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Transport Bill

Volume 24: debated on Tuesday 25 May 1982

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As amended (in the Standing Committee), further considered.

Clause 8

Private-Sector Vehicle Testing

3.38 pm

I beg to move amendment No. 17, in page 6, line 19, at end insert—

'(1A) The Secretary of State may not under subsection (1) above authorise any person who is for the time being either—
  • (a) the holder of a goods vehicle operator's licence granted under Part V of the Transport Act 1968; or
  • (b) the holder of a PSV operator's licence granted under Part II of the 1981 Act;
  • to carry on a vehicle testing business; and any authorisation granted to any person under that subsection shall cease if that person subsequently becomes the holder of any such licence.'
    This amendment makes it impossible for vehicle operators to be appointed as approved testing authorities. It fulfils an undertaking given in Committee, where concern was expressed about the possibility of undue commercial pressure if vehicle operators were able to pass their vehicles and fail those of other operators. It became clear during the discussions in Committee that many hon. Members shared the view that no vehicle operators should be able to carry out tests on their own and their competitors' vehicles, with the evident risk of commercial influence that that entails.

    It has always been the Government's view that vehicle operators should not be appointed as testing authorities. We have given assurances to that effect. We agreed, however, to consider whether it would be desirable to make that intention plain in the Bill. That is what the amendment does. The amendment makes it impossible for the Secretary of State to authorise as an improved testing authority any person—that includes a company—who holds an operator's licence either for PSVs or HGVs. The provision will reassure hon. Members and those in the industry who have been concerned that we should never enable a vehicle operator to pass his own vehicle and fail those of his competitors. That possibility is clearly ruled out.

    I am grateful to the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary for tabling the amendment. In Committee we were concerned that the hiving off of vehicle testing centres from the Department of Transport to private enterprise would lead to undue commercial pressures that could damage road safety and public confidence in the testing system. We are glad that the amendment has been tabled as we want all doubt removed. The Opposition welcome amendment No. 17

    Amendment agreed to.

    Clause 9

    The Testing And Surveillance Functions

    I beg to move amendment No. 18, in page 8, line 37, after 'The', insert 'cancellation'.

    The amendment follows one that was made in Committee to provide for the cancellation of certificates of conformity and Minister's approval certificates. The relevant provisions can be found in schedule 5(8)(b).

    The earlier amendment gave power to cancel a certificate of conformity or Minister's approval certificate. It is a minor change to procedure which will improve the handling of paperwork, which follows when a goods vehicle subject to type approval is altered in some way which affects its type-approved characteristics. The vehicle has a certificate that shows its conformity to the approved type. If the vehicle undergoes major alterations, that certificate may no longer apply. Regulations under the Road Traffic Act 1972 require that certain alterations to type-approved vehicles must be notified to the Secretary of State, who may require an examination.

    Once a vehicle has been inspected and the alterations have been found satisfactory, the paperwork needs to be brought into line with the new position. At the moment we can suspend or amend the certificate of conformity or MAC. We cannot cancel it altogether and issue a new one. In many cases that would be a great deal simpler and give a much clearer result. Schedule 5(8)(b) provides that small extra power. Clause 9 provides that authorised inspectors may be given a number of related powers in the same area. They should also be authorised to carry out examinations of type-approved vehicles which have been altered and to exercise existing powers to amend or suspend the certificate. If they are to operate in that area they should also have the new power to cancel the certificate, and that is what this small amendment does.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move amendment No. 19, in page 9, line 8, at end insert

    `under regulations made under subsection (IA) of that section'.

    With this, it will be convenient to take also Government amendments Nos. 20 to 23.

    3.45 pm

    The first amendment of substance is No. 20, which strengthens the provisions under which the Secretary of State can determine which examinations of public service vehicles are carried out by the private sector. The new subsection which the amendment adds to clause 10 introduces a power to make regulations about examinations under section 6 of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981. That concerns the requirement of certificates of initial fitness for PSVs. The other substantive amendment is No. 23, which similarly introduces a new regulation-making power relating to one of the activities that authorised inspectors may be authorised to undertake in the private sector. It adds to the existing amendment in clause 10 which concerns section 20 of the 1981 Act regarding inspections of public service vehicles following notifiable alterations or damage to a vehicle. The other amendments are consequential and add nothing of substance.

