment would pose a number of difficulties. It is not of itself sufficient to set up a scheme for the annual testing of public service vehicles, and it is, moreover, unsatisfactory in that it would oblige us always to have a different set of regulations for public service vehicles from those applying to other large passenger vehicles. I can assure your Lordships that its incorporation in Clause 15 will not produce regulations relating to the testing of public service vehicles one jot more quickly or more certainly.

Clause 27 removes the present impediment to the making of such regulations, and my right honourable friends in another place have given the firm undertaking that they will be prepared without delay. We are indeed required to make provision for testing of all large passenger carrying vehicles, including public service vehicles complying with our Community obligations. But it would in any event be our wish to do that. I can repeat to your Lordships the clear assurance that draft regulations are going to be circulated as soon as they can be prepared.

I can also repeat the assurance given in another place that the Government accept the case for making use of operators' premises whenever appropriate. There is, however, not only the adequacy of equipment to consider, which is all that is mentioned in noble Lords' amendments, but also a number of other factors which can be relevant, especially the point of geographical distribution, for example. We are discussing with operators details of the arrangements to be made.

It might be appropriate if I say a word on Clause 27 now because it does directly apply to this. The clause was framed in the way it was because we were anxious to make comprehensive regulations relating to the testing of all large passenger vehicles. As I said, the EEC roadworthiness directive requires us to test all vehicles in that broad group, not just the PSVs. All we differ on is the mechanism by which we should achieve our objective. It is, surely, the obvious and sensible course for all our vehicle testing requirements to be prescribed under the same set of powers. If that is not done the possibilities of anomaly are endless. What we are doing in Clause 27 is tidying up the legislation to make this possible.

By seeking to delete Clause 27 you would be saying in effect that we should always have two sets of regulations to lay down the testing for large passenger vehicles, depending on whether they are PSV or not. If we had proposed at the outset to proceed in that way I have no doubt we should have been rightly criticised for adding unnecessary complications to the burden of regulations with which industry has to cope. I have assured your Lordships that regulations will be prepared for discussion as soon as possible. I hope that, with that explanation, noble Lords will see the strength of the Government's argument.


In the light of the assurances that have been given, I shall withdraw the amendment. However, we shall, of course, wish to ensure that the industry will be consulted before the regulations are drawn. I gather from the noble Lords opposite that they are both nodding their heads in agreement. In the light of that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord TEVIOT moved Amendment No. 59:

Page 15, Line 35, at end insert— (" (1A) Notwithstanding subsection (1) a certifying officer or public service vehicle examiner shall not detain a public service vehicle which is in service unless he has reason to believe it to be so unfit as to constitute a hazard to its passengers or to other road users. (1B) In subsection (1A) "in service" means being used on a journey in the course of which it is intended that passengers shall be carried or at a time when the vehicle is proceeding to or is at a point at which passengers may be taken up.")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 59 in my name and in the name of my noble friend Lord Morris. Clause 15 deals with the powers of inspection of public service vehicles by officials of the Department of Transport. It specifies that a certifying officer or public service vehicle examiner may detain a vehicle for as long as it is necessary to inspect it. Department of Transport officials do not have power to stop public service vehicles on the highway; that power is limited to the police. In the 1960 Act— Section 128 (3) — it was specifically stated that these officials may require any public service vehicle to be stopped.

The omission of these words is not, however, significant because it is clear from Section 159 of the Road Traffic Act 1972 that only a police constable in uniform has the power to stop a vehicle on the road.

It is not unusual for the police and department engineers to make roadside checks on the safety of goods vehicles, but fortunately they do not often use their power to stop public service vehicles carrying passengers. It is more usual for such checks to be made at coach parks, or in other circumstances in which a large number of passengers will not be inconvenienced. Obviously, if there is reason to believe that a bus or coach is in an unsafe condition so as to be a source of danger to the occupants, or other road users, it would be irresponsible not to stop it. That is not at issue. The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that the public are not unnecessarily inconvenienced by casual spot checks.

It may be thought that the above comments hardly need to be expressed— it goes without saying that the public should not be unnecessarily inconvenienced. However, coaches are stopped in this way from time to time and it is a cause of considerable embarrassment because, even if the coach is completely free of defects, the passengers have their confidence undermined, and they wonder whether something might, indeed, be wrong.

Recently the police in the West Midlands— and I notice that the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher of Rednal, is not with us today— have been active in this way. I have been given two examples of this. Obviously I can give no names, but I can give details to my noble friend later. They are clearly two quite recent instances where there has been considerable embarrassment to passengers. In one instance mothers and children were delayed for about 20 minutes when I do not think there were any defects to the vehicle concerned. In another case there were only two marginal defects alleged, of which one is disputed and I think is now coming before the courts.

This is no way to treat public transport. I know that these two cases involved the police, but in this Bill we have the opportunity to establish a principle. It should not be necessary to do so, but unfortunately it does seem to be necessary. Moreover, there is another field in which it is the growing practice to stop and detain coaches on a purely haphazard basis— that is, the inspection of drivers' hours records, log books or tachographs. It is for these reasons that the bus and coach industry has become particularly aware of the need for guidance regarding spot checks.

It will be seen that there is a close relationship in principle between the two reasons for stopping and detaining public service vehicles and the effects on both passengers and drivers, who are already difficult enough to find. One cannot stress that, but it is what one might call a Second Reading point. It is again stressed that there is no intention whatever of limiting the powers of the police to stop a vehicle for any good reason. It may be argued— and it has been argued in another place— that an examining officer cannot know if there is a hazard until he has spot checked a vehicle. I discount that argument. As motorists we have all, on occasions, seen vehicles which we thought were positively unsafe. Let us leave it to common sense, but let us give guidelines to avoid the misuse of authority.

The only concern is to avoid random checks which not only upset the passengers on the vehicle, but also undermine the service which the industry can give the public. This clearly applies when a bus or coach is laden with passengers. It is equally true if a vehicle is running empty, say, between the depot and its first pick-up point. It is almost worse if the empty vehicle arrives late because the passengers have no way of knowing that the delay was caused by the police or departmental action— they will merely consider that the operator is unreliable. It should not be difficult for the driver to satisfy relevant officials that he is on his way to a pick-up point, because the documents he carries should clearly indicate the nature of the service he is undertaking. The amendment is framed with the intention of reducing unnecessary inconvenience to the public without, in any way, prejudicing road safety. I beg to move.


My noble friend's amendment is, I suggest with great humility, slightly illogical because the Bill is only providing for a vehicle to be detained during the time actually necessary for inspection. But how can an examiner be expected to know whether a public service vehicle in service constitutes a hazard if he cannot even detain it for inspection? In any case, although I have every sympathy with the noble Lord's concern for the convenience of the travelling public, I cannot believe that an amendment of the kind proposed is really necessary. I do not really think that the assiduity of the department's examiners is so important a cause of delay to scheduled services, or is likely to become so. It would indeed be nice to know that operators had nothing else than that to contend with.

However, my noble friend has said— and this gives me cause for some worry— that he knows of two cases of which he will be able to give me details in private. I promise him and your Lordships that they will be looked at by my right honourable friends and officials. The last thing we want to do is to have over-zealous officials in the department. We like to think that the department's examiners are not over-zealous, but act only where the safety of the public is at risk. I shall be most glad to accept his offer and I promise to have the cases which he has mentioned looked at. However, in the light of the department's intention that this should not prove to be an inconvenience to the public at large, the travelling public, I ask your Lordships to accept that these powers are sensible in so far as they go.


In the light of what my noble friend Lord Mowbray has said, I shall certainly afford him details— at any rate without names— of the two incidents of which I know. I take the point that he does not want officials to become over- zealous in any way. I could not be more happy with the answer that he has given. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 15 agreed to.

Clause 16 [Certificate of initial fitness (or equivalent) required for use of public service vehicle]:

Lord BELLWIN moved Amendment No. 60: Page 16, line 29, leave out ("Subject to subsection (4) ")

The noble Lord said: I spoke to this amendment when we dealt with Amendment No. 20. I beg to move.

Lord BELLWIN moved Amendment No. 61: Page 16, line 32, leave out subsection (4).

The noble Lord said: Again, I spoke also to this amendment when I dealt with Amendment No. 20. I beg to move.

