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New Clause 9

Volume 981: debated on Monday 24 March 1980

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

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 use 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—

  • (a) with respect to the custody and production of operators' discs;
  • (b) for the issue of new operators' discs in place of those lost, destroyed, or defaced;
  • (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.'.—[ Mr. Prescott.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

    We may discuss at the same time Government amendments Nos. 71 and 72.

    Like the earlier new clauses, this one is designed to provoke a debate on a principle—in this case, the duty to exhibit an operator's disc. The new clause is almost exactly the same as the clause which the Government removed from the Bill. On Second Reading, in Committee and in the consultative document, they were apparently convinced by the argument that, as part of the enforcement of the operating licensing system, a vehicle should exhibit such a disc. We seek to put that requirement back into the Bill.

    There is probably a balance of judgment here, but our view is that without the display of such a disc the licensing system for buses will be less enforceable. That was apparently the Government's view until the Committee stage. Their argument for removing this provision was that the commissioners would have less clerical work and bureaucracy would be reduced.

    This shift to "quality control", from an emphasis on the vehicle itself to an emphasis on the operator's conditions, was clearly recommended in EEC legislation and was already embodied in the 1968 legislation. The report of the Foster committee into road haulage operating licensing was much concerned with certification and display of discs in the operation of this licensing system.

    The lorry licensing system has been a trail blazer for bus licensing. Licensing was first imposed on lorries and buses in the 1930s to ensure safety, fair competition and the provision of services. The first departure from that principle was with denationalisation in 1953, but it was the 1968 Labour legislation which emphasised the safety aspect and the quality of the vehicle, not only by more stringent tests on the vehicles themselves but by improving the quality of the operators. The emphasis was, therefore, placed more firmly on the operator who was considered to be of good repute, was of good financial standing and possessed certain qualifications laid down by legislation covering the road haulage industry.

    8.30 pm

    The disc was retained as evidence of the enforcement system. It is interesting to note that Professor Foster—in view of criticisms—looked at the operation of the system and the avoidance of enforcement techniques by a number of cowboy operators. He made certain recommendations that I believe are relevant to this debate.

    One matter of immediate concern—and perhaps the Minister can reassure us—is this. If we are to retain the disc for heavy goods vehicles as part of our system of ensuring safety, why is it not considered necessary for the passenger transport service? Obviously, the carrying of great numbers of passengers demands greater safety precautions than those needed for heavy goods vehicles. That may be a cynical point to make, because only one or two cowboy lorry drivers are involved, but we should be stricter where greater numbers are involved.

    Concern for safety should be an important part of our deliberations. The disc system is not the most essential part of our safety control mechanisms. Other control features have been developed. Nevertheless, the Foster report considers the disc system to be important in relation to safety and operator licensing. That inquiry was concerned with cowboy operators.

    In Committee we said that we wished to tighten the procedure, and we considered the possibility of the vehicle registration number being included on the disc. We considered restricting the flexibility of use of the disc because of the possibility that an operator might have 15 buses and only 10 licences. That situation might be decided by his operating centre and other factors determined by the commissioner. The industry did not necessarily agree with that point but it concerned me when I considered those operators who had more buses than they had licences. That situation tends to encourage the avoidance of the control intended to be exercised by the disc system.

    After all, the commissioner decides the number of discs issued to a company. If a company is using more vehicles than it is licensed to use, that is an avoidance we seek to prevent. In the face of our desire to tighten up the procedure, the Government removed it completely. That took the Opposition by surprise. A pattern seemed to have developed in Committee. Every time we pointed out a difficulty or expressed a desire to tighten up the procedure in an attempt to follow the logic of a clause, the Government immediately dropped it.

    I have in mind car sharing and the cost involved. We pointed out the difficulties about car insurance in relation to those who shared a car. The Government's response was to remove the provision on car sharing. We are still not satisfied with that response. Nevertheless, passenger service appears to be following the path established by the road haulage industry in the matter of safety procedures, enforcement procedures and licensing controls.

    It is relevant to bear in mind what Professor Foster had to say in his recent report to the Department about operator licensing in the road haulage industry. In the light of what has happened, it seems that Professor Foster is, on balance, recommending in the 90-odd provisions of his report—not all of which are devoted to discs—that there should be a tightening up of the procedures and not a loosening of them. He points out how some operators can get round the licensing procedures and he indicates to the Government how the system might be tightened up.