    The introduction of the provisions means that less weight needs to be placed on the conditions that can be attached to the authorisations under clause 8 which, I believe, some hon. Members felt were in danger of being overworked. I do not accept that as a general proposition, but I agree that certain key provisions about the way examinations are to be carried out in the private sector might usefully be embodied in regulations where they have the force of law. These amendments make that possible. They also repair an omission. Clause 9 allows authorised inspectors to be empowered to carry out or supervise examinations under section 6 or section 20 of the 1981 Act. At present those sections contain no reference to the supervision or direction of examinations. Section 6 and section 20 of the 1981 Act need to contain some reference to supervision or direction if authorised examiners are to be empowered under clause 8 and clause 9 to carry them out.

    The supervision to which we are referring is the in-house supervision or direction of examinations as part of an approved testing authority's own systems for quality and standards control. There is a subsequent Government amendment on the Amendment Paper on outside supervision.

    The amendments make no changes of substance to the range of functions to be transferred to the private sector, or the powers and duties of authorised inspectors. They make explicit a number of matters which have been managed by administrative arrangement while the work has been done in the Civil Service. The amendments strengthen the structure of the Bill and make it more effective. I hope that the House will accept the amendments as a helpful improvement.

    I am not sure that I wholly accept the phrase used by the Minister that amendment No. 20 strengthens the workings of the new testing centres. It may be that reference back to the 1981 Act and different sections of that Act complicates the matter even further. Amendment No. 20 transfers to private enterprise the provision of the certificate of initial fitness and type approval under the 1981 Act. It was not my impression that that was the intention of the Bill. I have noticed the amendment relating to out-house inspection, which we will welcome when we come to it.

    There seems to be some contradiction between what is embodied in amendment No. 20, the subsequent amendments, and that later amendment. Either the initial certificate of fitness has to be provided for individual vehicles or, if the vehicle is of a type that has a type certificate under section 10 of the Act, the certifying officer can, if he thinks fit, give the vehicle its licence or operator's certificate without actually examining the vehicle. We believe that that is what happens and that to pass initial testing and type approval to private enterprise stretches the frontiers of the examination system too far.

    The hon. Gentleman knows that we object to the transfer of the testing stations. He referred earlier to the need to build into the Bill clear safeguards against commercial pressures. If type approval is to be done by the private sector instead of the Department of Transport, clear commercial pressures could be brought into play. I believe that, instead of strengthening the Bill, the amendments actually weaken it.

    When the Under-Secretary replies, I ask him to tell us how many certifying officers will be replaced by section 20 of the 1981 Act concerning type approval and initial certificate fitness work. We understood that the Secretary of State is embarking on this hiving-off operation to divest himself of a number of civil servants. However, his enthusiasm for so doing should be tempered by the necessity to ensure that when vehicles first take to the roads they are in proper order. Surely that is consistent with the supervisory functions that he is now writing into the Bill and consistent also with retaining the certifying officers' functions within the Department of Transport. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will think again about pressing the amendment if what I have said is right.

    The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) revealed a misunderstanding when he asked his first question. Power for the private sector to carry out examinations of public service vehicles for certificates of initial fitness is already in clause 9, and has been from the start. I hope that on consideration of this issue the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the amendment will improve the means by which the standards of such examination can be kept high on an in-house basis.

    The other powers about which the hon. Gentleman is worried will be handed over only if testing goes to one authoritative body, such as Lloyd's Register. Clause 9 lists the powers that may be handed over, not which must be handed over. I know that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate the importance of that wording.

    Type approval of PSVs cannot be handed over. There is not provision for that. Only individual initial fitness examinations can go to the private sector. I hope that that will satisfy the hon. Gentleman. I am sorry that it is not possible immediatedly to answer his inquiry about the number of certifying officers. However, I shall obtain that information and let the hon. Gentleman have it as soon as possible.

    The Minister says that the functions that can be transferred are those that are listed in clause 9. Lines 29–33 on page 9 in clause 9 state:

    "Such further functions (whether conferred by or under any existing enactment or not) as may be prescribed, being functions which appear to the Secretary of State to be connected with any of the functions described above."
    I am not raising this issue on Report merely as a nitpicking point. I raised it as a matter of substance in Committee. Short of seeing what the Minister proposes, it is almost impossible to tell whether the functions might be described as being connected with the other functions listed in clause 9. Therefore, it is not possible to state with authority, unless the Minister has received legal advice on the meaning of this part of the clause which I have not been able to obtain, that the function to which my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) referred could not be transferred.