Lord UNDERHILL had given Notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 62:

Page 16, line 35, at end insert— (" (5) A bus run by a local authority for providing transport in pursuance of arrangements made under any Education Act shall be treated as a public service vehicle for the purposes of this section ")

The noble Lord said: Although we feel very strongly about this matter, for we believe that security and safety of school buses is as important as anything else, in the light of the Government's amendment No. 110 which we regret was given approval, and which excludes consideration being given to school buses, it would appear that I would be out of order if I move this amendment. Is that the interpretation of the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, on this?


Lord Bellwin certainly would not be qualified to give an interpretation as to whether the noble Lord is in or out of order. In the light of what he said a moment ago about what transpired previously, I would hope that he might feel that he would wish to withdraw the amendment.


In those circumstances, might I be permitted not to move the amendment, and perhaps the noble Lord will check the position for me, because if it is still possible for us to move this amendment, despite Amendment No. 110 being carried, we should wish to do so. We feel very strongly about this. Having said that, I do not wish to move the amendment.

[Amendment No. 62 not moved.]

Clause 16, as amended, agreed to.

[Amendment No. 63 not moved.]

Clause 17 [Power to prohibit driving of unfit public service vehicles]:

1.23 p.m.

Lord TEVIOT moved Amendment No. 63A: Page 17, line 1, leave out subsection (2).

The noble Lord said: With this amendment I should like to speak to Amendment No. 66. Together they follow the theme of Amendment No. 58, for which my noble friend has expressed some sympathy. I shall just make my comments as I have them. The industry feels uncertain of the future of testing stations. Therefore, the amendments seek to leave out the requirement that certain prohibition notices can only be removed at a testing station. It is my belief that the vehicle examiners of the Department of Transport are well-qualified to deal with suspension notices on vehicles on a practical basis, ensuring that the public service is protected. The industry readily accepts the need for safety control over its vehicles, but it needs a minimum of bureaucracy and the greatest freedom, consistent with safety, to enable it to give the best possible service to the public, when it comes to prohibition notices removing only at official testing stations.

I suggest that this is going too far, particularly when, under subsection (6), any certifying officer or public service vehicle examiner may, by endorsement on the notice, cancel a direction under subsection (2). In another place my honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Department of Transport specifically drew attention to this provision. The reference can be found in the Official Report for Standing Committee "H" for 5th February, at column 1061. It follows that there is a contradiction, as it is said in subsection (2) that the prohibition is irremovable until the vehicle has been to an official testing station. Moreover, no official PSV testing station exists at the present time.

Reverting to the question of ownership of such stations, it is thought that in respect of PSVs it would be a highly unsatisfactory arrangement to introduce through this legislation a requirement tying the clearance of a stop notice to an official testing station. The safety can and will adequately be ensured by the surveillance of certifying officers and PSV examiners, and there is no need to introduce a specific requirement of the kind indicated.

At a later stage, when the position has stabilised, it will, regardless of subsection (2), but completely reflecting the thought underlying the subsection, be within the power of these officials should they think it necessary to withhold their clearance of a stop notice until the have had a vehicle tested, with the use of whatever facilities they consider necessary, including, if such things can exist, those of official PSV testing stations. For these reasons the deletion of subsection (2) is sought with consequential amendments. I beg to move.


I should inform your Lordships that if this amendment is agreed, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 64 or 65.


In this part of the Bill we seek to introduce procedures for ensuring the safety of public service vehicles which are comparable to those already in the Road Traffic Acts for ensuring the safety of heavy goods vehicles. The power sought to make prohibitions clearable only at testing stations is similar to that which already exists in relation to heavy goods vehicles which are subject to prohibition; and the same reasoning applies; namely, that in certain cases there will exist only at testing stations the facilities necessary for the proper verification that the faults which led to the prohibition have been remedied.

Having said this, I appreciate that unforeseen difficulties can arise in a requirement for clearing a prohibition at a testing station. That is why subsection 6 (b) (ii) tempers the goods vehicle prohibition arrangements with a new element of flexibility (examiners may cancel a direction under subsection (2)). I believe we now have it just about right.

I really cannot accept that a requirement that a vehicle should be inspected at an official PSV testing station constitutes an unacceptable burden in principle on operators. I am sure that noble Lords opposite will accept the road safety case for such a provision. One might comment that operators can avoid its burden by maintaining their vehicles in such a way as to avoid prohibitions in the first place. I have no reason to suppose that our examiners will abuse their discretion to impose directions under subsection (2) by applying them in trivial cases; but naturally I assure noble Lords that we shall be prepared to look into any such allegations.


With that assurance given by my noble friend, I can only say that I should like to look at this again and, if necessary, come back to it on Report. However, I think that he has made his position quite clear. In that light, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

1.28 p.m.

Lord MISHCON moved Amendment No. 64: Page 17, line 2, leave out ("making it irremovable") and insert ("prohibiting the driving of a vehicle on a road").

The noble Lord said: This is an appeal to fellow parliamentarians now sitting in Committee to ensure that, on the face of it, an Act of Parliament, read by the ordinary layman, does not seem to be absurd. I refer to the fact that this subsection reads as follows: (2) A prohibition under subsection (1) "—

and that, of course, is the prohibition after an inspection by a certifying officer or public service vehicle examiner leading to a prohibition on the driving of a vehicle— may be imposed with a direction making it irremovable"—

to the ordinary reader that means that it cannot be removed— unless and until the vehicle has been inspected at an official PSV testing station".

Anyone reading that subsection— be it a lay magistrate, quite apart from the question of an ordinary layman— would wonder what Parliament was about in saying that the vehicle cannot be removed unless it has been taken and subsequently released at a testing station, which obviously must be at a distance from the place where the prohibition was imposed.

I have no doubt that I shall be told by the Minister that regulations will be made which will say that it is not deemed to be irremovable if, in fact, the sole purpose of the journey is to take it to the testing station. In addition, I have no doubt that the Minister may refer to other legislation relating to heavy goods vehicles and so on, where the same sort of situation may apply. But in my humble submission, when you are drawing up an Act of Parliament, you ought to be able to find words which, as I said, do not make the ordinary reader think that he is looking upon an absurdity, and indeed a complete Gilbert and Sullivan situation. We, therefore, suggest— and we do so very respectully— that everything that is intended to be covered under subsection (2) could be covered if one uses the words: prohibiting the driving of a vehicle on a road",

which would obviously mean that it would have to be towed to the testing station.

If the words that we have chosen in this amendment are not suitable to the Minister because there is some aspect of the matter which may not be covered by the use of those words, all I would ask him to do— and I shall not trouble the Committee further— is to take the amendment away and look at it, and sec whether there are words other than the absurd word, "irremovable", which could be used. I repeat that the answer cannot be in regulations which the layman will not have in front of him, nor even the lawyer at the time he reads this subsection, and certainly not any lay magistrate or other person who may be required to look at this subsection.


I appreciate the noble Lord's desire to have readily understandable legislation. As a simple non-legal-minded Peer, I have always wished myself that it would be made easier, and I am sure that that applies to everybody in the country. However, I am advised that this amendment does not appear to make any material change to the sense of subsection (2). The subsection would still provide that aprohibition may be imposed, with a direction as to inspection of the vehicle at an official PSV testing station. That is a provision that we regard as important for ensuring that vehicle examiners can check properly that vehicles are fit for service. There is nothing between us here. In some cases it will only be possible at places where a full range of equipment is available. But it does not seem that noble Lords opposite dissent from that general principle.

There was some discussion in another place as to whether or not "irremovable prohibition" would prevent operators getting their vehicles to the testing station for the required inspection. I should perhaps reiterate the explanation given by my right honourable friend that this will not in fact cause difficulties, as in the goods vehicles regime appropriate regulations will be prepared exempting vehicles on their way to testing stations. In other words, if the inspector finds a vehicle which needs attention he will say, "You will proceed at once to the nearest place, and as from that moment you are going to stop or go to prison". You know: you will take it there and from that moment it will be irremovable.


Will the Minister forgive me for this intervention which, with his usual courtesy, he has allowed me to make? The Minister is repeating in far clearer language than I used the situation which is common ground. Of course it has to be taken to a testing station if it is in a bad condition. Obviously, regulations may be made hereafter which will allow that to be done. The point that I was on is that it is so absurd in an Act of Parliament to say, without any definition clause at all on what "irremovable" means in this subsection, that it is irremovable but it has to be taken to a testing station. That is the only point I am trying to cover. I do not want to waste the time of the Committee. If the Minister will, in his kindness, take this back and see that we do not do something which is unnecessarily absurd, I shall be grateful and the Committee can go on with its other business.