    We are concerned—and I trust that the Parliamentary Secretary will address his mind to this—that if the duty to display a disc is not to be imposed upon passenger service operators, that may mean that the Government will also remove that obligation from heavy goods vehicle operators. What are the Government's reasons for not imposing that duty on the passenger service operators? Some reasons have been given in the report, and it is to those reasons that we address our minds. Foster was concerned only with minorities, so that we are concerned here not with mass evasion but with creating a system that can bring to order the minority who wish to break the law or disregard their obligations under operator licensing. Any administrative system involves bureaucratic control, and safety administration requires some form of bureaucracy. Its extent must be a matter for judgment.

    In Committee the Government took the view that the same purpose could be achieved by a different means. Instead of operators having to apply for a licence by filling out a form and getting a disc, they would rely on the name and licence number being painted on the side of the vehicle. That idea is not new. Regulations already use that arrangement. The Public Service Vehicles (Conditions of Fitness, Equipment and Use) Regulations 1972 state in paragraph 40:
    "Every vehicle shall be marked in readily legible characters not less than 1 inch in height and painted in a conspicuous position on the near side of the vehicle in colours which contrast with their background, with the name and address of the authority, company, firm or individual to whom or to whose representative the public service vehicle licence under Part III of the Act was granted in respect of the vehicle".
    The Government said that if all that information were painted on the side of the lorry, that would be sufficient; There was no need for a disc to be displayed.

    Certain problems arise out of the procedure that the Government propose. The obvious difficulty is of getting a sign-writer. Advice to me from the industry states that that is difficult, but that claim is not conclusive. Past practice has tended to throw up problems in that respect. A considerable amount of evidence shows that the writing is not kept up to date. It is not easy to change the painting on the side of a lorry that is in regular use. I am told that a number of lorries are currently in contravention of the regulation. It is much easier to amend the informaon a disc, which would be prominently displayed, than to change a painted sign.

    The other point concerns the number of vehicles that an operator can run. Under the previous proposals, if an operator had 20 vehicles he would have to have 20 discs. But now the possession of 20 discs does not mean that an operator has 20 vehicles. He can own more vehicles than he has discs as long as the number of vehicles actually in operation does not exceed the number he is registered to operate. It is much easier to transfer a disc from one lorry to another than to transfer a door. Those are the sort of practical difficulties which could lead to evasion. It is much easier for an operator to plead difficulties in getting information painted on the door of a lorry than to plead difficulties over a disc which is available for all to see. The problem is how to check that and how to enforce the system. On balance, there is a better argument for using the disc system. I hope that the Minister will say why he feels it is necessary to retain it for lorries but not to exempt buses. The question is whether the disc indicates more clearly that the operator is licensed to carry out his duties.

    It is interesting to recall the words of Professor Foster. In chapter 8.90 of his report on the enforcement of safety, he says:
    "In our judgment, the first and by far the most important step to check illegal operation is to require all vehicles to carry a visible licence plate in a conspicuous place, and we recommend that this should be done as soon as possible."
    He continues in paragraph 8.95:
    "These changes should make it far easier to detect illegal vehicles. If, as we recommend in Chapter 13, they are backed up by a computer record system immediately accessible to policemen and vehicle and traffic examiners in order to check quickly on a particular vehicle, it would become much harder for individual vehicles or whole fleets to operate illegally through falsification … of plates."
    Police computers are impressive when they are used to check cars. On one occasion I was stopped by the police and asked whether I owned the car that I was driving. It was checked by a police computer in a few seconds. To that extent, Foster recommended an important law enforcement procedure. The Government should give better reasons why they think it is necessary for information to be painted on the sides of vehicles.

    The industry and the operators prefer the disc system. I am also informed that they cannot accept that the chairman of the traffic commissioners would be able to devise an acceptable system of sign-writing.