    If the only functions that can be transferred are those that are listed, the Government must have had a clear idea of the functions that would be transferred when they decided how many civil servants' jobs were to be chopped. If they had not had that knowledge, they would have been unable to make an estimate. If the Government have changed their mind about the savings within the Civil Service that they will achieve with the Bill, if fewer civil servants' jobs are to be lost than previously indicated by not transferring all the functions listed in clause 9, and if they are not to transfer any of the functions set out in lines 29–33 of the clause, that should be stated now.

    Is that what the Minister is saying, or is he merely giving an assurance that further functions will not cover the area that we are discussing? Will he tell us what areas are not covered and the areas that cannot be covered and, against that background, explain the purpose of having these provisions in the Bill?

    I am not able entirely to follow the legal interpretation of the right hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth) of clause 9. If he considers the matter more fully, he will find that I have made the position clear. The functions that are referred to have to be connected with others and cannot include type approval. That was the anxiety expressed by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) and I have been able, I hope, to reassure the right hon. Gentleman. However, the right hon. Gentleman went much further in his thoughts, for which there is little foundation.

    I emphasise that the amendments will make no changes of substance to the range of functions that are to go to the private sector or the powers and duties of authorised inspectors. The intention is to make explicit a number of matters that have hitherto been managed by administrative arrangements. The amendments strengthen the Bill's structure and make it more effective for inside or in-house examinations.

    Surely the hon. Gentleman must accept that the words to which I have referred do not give any absolute limitations to what may be covered by clause 9. The words are:

    "Such further functions … as may be prescribed, being functions which appear to the Secretary of State to be connected"
    and so on. If the Secretary of State thinks that there is some connection between type approval and any of the examinations that are listed as functions in clause 9, he is entitled to take that view. It would be difficult to argue with him. One could argue that anything involved in testing public service vehicles must be connected with something that is specified as a function in clause 9. That could not be challenged effectively in the courts.

    If the Secretary of State of the day said "This is my view and I say with my hand on my heart that there is some connection between that type of testing and that function", how could that be denied? The courts would say "Parliament passed the Bill and saw fit to allow the Secretary of State to add further functions to those that were specified." The Under-Secretary of State has said that the current Secretary of State thinks that there is no connection. However, we cannot have an assurance, while the Bill is in this form, that further functions connected with examinations, the issuing of certificates, the refusal to issue certificates, plating, periodical tests and all the functions in clause 9 will not ultimately be added to the functions that are to be transferred from the Civil Service to the private sector.

    I am asking a simple and straightforward question: was the Government's estimate of the saving in civil servants made on the presumption that only the functions listed in clause 9 and not covered by the further functions paragraph would be transferred? That is a simple and straightforward question. If that is the basis of the estimate, the answer is "Yes". If that is not the case and further functions are to be transferred, and if the last part of clause 9 has to be used to make that Civil Service saving, the Minister can say so. If he is not prepared to reveal what those further functions are, that will be a matter of argument between us. Surely, it is not impossible for him to give a straight answer to that question.

    4 pm

    The right hon. Gentleman has sought to bring forward his own interpretation of the meaning of part of clause 9. His interpretation is wrong. No absolute limitation is appropriate. The Secretary of State must exercise his powers in context. A type approval function would not be in context. The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken in his interpretation. There are settled rules for determining the limits of powers.

    The basis for the savings in civil servants quoted to the right hon. Gentleman in Committee was correct. For the purpose of this amendment we are discussing the in-house position of examination. The right hon. Gentleman has used the occasion to examine clause 9 and to bring forward his own interpretation of it. I have sought to explain to the right hon. Gentleman that his interpretation is not correct.

    The right hon. Gentleman was so absorbed in setting out his understanding of this part of the Bill that he missed my explanation. I am able to confirm that the estimate of Civil Service savings was made on the presumption that only the functions listed would go.