I am grateful for those kind words of the noble Lord. As regards his wording, we have no really great objection to it since we do not think that it is going to change the effect very much. On the other hand, it might be thought to introduce an element of tautology, and we do not see any great advantage in moving from the current formulation. I shall certainly take it back and ask my learned friends in the drafting section whether they can find words to meet the noble Lord's common-sense reaction to them. I shall certainly undertake to do that. Whether he will be able to do so, I do not know.


On that very courteous assurance, I ask for the leave of the Committee to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

1.35 p.m.

Lord UNDERHILL moved Amendment No. 65: Page 17, line 3, at end insert ("or, if the equipment provided is adequate, the operator's premises")

The noble Lord said: This again is a further tidying up amendment— at least, we think it is— to this same clause. In the light of what the noble Lord said on a previous amendment we are certain that it is not the intention that an official public service vehicle testing station shall be necessarily away from the operator's premises. I understood that the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, intimated on a previous amendment that this could be so.

Therefore, what we want to do in this amendment is to make the position absolutely clear, so that we add after the words, official PSV testing station

the words or, if the equipment provided is adequate, the operator's premises".

That would seem to be common sense. It would remove any doubt there may be in the minds of operators and, I believe, would fit what is the Government's intention. I beg to move.


As the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has said, the object of this amendment is to establish beyond doubt that operators' premises can be used for the testing of public service vehicles. On this central point, I would reiterate completely the assurances given by my right honourable friends in another place that we are committed to the principle of designating operators' premises. There is no fundamental difference between us there.

The amendment proposed is, however, I am advised, unacceptable. In the first place, I am advised that it is unnecessary because the term "official PSV testing station" already includes any premises designated for that purpose. But, most seriously, it restricts unacceptably the Minister's discretion as to designation in its implication that any premises with the right equipment must be designated. Equipment is, indeed, an obviously important consideration: but as my honourable friend made clear in another place it is not the only one. We need to have regard to such things as a proper distri- bution of testing facilities, and a sensible use of resources— whether they be public or private. Detailed discussions are in hand with operators as to the appropriate criteria for designation, and I do not think that there will be any insuperable difficulty in drawing up sensible guidelines. But equipment alone is not the only factor.


In the light of what the noble Lord has said, I shall withdraw this amendment, on the assurance I understood he was giving that, first, there will be discussion with the operators.




And, secondly, that it is not the intention to omit operators' premises for testing stations. I should add that one reason that one wants to be clear on that is because of the suspicions— maybe suspicions that should not be there— in the transport industry that the Government will not permit operators' premises to be used, unless they take the form of official testing stations to which other operators must be allowed to bring their vehicles. If that is to be looked at as well, we shall be happy to withdraw this amendment.


My understanding is that any premises designated by the Government would, ipso facto, get some sort of official approval.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 66 not moved.]

1.39 p.m.

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 67: Page 17, line 43, at beginning insert ("Subject to any subsisting direction under subsection (2),")

The noble Lord said: The substance of this proposed amendment occupied a whole subsection in the Bill as introduced in another place. That subsection was later removed from the Bill. The present amendment preserves the essence of it much more simply. It makes it clear for the avoidance of doubt that the general powers of certifying officers and PSV examiners as to removal of prohibitions when they consider a vehicle is fit shall not override any direction that may have been imposed under subsection 2 that the vehicle shall first be inspected at an official PSV testing station. This is really purely drafting. I beg to move.

Lord BELLWIN moved Amendments Nos. 68 and 69:

Page 18, line 11, leave out ("subject to subsection (9) "). line 75, leave out subsection (9).

The noble Lord said: I spoke to these amendments when dealing with Amendment No. 20. I therefore beg to move.

Clause 17, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 18 [PSV operators' licences]:

Lord BELLWIN moved Amendments Nos. 70 and 71: Page 18, line 40, leave out (" Subject to subsection (6) "). Page 19, line 1, leave out subsection (6).

The noble Lord said: I also spoke to these amendments when dealing with Amendment No. 20. I beg to move.

Clause 18, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 19 [Classification of licences]:

1.42 p.m.

Lord UNDERHILL moved Amendment No. 72: Page 19, line 10, at end insert (" and may further provide whether or not and to what extent such vehicles may be used in the operation of extended tours ").

The noble Lord said: I will, with permission, speak at the same time to Amendment No. 136 to the interpretation clause, Clause 36. I feel certain there will be general agreement with the principle behind the amendment, and on this issue the industry considers that the addition of these words is vital for what is a fast- developing aspect of the bus and coach industry. The amendment seeks to insert a provision that for applications for standard licences for use on international and/or national operations there should be this extension, whether or not they are to be used in the operation of extended tours.

Perhaps I should point out that the industry has put the strong case to us that, as noble Lords may be aware, problems have arisen in the package holiday industry involving the collapse of, in some cases, quite large holiday companies. Expertise is required in dealing with matters of extended tours, which are totally different, as the industry points out, from running, say, a school contract bus. Until now, coach operators have not experienced a single failure of the type which has been all too common with other types of package holiday. The industry believes that this is due to the safeguards of the road service licensing system. With the disappearance of this protection under the Bill, there is concern lest problems arise similar to those in other holiday sectors and lest the reputation of the coaching industry as a whole be severely damaged.

The amendment seeks to say that consideration must be given to this aspect in granting a licence. We hope the Minister will accept that the industry is looking at this not particularly from its own point of view but from that of passengers, to ensure that the industry is able to keep to its very high standard; so this should be a qualification which should be considered in dealing with the issue of licences. If the Minister cannot accept the wording of the amendment, we hope he will regard this as such an important matter, affecting the whole question of package holidays— which, as I say, is growing and is now involving the coach industry to a very large extent— that he will give an undertaking to give it serious consideration.


I appreciate the concern which has led the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, to move this amendment. The philosophy behind the Bill, however, is that licensing and controls should be removed wherever they are not essential in the public interest, and I have not been entirely convinced that a control of this sort is essential. We believe that operators' licensing will itself provide the necessary safeguards in the public interest on the good repute and financial standing of the operators, and it is really doubts about these, I suspect, that are at the back of the amendment. I do not think the traffic commissioners should concern themselves with the organisation of the leisure market, and I must resist any attempt to add to the number of controls in the Bill.

Having said that, I think the issue raised by the noble Lord, and the way he raised it, are of sufficient importance for me, without giving any commitment— I could not give one— to promise to have a word with my right honourable friend about it. I will talk to him again about the matter and see what may be said.


I entirely agree with the purpose of the amendment and had I spoken before the Minister replied to the noble Lord, Lord Underhill— I apologise to the Committee for not speaking then— I probably would have spoken at some length on it. However, in view of my noble friend's promise to look at the matter again, I need say no more.


I appreciate the Minister's offer and I gather he is saying that if it cannot be included in the Bill he will ask the Secretary of State to look into the general problem. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

1.47 p.m.

Lord UNDERHILL moved Amendment No. 73: Page 19, line 18, leave out from ("passengers") to end of line 21.

The noble Lord said: The intention here is to delete from the Bill the provision which would enable a person to hold a restricted licence to operate merely because the greater part of his business is in some field other than that of public service vehicle operation and he operates with vehicles adapted to carry between nine and 16 passengers. The fact that a person may operate with 20 such vehicles or minibuses, but that this is not his main occupation, should surely not provide that person with the opportunity to be accepted with a lower standard of qualification than another person who operates, say, 10 small buses but has few or no other interests. Surely that is not equitable or fair and cannot be justified.

The simple point of the amendment is that those who operate passenger vehicle services, no matter how large or small the number of vehicles involved, should all have the same standard of professional qualification, but that appears not to be so from the wording of the clause as drafted. I beg to move.


In supporting the amendment, I recognise that subsection 3 (b) seeks to reflect Article 1 (3) of the EEC directive on access to the profession. This article permits member states, after consulting the Commission, to accept those to operate for non-commercial purposes, also those having a main occupation other than that of road passenger transport operator. The article limits this exemption by adding: in so far as their transport operations have only a minor impact on the transport market". I do not now by what is meant by "the transport market". It may mean at EEC level, at national level or at local level. However, I do know that if I operate a number of small vehicles and somebody is competing with me— possibly in the way the noble Lord, Lord Underhill said, having a larger fleet— that operator is affecting my market. I do not see why he should be exempted from having an O licence, which is the safety and quality licence, when I have to be so licensed, and I therefore support the amendment.