    In Committee, the Minister said that the burden of evidence was that we should do away with the disc system. I challenged him on that. I said:
    "Apart from the traffic commissioners and the Government, I wonder whether there are other organisations which … are strongly for retaining this disc or symbol—organisations such as the police or other authorities."
    The Minister replied:
    "I take the hon. Gentleman's point. We considered and consulted on the matter. I examined the clause, having seen the system, and asked whether it was necessary. We decided that it is not."—[Official Report, Standing Committee H, 7 February, 1980; c. 1280.]
    Can the Parliamentary Secretary say how that decision was reached? Presumably, when discussions started, the commissioners agreed with it. The Minister must have had consultations with the commissioners and with the operators, who apparently wish to retain the disc system. What was the new insight? Surely it was not bureaucracy. That was clearly known before publication of the Bill. Will the Parliamentary Secretary also confirm that the commissioners are prepared to abandon the disc system for buses but presumably to retain it for lorries?

    I think that the balance of the argument both by Foster and by others concerned is that the disc should be retained to help in enforcement. It would make it more difficult for the minority of cowboy operators to continue their practices. We must make a judgment on the balance between bureaucracy and the enforcement of standards. In our view, it would be better to maintain the disc as a helpful contributory factor, as in the road haulage industry, for the enforcement of both safety and other standards in the industry.

    8.45 pm

    There were two occasions in Committee when we shot the Opposition's fox on two rather difficult points. One was the regulation-making power which we were proposing to take to govern the costs of car sharing, and the other was the requirement to display a disc on public service vehicles.

    On both those matters, the Opposition tabled a number of amendments and pointed out the considerable difficulties which might arise in practice from the Government's suggestions as they then stood. We looked at both those points and, after reconsidering them, we decided that in both cases the best answer to the difficulties was not to go ahead with what we were proposing. I shall not deal with the regulation-making power in respect of car sharing costs because we have an amendment about that.

    On the question of discs, we came to the conclusion, after further consideration, that there was no substantial reason for having a disc inside the vehicles at all. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) asked how we reached that conclusion. Plainly, we had a change of mind. We told the Committee that we had. Obviously, I cannot give blow-by-blow details of what went on within the Department and the Government—although I was fairly frank with the Committee quite often—but it was more or less as I have put it.

    We had a second look at the matter, prompted by the amendments put down in Committee, and we asked ourselves the fundamental question of why bother with discs at all before we went on to think of assembling arguments to answer amendments about what might or might not have to be on them.

    It seemed to us that there was no sensible answer to that question, and the enforcement problems at which the requirement was aimed were not such as to need the disc, and certainly not such as would justify the immense bureaucracy involved in issuing thousands of them.

    One was led to reflect that probably the reason why we had the clause in the Bill at all was that public service vehicles had always carried discs in the past. Such vehicles have had a PSV licence disc exhibited in the cab for perhaps as long as 50 years, and no one had actually thought of buses going around in modern circumstances without these little pieces of paper or some up-to-date equivalent in the corner of the cab.

    That was really how we arrived at our decision. I do not want to give the impression that we arrived at it lightly. I realise that there is considerable concern in the industry. The Opposition remain concerned about the enforcement problems if there are no discs in vehicles, and I know that the Confederation of Passenger Transport feels strongly on the point. It feels that enforcement of the safety provisions of the Bill will be difficult without discs.

    In fact, the representations which I have received from the Confederation of Passenger Transport are pretty close to the new clause now before us. The Opposition have changed their view compared with their position in Committee, when, as I recall it, their amendment was designed to ensure that there was a disc for every vehicle. What we have now is a proposal which is in agreement with the Confederation of Passenger Transport—

    I know that it had to be a different proposal if it was to be selected, but the point of what we now have before us is that each operator will be issued with a given number of discs, and on any given day he will be able to put those on whatever vehicles he wants to use, while making sure that he does not have more out on any day than his operator's licence would allow.

    Having considered this matter seriously, my conclusion is that I still cannot see what the point is that so troubles the Opposition and the CPT. I have looked at the matter carefully and done my best to be sure that I am not missing some obvious safety point. I ask the House to consider the safety provisions and to think of precisely what the discs are supposed to achieve.

    I had left the Chamber for a minute or two in order to telephone a colleague of mine who is a haulier and has an operator's licence. I was interested in the procedure whereby people applied for MoT certificates in the case of private vehicles and, in the case of commercial vehicles, the certification about which my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) had spoken to me privately. Is it not possible that, in the event of someone removing the disc which is provided by an authority, operators will misuse the system when they apply for licensing, as in the case of MoT certificates? Perhaps the Minister will comment on that, because that was the instant response of my colleague when I telephoned him. He said that the system was open to abuse.