We have here a small, but important, point. This is part of the Government philosophy of trying to make matters easier, especially in rural areas, so as to enable a man who runs perhaps a taxi service or a small hire car business to run a mini-bus, too. This sub-paragraph in the Bill continues a derogation from the access directive allowed to us by the Community. The sort of operation referred to is the taxi or hire car proprietor who also runs a few minibuses. Under the present law he does not require standard public service vehicle licences for these minibuses. The Bill will not require him to have a standard operator's licence. The amendment would. I do not wish to impose on him the need to satisfy the "professional competence" requirement when the access directive itself does not. We want to encourage hire car proprietors to run a minibus or two; they can provide a real service in rural areas. I simply do not accept that there is any unfair competition here with ordinary bus and coach operators.


I was unable fully to follow the case put forward by the noble Lord. I am not saying that he did not put the case extremely well, but he referred to the EEC directive on this matter, and so I should prefer to withdraw the amendment so that we can consider what the noble Lord has said, and perhaps study the EEC directive. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 19 agreed to.

Clause 20 [Grant and duration of licences]:

1.52 p.m.

Lord UNDERHILL moved Amendment No. 74: Page 20, line 8, leave out (" proposed to be used under ") and insert (" authorised in ").

The noble Lord said: The phrase, proposed to be used under the licence",

which appears in the Bill, creates doubts in the minds of operators. This is a rather technical matter to understand fully, and so I should like to take a little time to explain it. Let me put it in this way. The word "use" would seem to cover vehicles hired by, say, operator A, with or without drivers, from operators B or C for use in fulfilling his contractual obligations. Of course, this inter-hiring is a fundamental part of public service vehicle operation. It ensures maximum vehicle utilisation and consequent efficiency of operation, which has the effect of reducing cost to the public.

However, when operator A is using a public service vehicle owned by licensed operator B, that vehicle is covered by B's licence. Therefore, the traffic commissioners have already been satisfied that operator B has adequate facilities or arrangements for maintaining the vehicle in a fit and serviceable condition. So clearly there is no need for these facilities or arrangements to be linked to operator A's licence. We believe that the use of the phrase "authorised in the licence" which is what is suggested by the amendment, voids any possible ambiguity in this matter. The position would be made quite clear, and safety would be protected; and those points would justify acceptance of the amendment. I beg to move.


I wish to make a small comment on the amendment. I see the necessity for using the phrase, "proposed to be used under …", because if noble Lords look at subsection (3), they will see it is quite clear that the future tense is used throughout the subsection. The subsection starts: Notwithstanding that it appears … shall not be granted …

  1. (a) that there will be adequate facilities or arrangements for…
  2. (b) that there will be adequate arrangements for securing compliance … "
et cetera. The tense is very much future, and I think that the phrase "proposed to be used under …" is correct drafting.


It is at first a little difficult to understand what noble Lords seek to achieve with these amendments. They are hardly drafting amendments, since they appear to import some idea of an operator's licence authorising particular vehicles. But this is not, of course, how the provisions on operator's licensing proceed, and the amendments would not of themselves seem to change anything, but merely perhaps to add confusion.

The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has expressed some anxiety about the wording in Clause 21 of the Bill, which speaks of the maximum number of vehicles which a licence-holder may at any one time use ". It is indeed the case that this means just what it says. What matters is how many vehicles are actually being operated at any one given moment. But that will always be the case— and indeed would be so if these amendments were made— unless we make a quite different distinction and seek to restrict, through licensing, the total number of vehicles which may be in an opeator's possession at any time when he holds a licence. We should then cover vehicles which were awaiting sale, or being refitted, vehicles normally hired out to other operators, and so on. It is a possible approach, but one which seems to be unduly restrictive and to take us back to the existing régime of individual vehicle licensing.

What the Bill instead seeks to do is to separate the essential quality controls on individual vehicles— that is the provisions we have already discussed on Clauses 15 to 17— from the controls on the fitness of operators to run their businesses. We should prefer to maintain that distinction. This amendment goes very closely with Amendment No. 86, and perhaps I should say a few words on the point about hired vehicles. Surely noble Lords do not propose to argue that the vehicles which an operator may "hire in" should be ignored by the commissioners when they are assessing the operator's capability. Hired vehicles may be an essential part of a business. Indeed, to ignore hiring would leave a massive loophole in the licensing control.

Your Lordships may ask: What about hiring for the odd day— but how is that to be distinguished from hiring for a much longer period? It is for the commissioner to assess the total scale of a business, including the incidence of hiring, when he fixes the maximum number of vehicles that may be operated under the licence. Questions about financial standing in relation to a business, and about an operator's arrangement for complying with driver's hours regulations must of course take account of the operator's total operation.

If the industry is really concerned with regard to the technical framework of the system, I would very strongly advise them to discuss their worries with our officials without delay. I am bound to say that from the earliest stages of the Bill they have been given every invitation to sit down with our officials to make sure that the details are right, but so far they have been too busy to find the time to do that. However, I make the offer again, though time is not of the longest in this case.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for his detailed reply which will enable us in the Official Report to see precisely what is the Government's view on this matter. I am also grateful— and I am sure that the industry will be, too— for his offer to consider any representations that the industry wishes to make. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 75 not moved.]

Lord MORRIS moved Amendment No. 76: Page 20, line 30, leave out ("on the date on which") and insert ("immediately before").

The noble Lord said: This is a purely drafting amendment which I think will clarify the Bill. By inserting "immediately before" in subsection (7) in place of "on the date on which", the matter becomes much clearer, and I think that the English is rather better, too. The date referred to is the end of the particular day, and I commend this amendment to the Committee.

While speaking to this amendment I should like to raise a point regarding subsection (5), in which the draftsman uses rather strange drafting in the phrase the date with which it is to expire … ".

I originally put down an amendment to leave out the expression "with which" and insert instead, the term "on which", which is in rather more common use. In fact, if you look at Clause 11 (1), it says, the dates in the year on which road service licences are to expire".

Similarly, in subsection (3) of the same clause, it says, on the date on which a road service licence is due to expire".

This is the only place in the Bill where the phrase "with which" is used.

I think it will be quite clear to your Lordships that time, rather like space, has a beginning and has an end. To take a case in absurdum, if I were to issue a licence for one day only with the date of commencement, say, 1st January, 1980, the date of expiry would be written "1 January 1980", and it would be quite clear to everybody that that licence would run from the first second of that day and that it must expire at the end; namely, at the last second of that day. I am a little puzzled at the somewhat esoteric drafting of" with which "in subsection (5), but that is another issue. I merely wanted to give the Minister notice that I shall be looking at this one again. Notwithstanding that point, I beg to move.


I thank my noble friend for his very useful amendment which, I quite agree, adds greater clarity to this subsection; and, on behalf of the Government, I am very pleased to accept it. With regard to his other remarks, I shall certainly look very closely at them to see whether there is substance in the point he makes, and if there is we shall deal with it when the Bill reaches us again.

Clause 20, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 3 [Supplementary provisions as to qualifications for PSV operator's licence]:

Lord BELLWIN moved Amendment No. 77:

Page 55, line 11, leave out paragraph 1 and insert—

("1.— (1) In determining whether an individual is of good repute, traffic commissioners shall have regard to all the relevant evidence and in particular to—

  1. (a) relevant convictions of his and of his employees and agents; and
  2. (b) such other information as the commissioners may have as to his previous conduct, in whatever capacity, in relation to the operation of vehicles of any description in the course of a business.

(2) In determining whether a company is of good repute, traffic commissioners shall have regard to all the relevant evidence and in particular to—

  1. (a) relevant convictions of the company and its officers, employees and agents;
  2. (b) such other information as the commissioners may have as to the previous conduct of—
    1. (i) the company's officers, employees and agents in relation to the operation of vehicles of any description in the course of any business carried on by the company; and
    2. (ii) each of the company's directors, in whatever capacity, in relation to the operation of vehicles of any description in the course of any other business.").