    I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman's colleague is engaged in road haulage or passenger transport. Perhaps as a relevant aside I can deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East with regard to lorries. The Government will produce soon their response to the Foster report, which lays heavy emphasis on plating as an enforcement procedure in heavy goods vehicles. That is slightly different, but it aims at roughly the same point.

    Without anticipating what we shall say about Foster, there are clear reasons for distinguishing between heavy goods vehicles and passenger buses. Indeed, the systems have always been different in the past. Obviously, there are vastly more lorries than there are buses. There as vastly more operators. Lorry operators do not have the same contact with the licensing authority as is envisaged in the case of buses, where in most areas the bus operators will have regular contact with the traffic commissioners to whom they apply for the licences or services and to whom they notify all their stage carrying services. However, such operators also provide a service even if they are no longer involved in road service licensing—for example, if they are involved in excursions or tours. In that case, they advertise the availability of their tours to the general public. Therefore, there are reasons for distinguishing between the two.

    Nevertheless, we must be satisfied about the safety requirements for passenger buses. I agree that they are no less important than lorries. Indeed, it could be argued that they are even more important because of the number of people they carry.

    As I have emphasised, the safety provisions in the Bill depend on three features. First, there is the system of operating the licensing itself, whereby an operator has to be of good repute and sound financial standing and to have someone who is competent to manage the business and so on. In giving an operator a licence, the traffic commissioner has regard to his facilities, experience and competence, and he may attach conditions to the licence which may affect the number of vehicles which a person operates because of the limitation of his premises, his experience and his work force.

    In addition to operator licensing, there is the power of the vehicle inspectors to inspect the vehicle at any stage in a wide range of circumstances, and penalties can be imposed on the operator if the vehicle turns out to have defects. Certainly a prohibition can be put on any vehicle which proves to be defective.

    The third feature relates to the annual inspection of vehicles. For the first time, it will be carried out at a prescribed place by either our own inspectors or people under their supervision, so that annually every passenger vehicle carrying more than eight passengers will have a certificate saying that it has got through its annual inspection. That inspection will be much more rigorous than, for instance, the MoT test as applied to cars, which is a quite different system that is much more akin to HGV testing.

    What is it that a disc on a vehicle, whether it describes the particular vehicle or the operator, is designed to achieve? So far as I can see, there are two main purposes. The first is to ensure that at all times when a vehicle is on the road, someone is saddled with the responsibility for it. Someone, as it were, acts as the operator who carries the can for safety defects and who is liable for the penalties that will arise if he is not operating it safely. I suppose that the only slight footnote is that whoever is the operator on any given day should not be operating more vehicles than he is supposed to do if the main operator has a condition attached which limits him to a given number of vehicles.

    Let us deal with the first rider: that at any given stage somebody should be saddled with the responsibility for having the bus on the road. Perhaps I should say that someone has to be fixed, rather than saddled, with the responsibility for having the bus on the road. It is an obligation that we do not want people to shrug off. I cannot see how it is inadequate to have the name and address and licence number of the operator painted on the side of the bus. I cannot see the additional quality that a disc would have over and above the name and address painted on the side of the bus that would fix the operator with liability.

    If the operator hires out his bus and driver to another tour operator, that will not affect liability. If the operator has hired out his coach or bus with the driver, his employee, it remains the operator's liability. He is responsible for the driver's hours, the condition of the vehicle and so on. His name and address remain on the side of the bus.

    If by any chance the operator hires out his vehicle to another operator—sometimes another operator will use a vehicle, the property of another establishment in the same industry, but using his own drivers and routes—there will be a sign indicating that the vehicle is on hire to that other operator. Therefore, it will still be possible to identify who is fixed with responsibility at any given time if the vehicle is stopped by the police or by a vehicle inspector.

    That leads to the second rider: how does one know that an operator has more vehicles on the road than he is supposed to have if he has that condition imposed upon him?