The noble Lord said: The present paragraph 1 confuses the criteria for judging the repute of individuals with those for judging the repute of companies. It also fails to make it clear that the commissioners must have regard to all the relevant evidence, and not just to previous conduct and relevant convictions; and speaks of relevant convictions … during the preceding five years",

which is inappropriate in view of the overriding provisions of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. The new paragraph spells the matter out at somewhat greater length, but with a great gain in clarity. I beg to commend this amendment to your Lordships, and to move it.


We on this side of the Committee would like to congratulate the Minister on the very attributes which he modestly gave himself in describing this amendment; namely, that it is now a much clearer amendment. There is one point which he mentioned which is important, and that is that the Bill's previous definition of convictions of five years obviously should have been improved and has been improved by this now becoming "relevant convictions".


There is just another question. May I ask the Minister, not intending to hold up the Committee, concerning the influence of the EEC and the ultimate application of the 42-tonne axle weight provision and the longdistance inter-continental travelling that is now done, what would be the position if a firm should have bad luck in Spain or in Turkey and something happened which was considered a tort under Turkish or Spanish law? What happens to a company which has had that and then, ultimately, comes before our commissioners or before the Ministers, the people who operate this Bill? What happens in that case, and what protection have the British public in that case?


I would not even pretend to try to answer the noble Lord on the points that he raises. I think it would be fair to say that I do not think that the matters on which he has just touched come within the province of this Bill. If I am proved to be wrong, then of course I will get in touch with him; but, so far as I am aware, I do not think it is apposite to this.


I thank the noble Lord.

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 78: Page 55, line 30, leave out ("an undertaking") and insert ("a company").

The noble Lord said: With your Lordships' permission, with Amendment No. 78 I will also speak to the following Amendments: 80, 82, 85, 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 134 and 135.


Before my friend resumes, perhaps I could point out that there is no Amendment No. 80. It has been withdrawn.


I am sorry; I had not updated my notes. I am most grateful to my noble friend. After that rather lengthy introduction, what I now have to say is that this is really only a small group of amendments. The word "company" is now used throughout Part I of the Bill and related schedules. It is defined, by the amendment to Clause 36, page 33, line 13, as meaning "body corporate". It is therefore not limited to United Kingdom companies, and the need for a term "undertaking" in this schedule, and its definition at the end of the schedule, now disappears. This block of amendments makes for a simple and consistent terminology. I beg to move.

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 79:

Page 55, line 38, at end insert— ("4A. Where the holder of a PSV operator's licence relies on a transport manager to satisfy the requirement as to professional competence and that manager—

  1. (a) dies or ceases by reason of physical disability or mental disorder to be capable of discharging his duties as transport manager;
  2. (b) ceases to work for the business; or
  3. (c) ceases to be of good repute,
the holder shall nevertheless not be treated as failing to satisfy that requirement until the expiry of such period as in the opinion of the relevant traffic commissioners is reasonably required for the appointment of a new transport manager.").

The noble Lord said: Again with your Lordships' permission, with this amendment I would also speak to Amendment No. 91. This is a small but useful amendment. It will ensure that no operator will be put out of business just because he can no longer rely on a transport manager who satisfies the requirements of the Community access directive. A transport manager may die, become incapacitated, lose his good repute or simply just leave the business.

This may leave the operator high and dry through no fault of his own. The amendment will allow the operator to carry on without a professionally competent person for as long as the traffic commissioners think he needs in order to appoint a new transport manager. In the case of a large firm there will usually be a qualified man who can take over immediately, but a small operator could well experience some difficulty in finding a manager who has "professional competence". The traffic commissioners will be given discretion to decide in individual cases what a "reasonable" period would be in which to find a new manager, but the principle is that the gap should be as short as possible. I beg to move.


I rise merely in order to probe into whether or not there is complete cover here. It may be that the noble Lord can help me. If he cannot do so at the moment, I shall understand it if he wants time to consider the point. This deals with the question of some mishap occurring with a transport manager upon whom the business relies— whether he ceases to be of good repute or dies or becomes mentally unstable. What is the position if it is an occurrence which does not terminate the transport manager's services, but suspends his services. Take the obvious example of an employer who is very considerate but may not operate for the benefit of the public or the safety of the public and who waits for his transport manager who has taken a prolonged holiday for an unreasonably long period and the business is not properly covered and the transport manager is the one relied upon. If one goes into the realms of crime, which this deals with in some way, what happens if it is not a question of finding a new transport manager but of waiting for a prosecution to be concluded where a transport manager is charged with something and the employer— and again dealing with (I almost said "undertaking") a company or business which is reliant upon the transport manager's skill— says, "I know he has been remanded in custody for all this time. In the circumstances, I feel I ought to wait until the prosecution is finished. It is unfortunate that he keeps on being remanded in custody all this time". As I said, I am not quite sure that my own investigations were complete, and it may be that this is covered in some schedule or clause that I have not traced. It may be that it is something which ought to be covered.

I realise it is unfair to throw this at the noble Lord from this Dispatch Box at this moment. If he can answer, I shall be delighted, but if he cannot, I shall understand if some intimation reaches me before Report stage so that at least I can put something down on Report if the position is not covered.


I can promise that the noble Lord will receive a letter from me before Report stage. I do not know the further details of the Community directive. I know the gist of it. The advice from my department is that this is a matter which will be left to the traffic commissioners' discretion because it is thought one cannot cover every possibility. That is why I gave merely some examples. I think that the kind of case referred to by the noble Lord will also be left to the traffic commissioners' discretion.


I rise again only to clarify the question that I put. I am taking it for granted that it is something which would not reach the traffic commissioners' knowledge. The employer will have no duty, as I understand it, to notify if there was a question of illness or of such matters as I have indicated. If the noble Lord will have the whole of that matter looked into where it does not come necessarily to the notice of the Traffic Commissioners, I should be grateful.

2.13 p.m.

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 81: Page 56, line 23, leave out ("before 1st January 1978").

The noble Lord said: With the Committee's consent, with this amendment I will speak to Amendments Nos. 83 and 84. These are purely technical amendments intended to ensure that paragraphs 7 to 9 of the schedule really mean what we intended them to mean all along. In fact, what they have to do is to reproduce the provision in the EEC access directive (74/562). The previous draft was to some extent inconsistent, or at least misleading, in two respects. I will not trouble the Committee with details. I hope these changes now put the matter right. I beg to move.

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 82: Page 56, line 38, leave out ("undertaking") and insert ("company").

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this amendment with Amendment No. 78. I beg to move.

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendments Nos. 83 and 84 en bloc: Page 57, leave out from beginning of line 3 to first ("for") in line 4 and insert ("he was authorised to engage in the occupation of road passenger transport operator before 1st January 1978, and was so authorised— (a) ") line 7, leave out ("he was so authorised").

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 85: Page 57, leave out lines 9 to 12.

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this amendment on Amendment No. 74. I beg to move.

Schedule 3, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 21 [Conditions attached to licences]:

[Amendment No. 86 not moved.]

Lord MORRIS moved Amendment No. 87: Page 21, line 5, leave out from ("use") to ("under") in line 6.

The noble Lord said: This is another drafting amendment of sublime simplicity. It is directed solely to the fact that the words in brackets in Clause 21 (1) — (no matter whether at a stage, express or contract carriage) "—

are in effect tautology. They are not necessary because the conditions attached to the licences which are being handled by this particular clause can only mean licences attached to a stage, express or contract carriage. I beg to move.


Once again, I am grateful to my noble friend for producing a drafting amendment which, in our opinion simplifies the subsection. We are very pleased to accept it.

Lord BELLWIN: moved Amendments Nos. 88 and 89 en bloc:

Page 21, line 39, leave out ("Subject to subsection (8)"). line 43, leave out subsection (8).

The noble Lord said: I spoke to these amendments with Amendment No. 20. I beg to move.

Lord BELLWIN moved Amendment No. 90.

Page 22, line 2, at end insert— ("() Compliance with any condition attached to a PSV operator's licence under this section may be temporarily dispensed with by the traffic commissioners by whom the licence was granted if they are satisfied that compliance with the condition would be unduly onerous by reason of circumstances not foreseen when the condition was attached or, if the condition has been altered, when it was last altered, ").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment is to add some flexibility to the way in which conditions attached to operators' licences work. The most important kind of condition we are talking about is the one which limits the maximum number of vehicles which may be used under the licence. But there may be other conditions attached under subsection (3) which apply more general restrictions on the use of vehicles. One example is that envisaged in subsection (4) — that is, the regulation of stopping places to alleviate traffic congestion.

Unforeseen circumstances can always arise which make existing conditions quite inappropriate, or indeed impossible, to comply with. If the problem is a permanent one, the right remedy is to alter the conditions; but if there is some temporary difficulty it would be unnecessarily bureaucratic to require formal alteration of conditions, perhaps just for a few days. This amendment will instead provide a quick power for conditions to be temporarily dispensed with by the commissioners where unforeseen circumstances make compliance with conditions unduly onerous. I would point out that a similar dispensing power for road service licences was added to the Bill in another place. I beg to move.


May I at once make it clear there is no argument at all with the principle of this amendment so far as my friends and I are concerned? One little doubt creeps into one's mind, however, at the use of this power by the traffic commissioners allied to the word "temporarily" without any definition. The Committee can well understand that applications for licences may be heard with opposition which is withdrawn upon a condition being agreed to be put into a licence. The traffic commissioners, because of something unforeseen, will have an application made to them for the removal of that condition. It is absolutely right, as the Minister says, that if this were a matter of a day or two it would be quite absurd to ask that there should then be consultation with other applicants or consultation with other authorities before the condition is waived. Unfortunately, however, the Bill now talks in terms of the word "temporarily" without any definition, without any limitation, on those words. I do not know whether the Minister has in mind some direction by way of regulation— or whatever it may be— with a rather neater definition of what "temporarily" means, so that the traffic commissioners realise exactly where they stand and the limitation of their powers.

One can well imagine examples where this may turn out to be very unfair if somebody opposing the original licence has withdrawn the opposition, saying: "Well, this condition is now being imposed and I am therefore withdrawing my opposition".


I am not quite sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, requires a further comment from me. It was always interesting to me during the past, in another incarnation, to know how "temporary" is "temporarily". There is really no answer. One can set out "temporary" or "temporarily" in the light of given sets of circumstances or situations, but without something more specific it is very difficult so to do. I could give to your Lordships a list, which I have before me, of situations which would without argument, I think, be shown to be "tempor- ary", but I suspect that your Lordships would not want me to do that.

However, can I say that it is a fascinating point that the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has made, as are so many of them. I can do no more than say, "Yes, I will take it away and talk to colleagues about that in another place, to see whether it is possible". If not, we will have to leave it at that and he will have to decide what to do.

Clause 21, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 22 [Revocation, suspension, etc. of licences]:

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 91: Page 22, line 8, leave out subsection (2).

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this when dealing with Amendment No. 79. I beg to move.

Clause 22, as amended, agreed to.

2.22 p.m.

Lord UNDERHILL moved Amendment No. 92: After Clause 22, insert the following new clause:

" Duty to exhibit operator's disc

(.—(1) A vehicle shall not be used on a road as a stage, express or contract carriage unless there is fixed and exhibited on the vehicle in the prescribed manner an operator's disc.

(2) In this section "operator's disc" means a disc in the prescribed form issued to the holder of a PSV operator's licence by the traffic commissioners by whom the licence was granted and containing particulars of the licence, which shall include the serial number, the name of the holder and the address of his operating centre.

(3) Traffic commissioners on granting a PSV operator's licence shall supply the person to whom the licence is granted with a number of operators' discs equal to the maximum number of vehicles which that person may operate under the licence in accordance with the condition or conditions attached to the licence under section 21 (1); and if that maximum number is later increased on the variation of one or more of those conditions, the traffic commissioners on making the variation shall supply the holder of the licence with further operators' discs accordingly.

(4) Regulations may make provision—

  1. (a) with respect to the custody and production of operators' discs;
  2. (b) for the issue of new operators' discs in place of those lost, destroyed, or defaced;
  3. (c) for the return of operators' discs on the revocation or expiration of a PSV operator's licence or in the event of a variation of one or more conditions attached to a licence under section 21 (1) having the effect of reducing the maximum number of vehicles which may be used under the licence.

(5) Subject to subsection (6), if a vehicle is used in contravention of subsection (1), the operator of the vehicle shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £ 200.

(6) In any proceedings for an offence under subsection (5) it shall be a defence for the person charged to prove that he took all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to avoid the commission of such an offence.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment proposes the insertion of a new clause which imposes a duty to exhibit an operator's disc. In effect, the amendment would reinstate the former Clause 23 which was in the Bill as originally drafted but was then taken out. The main point of the new clause which we propose is again to require the display of an O-licence disc. Without such a disc the whole O-licensing system becomes absolutely unenforceable. The Government believe it would be possible to rely on the one-inch lettering which is statutorily required to be painted on the nearside of the vehicle. That merely says that the vehicle has been fitted. The problem of sign-writing vehicles when they are brought into use clearly is much greater than merely slipping a disc into a holder. Indeed, there are practical experiences which show the problems created by the sign-writing, because unfortunately there are times when many public vehicles are not kept properly up-to-date with this one-inch writing; but that would not matter when there is a passenger service vehicle disc. But to rely upon lettering, as opposed to the display of a disc, we submit is wholly unrealistic. If an operator is issued with, say, 12 discs he can have only 12 vehicles on the road at any one time. If he has more, it will be readily apparent that the additional vehicles have an empty discholder.

Because of the importance of this enforcement aspect, we on this side of the Committee are prepared to accept O-licence discs which do not relate to the individual vehicle; but we say there must be a sufficient number of discs issued to each operator as otherwise there can be no possible enforcement. If, say, he has 20 vehicles on the road and he has licences for 20, he is all right; but if by any chance he was running 24, nobody would know whether that was within his licence or not. But if he was supplied with the number of discs covered by the licence, then any empty disc-holder would indicate that a vehicle was being run in excess of the allocated number. This we regard as a most important matter, because it covers enforcement, and I hope that the Government will see fit to reinstate the clause. The Government had it in the Bill originally, and with the slight modifications which we have made we believe that it ought to be reinstated. I beg to move.


As the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, said, this is a most important amendment and a very important clause. We want to get some strong assurances from the Government, because this is very much a "crunch" amendment. I can talk about this because of my own experience in the bus and coach industry. In that industry, one probably notices points which would not even occur to other people, although, with great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, I think that he has made the case very clearly.

It is for this reason that I have doubts when I see that, for identifying vehicles in an O-licence, the Government seek to place total reliance on the one-inch lettering required by Regulation 40 of the PSV (Conditions of Fitness, Equipment and Use) Regulations 1972. It might be worth mentioning that I know that if the noble Earl, Lord Minto, were here, he would reiterate that point, because he had a word with me on Tuesday. As a lay commissioner, he knows that traffic commissioners are more concerned about this amendment than about any other.

If your Lordships examined a sufficient number of coaches, I think you would find that in quite a few cases the lettering was not up-to-date. If you went to a smart car or coach park, such as at Victoria Coach Station or Vauxhall Bridge Road, you might find that the National Bus Company's vehicles lettering was in order, but if you went anywhere else, such as to a sporting event, you would probably find that the lettering was not there.

It is a cumbersome system, very much unsuited to enforcement, and I suggest that it should be abolished. In its place, there should be a system of discs, interchangeable between the vehicles in an operator's fleet. That is the basis of the argument which has been so cogently presented by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill. It is a mistake to confuse the controls placed on an operator with the safety of any vehicle; that is a matter which is dealt with in Clauses 15 to 17, not in Clauses 18 to 26.

There are many connected arguments which can be related to this question of discs, but they are not of immediate relevance to this Bill and I do not wish to detain the Committee. Therefore, I conclude by noting that this new clause would follow original Government thinking on this subject, apart from the possibility of relating discs to individual vehicles— which, as I have indicated, is a confusion of functions— and I commend it to the Committee.


My right honourable friend and I do not share the alarmist view that the system which we were proposing, without discs, would cause safety standards to slip. After all, the vehicle testing and inspection provisions in the Bill are the most comprehensive that this country has ever seen. But we do not wish to create additional problems for the enforcement agencies, which have a hard enough task as things are. We are therefore considering the reinstatement of a clause on discs, similar to the one which stands on the Marshalled List. So, in many ways both my noble friend Lord Teviot and the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, are pushing at an open door, because I am happy to be able to say, without going into a lot more detail, as I could and, if pressed, will, that while I cannot agree to this clause in its present form, I can give an assurance to the noble Lords who have spoken that we shall introduce a very similar clause at Report stage. Therefore, I ask the noble Lord not to press his amendment.