    We propose by regulations—and the Bill gives the power—to provide that the operator must furnish to the traffic commissioners a list of the vehicles that he proposes to operate. There will be penalties for failure to comply with that regulation. Therefore, the traffic commissioners will have a complete list of the vehicles that an operator proposes to run. If, upon annual inspection of the vehicles, stopping the vehicles or any infringement arising from their use, it appears that an operator is operating a vehicle which is not on the list notified to the traffic commissioners, he will be liable to penalties. He will also incur the wrath of the traffic commissioners, who retain wide powers over the renewal of operators' licences and so on.

    I suppose that it will be possible on any one day, if we do not have the disc system, for someone to try to get away with it. I do not shut my mind to the possibility of the cowboy operator——to use the favourite phrase of the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, Central (Mr. Cowans), who has disappointed me by not using that phrase today—trying to get away with operating more vehicles than he has licences to operate. It will be difficult to detect.

    The problem will arise only when he is caught operating a vehicle about which he has not notified the traffic commissioners.

    I am not blinding myself to that possibility. We have to consider the possibility of that occurring in practice. It is not inconceivable that there might be such an operator. Ultimately, he will be detected, and the traffic commissioners will take appropriate action. The Opposition and the CPT suggest that operators should be issued with paper discs to be displayed on all vehicles that they operate every day of the week to guard against that eventuality. The bureaucracy, the time and the cost involved would be out of proportion to the risk involved.

    I shall not disappoint the Parliamentary Secretary, because what we are talking about is the cowboy operator. There are two questions here. First, whose is the responsibility? Is it the responsibility of the policeman stopping the bus, presuming that the operator has his name and address and telephone number on the side? What kind of bureaucracy is that? But there is a more important question. There is a fundamental difference here. Though I am not suggesting for one minute that everyone does it, the man or woman boarding the bus can look at the disc and make sure that it is a licensed bus. Under the Government's system the potential passenger cannot do that.

    9 pm

    The last point put forward by the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, Central was not his strongest. He is a rare passenger who, before boarding a bus or coach, studies the PSV disc to make sure that he is safe and knows where he is going. If it is envisaged that when such a new system comes into effect a generation of passengers will study the operator's disc before they board the bus, I shall be very surprised. The only people likely to do so are the members of the Standing Committee who have had to listen to the debates about the disc. I do not think that any ordinary members of the public would do so. If the bus crashes, is stopped for speeding or an infringement of driver's hours or is involved in an accident with another vehicle, what is needed is not a disc, a paper or any regulations backing up that paper, or the issuing of thousands of bits of paper all over the place. I suggest that a passenger should be able to look on the side of the vehicle where he will see the name and address and any other features that may be required to discover who is involved in the infringement.

    In this country we run a series of programmes to help people with problems of illiteracy. There are many old people whose eyesight is such that they cannot see. How does the Minister suggest that they cope with what he is proposing?

    First, I insist that all my vehicle examiners are literate. Secondly, I am led to believe that a high proportion of the police are literate. If an illiterate member of the public has difficulty reading the name and address on the side of a bus, I suggest that he may have difficulty reading what is on the disc which the clause suggests should be on the bus.

    The Parliamentary Secretary well knows that we are concerned that it should be recognised in the Bill that a bus company can have more buses than it has discs. Our point is that though the operating centre may have determined that an operator shall operate no more than 10 buses, he may ignore that and begin to operate more vehicles and offend against the conditions laid down in the Bill. The law enforcement agencies will not be able to ascertain that too easily, because the company will have its name and address painted on the side of all its vehicles but will be licensed for only 80 per cent. of those vehicles. With a disc it will be easier to,identify which bus is operating officially on the day. That is the point to which the Parliamentary Secretary should address his remarks.

    I accept that enforcement is the only point about which we are concerned. An operator who has a condition on his licence that he should operate a given number of buses may for some reason buy more buses than he is licensed to operate. An operator has to be a really strange man to put money into buying more buses than he is allowed to operate, though that can happen sometimes. I accept that if that condition is attached to a licence, penalties should accrue if it is broken. Such an allegation will require investigation by the traffic commissioners.

    The traffic commissioners tend to look with more care at the operations of operators whom they suspect to be at the risky end of the business or whose activities do not often come to their attention because those operators do not go in for any business activity that requires road service licensing. But in the end someone will be required to check the vehicle.

    If that person sees a vehicle with a certain registration number or name and address on the side, it will be for him to check that the traffic commissioners have that name on their records. That could be done by the police or by the traffic commissioners.