I am very grateful to the noble Lord and delighted that the Government are reinstating a clause of some kind. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 23 [Duty to inform traffic commissioners of relevant convictions, etc.]:

2.30 p.m.

Lord MISHCON moved Amendment No. 93:

Page 23, line 21, leave out from ("of") to ("whose") in line 23 and insert ("any person").

The noble Lord said: I think that this is merely a drafting improvement. If one looks at page 23, line 21, of the Bill, it appears to me that the wording is otiose. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Morris, who has now become a drafting committee of his own on all Bills, will support me. The wording is as follows: (1) A person who has applied for a … licence shall forthwith notify the traffic commissioners to whom the application was made if, in the interval between the making of the application and the date on which it is disposed of, a relevant conviction occurs"—

then the words are recited— of the applicant, or any employee or agent of his, or of any person proposed to be engaged as transport manager … ".

One would have thought that the proper thing to say here was that the notification should be of any person whose repute and competence are relied upon in connection with the application.

I remember very well ministerial replies— one can well understand that these were proper replies— to the effect that in a Bill it is foolish to limit oneself by description, because one can never tell what other matter might arise in the future which would make those limitations irrelevant or ineffective. It must be right that it should be the duty of the applicant for a licence to inform the traffic commissioners of the relevant convictions of any person whose repute and competence are relied upon in connection with the application without having to define whether or not they are an employee or an agent, which may be a matter of some dispute, or whether or not it is a partner, albeit a sleeping partner, or somebody who, it could be argued, did not come within this subsection.

I hope that this is a helpful suggestion in order to ensure that we are not limiting ourselves but are legislating for the fact that the applicant shall inform the traffic commissioners of any person whose convictions are relevant.


May I ask for your Lordships' permission to speak to my own and my noble friend's amendment, Amendment No. 94, and at the same time to comment on the amendment which is now before your Lordships' Committee. These amendments are clearly alternative to one another and seek to overcome what seems to be a strange piece of drafting in the Bill.

After reading and rereading Clause 23 I am still confused. I find one difficulty over the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon: the different ways in which the word "person" is used in the same subsection. It seems to me that the amendment standing in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Morris offers a sensible and comprehensive solution. It would relate the words "whose repute and competence are relied on" to anybody proposed to be employed, whether as worker or agent. I hope that the simplicity of this approach will find favour with the Committee.


I rise to support my noble friend Lord Teviot. As I am sure my noble friend Lord Bellwin is aware, this is an attempt at clarification. It has no object other than that. I am sure that he will be as sympathetic to this amendment as he has been to the previous amendments standing in my name.


These are important matters, of course, and the noble Lord's Amendment No. 93 and my noble friend's Amendment No. 94 also tie up with Amendment No. 95. All these amendments overlook the fact that the wording of the Bill reflects the terms of the EEC access directive (74/562), which, as we have said, requires an applicant to fulfil the conditions of good repute, financial standing and professional competence, as set out in Schedule 3. If the applicant cannot claim professional competence, or is a company rather than an individual, there must be a transport manager who is of good repute and profes- sional competence. That is what is meant by the proposed transport manager whose repute and competence are relied on in connection with the application". The words do not apply with such force to other employees and agents. Therefore, the clause is correctly worded as it stands.

Perhaps it might be useful if I explained in more detail how all this will work. The access directive is very specific in defining a "professionally competent" person as someone with relevant paper qualifications or practical experience, but it calls for member states to determine "good repute". We have applied the yardstick of "relevant convictions" which has existed to goods vehicle operator licensing since 1968. Whereas only one person in the undertaking need be professionally competent (in the EEC sense) the convictions of any employee may be relevant to the operator's good repute. Naturally the traffic commissioners will use their discretion. They are not going to penalise a large operator just because he has one or two black sheep among his staff. And even if an operator himself is convicted of a relevant offence, the traffic commissioners may not regard it as sufficiently damaging or pertinent to his good repute as to mean that his licence has to be withdrawn.

However, there will be some cases where, even if the operator and his transport manager have kept out of trouble, the offences of their employees are such as to suggest that the whole business is shady. We need to give traffic commissioners the power to deal with those cases even if it is seldom needed in practice. That is why the clause requires operators to notify the relevant convictions of all their employees.

I should emphasise that we are not asking operators to pry into the private affairs of their employees. They are only required to report convictions which come to their notice, which will normally be those related to the business— for example, drivers' hours offences. In a well-run company the management will see to it that such offences do not occur, but if they persist it may suggest that the company is not properly managed or is deliberately evading the law. In such cases there may well be cause for action against the operators' licence, suspension, curtailment, or in extreme cases revocation.

With regard to the amendment tabled by my noble friends Lord Teviot and Lord Morris, we think that the amendment in this case is perhaps misconceived and would not have any real effect because the transport manager is by definition the only person whose repute and competence are relied upon in connection with the application and then only if the operator himself is not a professionally competent person in the sense of the Community Access Directive. In any case as I have said already, an applicant cannot be held responsible for the conduct of a prospective employee with whom we suppose he has no contractual relationship.

The only reason why a transport manager is any different is that the access directive requires a professionally competent person relied on by the applicant to be of good repute in his own right. Any relevant convictions of that person may affect his good repute so they must be reported. That does not apply to any other prospective employee. This is a complicated matter, which is why I have spoken at some length. I hope it will explain to noble Lords why we think our wording is better than the suggested amendments.


I rise only briefly to save the Committee some further time and to spare them another speech from me. I have in fact moved Amendment No. 93 and I did not mention that I was speaking then also in regard to Amendment No. 95. The reason for that was that if the objection was that "any person" was too wide and one ought to limit the definition, I was going to plead, on Amendment No. 95, for better English by defining what "any person" meant and making it perfectly clear as a result to whom "whose repute and competence are relied on" really referred in this Clause 23 (1).

Without wasting the time of the Committee any more on what really amount to semantics and clarification, I would ask the Minister whether he would not care, if he wants to limit the person to the definition contained in this subsection at the moment, to look at the wording in order to make it absolutely clear beyond peradventure as to which is the category— namely, applicant, employee or transport manager—to whom the "repute and competence" subsection of this clause refers. At the present moment it is capable of interpretation that those words cover all the categories mentioned in Clause 23 (1). If he would be kind enough to look at purely the tidiness of the matter, so far as I am concerned I do not intend to weary the Committee any more.


I will certainly look at it, and I hope the noble Lord will look at my speech in detail. I think if he looks at the small print in my speech he may see that some of the words are covered. But I will certainly look to see if we can make matters any clearer.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 94 and 95 not moved.]

2.42 p.m.

Lord BELLWIN moved Amendment No. 96:

Page 23, line 27, leave out from first ("of") to end of line 33 and insert— (" (a) any relevant conviction of the holder; or (b) any relevant conviction of any officer, employee or agent of the holder for an offence committed in the course of the holder's road passenger transport business, and to do so within 28 days of the conviction in the case of a conviction of the holder or his transport manager and within 28 days of the conviction coming to the holder's knowledge in any other case.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is the result of a re-examination of Clause 23 following discussion in another place. Some concern was expressed there at the wideness and indeed the impracticability of the present obligation on operators in Clause 23 to notify the traffic commissioners of relevant convictions of his employees or agents. Under this amendment a licence holder will only have to notify the commissioners of employees' convictions for offences committed in the course of his business, not in anyone else's, and in the course of his road passenger transport business, not in, say, some unconnected greengrocery run by the same man. I hope this narrowing will be welcomed. The essential system is maintained which is needed to protect the public, but the amendment ensures that the licence holder's duty is a realistic one. I beg to move.

Lord MISHCON moved Amendment No. 97 as an amendment to Amendment No. 96: line 7, leave out ("28") and insert ("14").

The noble Lord said: May I first deal with the speech that the Minister has just made, in which he outlined the reason for the use of these additional words which do not appear in the Bill, namely "in the course of the holder's road passenger transport business", so that this is the only relevant conviction which is dealt with in this clause. It is all very well for the Minister to say that this is now to be limited to the business of the holder of the licence and that this is a satisfactory way of dealing with the matter.

I entirely accept the fact that a conviction in the course of carrying on a part-time occupation in a greengrocer's business would not be particularly relevant from the point of view of the transport business in a transport Bill. However, this wording, if I may say so with the utmost respect, is extremely clumsy and I do not think that it meets what the Minister was trying to say. What happens, for example, if an employee is, in fact, lent to another holder of a transport licence, or indeed to somebody who does not hold a transport licence at all, but it is in connection with traffic and transport that there is a conviction? Although the holder of the licence knew about this perfectly well, it would mean that, although it has a very strict transport relevance, it is not something which has to be notified. Can that be right?