    At present I am still not persuaded—although I agree that the disc is a more foolproof system—that what we are talking about is such a serious aspect of our safety requirements, such a serious risk, that it justifies this provision being imposed on every single operator licence, for every vehicle that an operator has on the road, every day of the week, to cover it.

    With respect, the Opposition, as their first amendment in Committee showed, are just shying back to the tradition of having discs in buses, which we always had under the PSV system, which is no longer required because of our new arrangements for annual inspections. They are now trying to find new details to put on new discs. I shall continue to consider the matter carefully. There are responsible bodies that are convinced that somehow this is necessary. We have taken many soundings on this matter and we continue to do so. It has not been established to our satisfaction that there is a serious enforcement problem here which justifies this quite out-of-proportion bureaucracy. In a Bill which is designed to get rid of a great deal of the unnecessary bureaucracy and control in an area which has had far too much of it for years and years, it seems that we should concentrate on the essentials. The Bill without the disc achieves the essentials of having safe passenger vehicles on the roads.

    The Parliamentary Secretary's analogy between the power to make the car-sharing cost regulations and the disc clause is not one that I can accept. We had amendments down to both of these provisions, but in the case of car-sharing costs from the outset, right from Second Reading, we were showing just how difficult it would be, if not impossible, to make effective regulations in that area. It was a point that was finally somewhat grudgingly conceded by the Minister in Committee and withdrawn. That was the end of that.

    The position is not the same in relation to the initial proposition in the Bill about operators' licence discs, because there it was the view, and still is the view, of the Opposition that if that original clause was at fault it was because it was not sufficiently stringent. There was no question of our ever suggesting that such objections as we had to the clause would be solved in any way by taking the clause away.

    As my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) has pointed out, we are concerned about two aspects of this matter. It is fair to say that we have changed our position from what it was at the Committee stage. I shall explain why—quite apart from needing a different amendment in order to have a discussion on the matter. One reason is that we were convinced after discussions with people about the original clause that the way in which we were proposing to change it—namely, by requiring the disc to be coupled with the registration number—had a considerable drawback, namely, the lack of flexibility. People working in the industry are of the view that the original clause had a considerable advantage over the present law—namely, that by merely limiting the number of discs to the operator there would be the possibility of the operator switching the disc from one vehicle to another, where it was advantageous and sensible to do so. Provided that he switched the disc to another vehicle, which was sound, safe and properly maintained and which had its certificate of fitness, it would be better that he did that than to run a vehicle which was doubtful in any way as to the purpose of its operation.

    What the Minister has done in seeking to meet our objections between the Committee stage and the present time has destroyed that one advantage of the system originally proposed. By relating the number of discs to a list of registration numbers of vehicles, the flexibility has again gone. It has entirely disappeared. The Minister has rejected our proposition in Committee and the one aspect of the original clause that operators had favoured. He is therefore right to say that a policeman or an inspector could check a vehicle. He could then get in touch with the traffic commissioner and ask whether the vehicle was on the list. If it were not on the list, he could go ahead with a prosecution.

    In order to attain that limited degree of enforceability, flexibility will be lost. As there is a limitation on the number of vehicles that can be operated under a particular operator's licence, it will be impossible to enforce the provision by a quick visual roadside examination. That has been pointed out several times. If an operator is licensed to run 20 vehicles, the police must catch him operating not one but 21 vehicles. If he is licensed to operate 25 vehicles, the police must simultaneously catch the operation of 26 vehicles if they are to prosecute.

    We have already mentioned bureaucracy. However, another danger is that enforcement costs may become prohibitive. Which of my hon. Friends has a big enough police force in his constituency, suitably equipped with cars, to chase every vehicle that is simultaneously being run by a public service operator? The police would need to contact each other by telephone in order to count and see whether the operator was in breach of his licensing conditions.

    The condition relating to numbers is important. It involves the question of safety. If a traffic commissioner, in issuing an operator's licence has said that a particular operator should be allowed to operate only 10 vehicles, he has done so for a reason. Perhaps he is not satisfied that he can supervise more than 10. Perhaps he feels that the operator does not

    Division No. 240]


    [9.12 pm

    Adams, AllenFoulkes, GeorgeMellish, Rt Hon Robert
    Allaun, FrankGeorge, BruceMitchell, Austin (Grimsby)
    Archer, Rt Hon PeterGolding, JohnMitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)
    Ashton, JoeGourlay, HarryMorris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw)
    Benn, Rt Hon Anthony WedgwoodGraham, TedMoyle, Rt Hon Roland
    Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)Grant, George (Morpeth)Newens, Stanley
    Booth, Rt Hon AlbertHamilton, James (Bothwell)Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
    Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)Ogden, Eric
    Buchan, NormanHardy, PeterO'Neill, Martin
    Callaghan, Jim (Mlddleton & P)Harrison, Rt Hon WalterOrme, Rt Hon Stanley
    Campbell-Savours, DaleHaynes, FrankPalmer, Arthur
    Cartwright, JohnHeffer, Eric S.Park, George
    Clark, Dr David (South Shields)Hogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire)Parker, John
    Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)Holland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall)Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
    Cohen, StanleyHome Robertson, JohnPrescott, John
    Coleman, DonaldHomewood, WilliamRace, Reg
    Cowans, HarryHooley, FrankRees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds South)
    Cryer, BobHoram, JohnRoberts, Albert (Normanton)
    Cunliffe, LawrenceHowell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)Roberts, Ernest (Hackney North)
    Cunningham, George (Islington S)Hughes, Roy (Newport)Robertson, George
    Cunningham, Dr John (Whitehaven)Janner, Hon GrevilleRodgers, Rt Hon William
    Dalyell, TamJay, Rt Hon DouglasRoss, Ernest (Dundee West)
    Davidson, ArthurJohn, BrynmorRowlands, Ted
    Davies, Itor (Gower)Sever, John
    Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford)Johnson, James (Hull West)Shore, Rt Hon Peter (Step and Pop)
    Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)Johnson, Walter (Derby South)Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
    Dempsey, JamesJones, Barry (East Flint)Silverman, Julius
    Dixon, DonaldJones, Dan (Burnley)Snape, Peter
    Dobson, FrankLeadbitter, TedSoley, Clive
    Douglas, DickLeighton, RonaldSpearing, Nigel
    Dunnett, JackLewis, Ron (Carlisle)Spriggs, Leslie
    Dunwoody, Mrs GwynethLofthouse, GeoffreyStewart, Rt Hon Donald (W Isles)
    Eadie, AlexMcElhone, FrankStott, Roger
    Eastham, KenMcGuire, Michael (Ince)Strang, Gavin
    Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)McKay, Allen (Penistone)Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)
    Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)McKelvey, WilliamThomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
    Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)MacKenzie, Rt Hon GregorThomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen)
    Evans, John (Newton)Maclennan, RobertUrwin, Rt Hon Tom
    Ewing, HarryMcMillan, Tom (Glasgow, Central)Weetch, Ken
    Faulds, AndrewMarshall, David (Gl'sgow, Shettles'n)Wellbeloved, James
    Flannery, MartinMarshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)Welsh, Michael
    Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)Marshall, Jim (Leicester South)White, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffle)
    Foot, Rt Hon MichaelMaxton, JohnWhitehead, Phillip

    have a repair and maintenance contract that is suitable for more than 10 vehicles.

    We are therefore discussing something that may have a direct effort on the safe operation of vehicles. Some bureaucracy may be involved in the printing and issuing of discs. However, that is nothing like the problem that will result if we seek to enforce effectively a system without discs. If an operator has 20 discs and puts 21 vehicles on the road, one will be running without a disc. The police would have to catch only that vehicle in order to enforce the law. That is a major reason behind pressing this issue.

    I am sorry that the Minister, in so far as he has sought to meet the enforcement problem, has chosen to set up a list. It will take away from the operator the one advantage that had originally existed, that of flexibility. I therefore urge my hon. Friends to vote in favour of the new clause.

    Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

    The House divided: Ayes 134, Noes 184.

    Whitlock, WilliamWinnick, DavidTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
    Wigley, DafyddWoolmer, KennethMr. George Morton and
    Wilson, William (Coventry SE)Wrigglesworth, IanMr. James Tinn.