There are all sorts of examples of which one can think. For example, there is a part-time employee in the transport holder's business. That employee may be someone upon whom he relies and it may well be that the licence was granted upon the basis of that employee being there. However, he is only part-time and for the rest of his time he is not engaged in transport. Suppose there is a conviction and the holder of the licence knows about it. Are those convictions not to be disclosed, although very relevant to transport and safety matters? With great respect, the situation cannot be right with the limitation which is imposed at present by this wording.


The noble Lord is supposed to be talking to Amendment No. 97.


As I understand it, the Minister moved Amendment No. 96. I am talking on Amendment No. 96 and the words: in the course of the holder's road passenger transport business.


The noble Lord has put down two amendments to Amendment No. 96. We must dispose of the figure before we can decide on the clause itself.


I am most grateful for that guidance. There is a procedural matter that I had overlooked. I apologise to the Committee for my ignorance. Before I go into the question of the wording— and I promise not to repeat my speech because members of the Committee will be aware of the point that I am making— all I wish to say as regards these amendments; namely, Amendments Nos. 97 and 98 (which I shall speak to together with the Committee's leave) is that questions of convictions are obviously of great materiality. It may be a question of a conviction which implies that the public may be at danger because of what has happened in regard to a charge that may have been brought, and very relevant, too, to matters of transport.

It is quite wrong in my submission that a period as long as 28 days should be allowed for that sort of notification. Surely, to give a fortnight for the notification of a conviction of this nature is quite sufficient? One would have thought that it was necessary, in order to safeguard the public and to enable the commissioners to carry out their duty, that 14 days should be the period within which the conviction is to be notified. That is the reasoning behind those two amendments.


As regards this matter the noble Lord would be seeking to change the law. At present the law specifies 28 days in this connection. I am not aware that any problems have ever arisen on this point, especially of the import that the noble Lord attaches to the matter. It does not seem to me over-generous. I do not really see a need for any reduction. It is a moderately trivial matter which was heavily debated in the Commons.

It is suggested to me that his friends in another place argued rather the opposite way to that which the noble Lord has just argued. I do not think that there is any question of danger to the public in any way. I should expect any normal operator or company to inform the commissioners well within 14 days; but let us suppose that something happened just before Christmas or a time like that; one can appreciate that it would, perhaps, not be practical for them to get the relevant information to the authorities concerned. We must remember that the penalties in this matter are heavy, and one would not want to put people at risk to the law by changing it in this case.


I make only one comment in regard to what the Minister has said. I am quite well aware that this, indeed, would mean an alteration of the law on the time limit. The whole purport of this Bill is, indeed, to impose an onus in a very different way on the question of the granting of licences. It appears to be the Government's ambition to have many more licences granted than have been granted in the past. Therefore, in the new circumstances I should have thought that this safeguard was a relevant one.


I thought that the noble Lord was just making a final point. Of necessity, I do not accept his arguments. I agree that we are changing the law, but we are not changing the law of 28 days in the main 1968 Act. I do not think that it is necessary. One must have regard to every possible contingency, however remote, and I think that the noble Lord is assuming that everything will always be nice and easy. There are exceptional occasions and this gives 28 days for those occasions. I think it is reasonable to leave the figure as 28 days.

On Question, amendment to Amendment No. 96 negatived.

[Amendment No. 98 not moved.]


The Question is that Amendment No. 96 be agreed to?


As I promised, I shall not repeat my speech, but I hope that in courtesy it will be answered.


The most courteous way in which I can answer that is to say that I, too, shall not repeat my speech.


That does not cover the point. I am afraid that the Minister forces me to my feet again, only because, with great respect, his speech did not cover the point I made. Perhaps I may summarise it, and I hope that the patience of the Committee will be as generous as it always is while I do so. I can well understand why it is necessary that a conviction to be reported should be one relevant to the transport industry and to the whole conduct of a transport business. I do not seek to make any point that any other conviction should be notified, but the wording as now included in this amendment restricts the matter to: an offence committed in the course of the holder's road passenger transport business", That means what it says, that it must be an offence in the holder's own transport business of any officer, employee or agent of his.

I was putting to the Committee a point with which the Minister did not deal, where there was a secondment, a permission, for this employee or officer to go to another transport business where that person was not the employee or agent of the person to whom he was loaned, if that is the correct word to use, or might not even be the holder of a licence, but the offence is very relevant to transport.

I was asking the Minister whether he would kindly direct his mind to that, and whether he would not, on reflection, concede that it is narrowing it too much to limit the conviction where there is an offence committed in the course of the holder's own—I am putting in the word "own" but that is obviously what it means—road passenger transport business, and whether it should not in fact read (and I am not asking for these words to be precisely used, but only giving the meaning behind my argument) "in the course of a road passenger transport business", which might even be an improvement. It is an unnecessary and wrong limitation in the present wording. If the Minister would merely say that he would look at it and consider the argument so that we knew where we were before Report stage, I personaly would be quite content.


I certainly and gladly give that undertaking. I follow the line of argument, and, Yes, I think perhaps the best way to deal with it would be as the noble Lord suggested. We will have a look at the definitions and the terms and see whether we can be helpful.

2.57 p.m.

Lord UNDERHILL moved Amendment No. 99:

Page 23, line 33, at end insert— (" () Where an applicant for a PSV operator's licence notifies the traffic commissioner of a conviction of one of his employees which may result in his having to dismiss or transfer that employee as a condition of obtaining the licence he shall at the same time as he notifies the traffic commissioner notify the employee that he has done so.").

The noble Lord said: The Committee has been considering the clause which requires operators to notify the traffic commissioners if any one of their employees has an appropriate conviction. In another place, an amendment was proposed that would have made it obligatory for an applicant for a passenger service vehicle operator's licence to inform an employee's trade union that they had notified the commissioners of that conviction. We do not consider it the responsibility of anyone other than the employee concerned to notify his trade union. It must be left to the individual himself as to whether he will notify the trade union, no one else.

On the other hand, we consider it absolutely essential that if the commissioners are notified about an employee's conviction, when that is done the employee himself should be told that the commissioners have been so informed. That is the simple point of this amendment: one of elementary justice that the individual should be told that the commissioners have been given this information, so that then if he wishes to raise it with his trade union it is a matter for him to do and nobody else.


I have every sympathy which much of the reasoning behind this amendment, but with great respect it is not relevant to this Bill. It is rather a matter of good industrial relations practice. I hope that individuals concerned will be informed in circumstances like this. In any case, very few relevant convictions of employees are likely in the period between application for licence and the determination of application, which is the only period covered by this amendment. I should add that dismissals of employees are nothing to do with the traffic commissioners. Employees of course will have all their usual rights under the law.


I do not want to weary the Committee, but I am not clear about this, having been in the position myself. I must say that the union were extremely kind to me in providing legal services. The position at the moment is that if a man is convicted his employer knows about it, and also even if you are convicted for speeding, which is completely outside your own duty— perhaps I am talking completely at cross purposes, and if so I apologise— one gets a piece of paper from the traffic commissioners anyway saying, "If you go on doing this sort of thing you might have your licence withdrawn". Perhaps my noble friend or the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, can clarify this point.


I would hardly think it likely that traffic commissioners would make the dismissal of an employee or anything of that sort conditional on the granting of a licence. The noble Lord should not worry too much; any employee will know if he has committed a traffic offence. This only concerns technical information for the traffic commissioners. I do not think any employee should be too upset by this. It will not be published in any local newspapers or offices; it will be private information.


At this hour, when noble Lords are suffering from exhaustion if not hunger, I will not delay the Committee on this matter. I am sorry the Minister seemed to imply that this is an unimportant issue. It could be very important to the individual. On the understanding that we shall look further into the matter and at what the Minister said in reply, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment. I do so also on the understanding that we may wish to return to it at a later stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord BELLWIN moved Amendment No. 100: Page 24, line 7, leave out ("knowingly").

The noble Lord said: I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 20. I beg to move.

Clause 23, as amended, agreed to.


I think the moment has been reached in the Committee stage when we would agree that an adjournment would be advisable. I therefore move that the House do now resume.

House resumed.