    Adley, RobertHaselhurst, AlanPage, Richard (SW Hertfordshire)
    Alexander, RichardHastings, StephenParris, Matthew
    Ancram, MichaelHawkins, PaulPatten, John (Oxford)
    Aspinwall, JackHawksley, WarrenPattie, Geoffrey
    Atkins, Robert (Preston North)Heddle, JohnPenhaligon, David
    Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East)Henderson, BarryPercival, Sir Ian
    Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyHicks, RobertPeyton, Rt Hon John
    Bendall, VivianHill, JamesPollock, Alexander
    Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon)Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham)Porter, George
    Berry, Hon AnthonyHooson, TomPowell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down)
    Best, KeithHordern, PeterPrentice, Rt Hon Reg
    Bevan, David GilroyHowell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Proctor, K. Harvey
    Blackburn, JohnHunt, John (Ravensbourne)Raison, Timothy
    Body, RichardHurd, Hon DouglasRathbone, Tim
    Boscawen, Hon RobertJohnston, Russell (Inverness)Rees-Davies, W. R.
    Braine, Sir BernardJopling, Rt Hon MichaelRenton, Tim
    Bright, GrahamKaberry, Sir DonaldRhodes James, Robert
    Brinton, TimKershaw, AnthonyRhys Williams, Sir Brandon
    Brooke, Hon PeterKing, Rt Hon TomRoyle, Sir Anthony
    Bruce-Gardyne, JohnKitson, Sir TimothyScott, Nicholas
    Buchanan-Smith, Hon AlickKnight, Mrs JillShaw, Giles (Pudsey)
    Buck, AntonyKnox, DavidShaw, Michael (Scarborough)
    Butcher, JohnLang, IanShelton, William (Streatham)
    Cadbury, JocelynLatham, MichaelShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
    Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Le Marchant, SpencerShepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br'hills)
    Chalker, Mrs LyndaLester, Jim (Beeston)Skeet, T. H. H.
    Chapman, SydneyLloyd, Peter (Fareham)Speed, Keith
    Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)Loveridge, JohnSpeller, Tony
    Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Luce, RichardSpence, John
    Clegg, Sir WalterLyell, NicholasSpicer, Michael (S Worcestershire)
    Colvin, MichaelMacfarlane, NeilSproat, Iain
    Cope, JohnMacKay, John (Argyll)Squire, Robin
    Corrie, JohnMcNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury)Stainton, Keith
    Dover, DenshoreMcQuarrie, AlbertStanbrook, Ivor
    du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardMarshall, Michael (Arundel)Stanley, John
    Dunn, Robert (Dartford)Mather, CarolSteen, Anthony
    Dykes, HughMaude, Rt Hon AngusStevens, Martin
    Eden, Rt Hon Sir JohnMawby, RayStewart, John (East Renfrewshire)
    Eggar, TimothyMawhinney, Dr BrianTaylor Teddy (Southend East)
    Faith, Mrs SheilaMaxwell-Hyslop, RobinTebbit, Norman
    Fenner, Mrs PeggyMellor, DavidThompson, Donald
    Fisher, Sir NigelMeyer, Sir AnthonyThorne, Neil (Ilford South)
    Fletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N)Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch)Townend, John (Bridlington)
    Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesMills, Iain (Meriden)Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)
    Fookes, Miss JanetMills, Peter (West Devon)Trippier, David
    Fowler, Rt Hon NormanMoate, Rogervan Straubenzee, W. R.
    Fox, MarcusMolyneaux, JamesWaddington, David
    Freud, ClementMontgomery, FergusWainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
    Fry, PeterMorgan, GeraintWakeham, John
    Gardiner, George (Reigate)Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth)Walker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)
    Garel-Jones, TristanMorrison, Hon Charles (Devizes)Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
    Gorst, JohnMorrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)Waller, Garry
    Gow, IanMudd, DavidWatson, John
    Gray, HamishMurphy, ChristopherWells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)
    Greenway, HarryMyles, DavidWheeler, John
    Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St Edmunds)Neale, GerrardWickenden, Keith
    Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)Needham, RichardWilkinson, John
    Grist, IanNelson, AnthonyWolfson, Mark
    Grylls, MichaelNeubert, Michael
    Gummer, John SelwynNewton, TonyTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
    Hamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm&Ew'H)Nott, Rt Hon JohnMr. John MacGregor and
    Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Page, John (Harrow, West)Lord James Douglas-Hamilton.
    Hannam, JohnPage, Rt Hon Sir R. Graham

    Question accordingly negatived.