    Order. I remind the House that we are on Report and not in Committee. Only the mover of the amendment and the Minister in charge of the Bill have a right of reply. There was genuine anxiety, which needed clarification, so I allowed a dialogue to take place.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Clause 10

    Provisions Supplementary To Section 8

    Amendments made: No. 20, in page 11, line 27, at end insert—

    (7A) In section 6 of the 1981 Act (certificates of initial fitness required for use as public service vehicles), the following subsection shall be inserted after subsection (1)— "(1A) Without prejudice to the powers of the Secretary of State under section 7 of this Act in relation to the exercise by certifying officers of their function,, regulations may make provision with respect to the examination of vehicles for the purposes of subsection (1) (a) above by or under the direction of authorised inspector s and the issue or refusal of certificates of initial fitness by such inspectors on any such examinations.".'.

    No. 21, in page 11, line 28, leave out 'the 1981' and insert `that'.

    No. 22, in page 11, line 45, leave out 'and'.

    No. 23, in page 12, line 6, at end insert

    `and
    (c) for the examinations to be carried out under the regulations and, in particular, for authorising any such examination to be carried out by or under the direction of a public service vehicle examiner or an authorised inspector ".'.—[Mr. Eyre.]

    I beg to move amendment No. 24, in page 12, line 14, leave out subsection (10) and insert—

    '(10) Subject to the qualification mentioned below, regulations made under
  • (a) section 43, section 45 or section 50 of the 1972 Act; or
  • (b) section 6(1A) or 20(2A) of the 1981 Act; may include provision for the purpose of securing that private-sector examinations are properly carried out in accordance with the regulations, including (but without prejudice to the generality of the preceding, provision) provision for the supervision or review of private-sector examinations by persons authorised for the purpose by or under the regulations.
  • No person other than an officer of the Secretary of State may be authorised by or under regulations so made to supervise or review an examination carried out in the course of a vehicle testing business carried on by a person other than his own employer.
    In this subsection "private-sector examination" means, in relation to an examination under regulations so made, an examination carried out by or under the direction of an authorised inspector.'.
    The amendment replaces the present clause 10(10) with a new subsection. Like the present one, the new subsection is about arrangements for ensuring that private sector testing is properly carried out. It differs from the present provision in two main ways.

    First, it is more comprehensive. It refers not only to sections 43 and 45 of the Road Traffic 1972 Act but to several other sections. Therefore, it effectively covers all the main areas of work where authorised inspectors may be authorised to carry out examinations.

    Secondly, and most important, the new subsection contains completely different provisions about the supervision and review of examinations. We have revised it to make it clear that the supervision of the work of approved testing authorities will and must be carried out by officers of the Secretary of State. We shall not be using independent private sector contractors on this work, which, at one time, was being considered. There remains some provision for supervision of examinations by people who are not civil servants. That relates to in-house supervision to which I have already referred, which an approved testing authority will carry out, using its own staff, to ensure that proper standards are maintained within its own organisation.

    In-house supervision by the authority's own management will be important. The amendment does nothing to frustrate it. In ruling out private sector supervision, we refer to outside supervision by people who are not employed by the approved testing authority but who act on behalf of the Secretary of State. According to the amendment, these people must be civil servants.

    The question of who should carry out the supervision caused some concern in Committee. We undertook to reconsider our previous view that private sector staff might be used. I am glad that we have been able to meet the wishes of the Opposition on this point. I hope that the amendment will be generally welcomed.

    I rise briefly to welcome the amendment. Two points exercised us in Committee. The first was that the general supervision of the approved inspectors of the business should be retained in the Department of Transport under the direction of the Secretary of State in the interests of public safety. Secondly, we were concerned that, if the chain were to be broken up into two or three chains, one part of the chain could not supervise the functions of the others. I take it that that could not happen.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move amendment No. 25, in page 12, line 35, at end insert—

    '(12) The Secretary of State may make orders with respect to the provisions of pensions by any person authorised to conduct a business which consists of or includes any of the functions specified in section 9 of this Act; for or in respect of persons who are transferred from the Civil Service to private employment under the provisions of section 8 of this Act'.
    The purpose of the amendment is to provide the Secretary of State with the power to make orders for the provision of pensions for those who are transferred from the Civil Service into private employment as a result of the Government selling or leasing heavy goods vehicle testing stations.

    Part II of the Bill contains no provision for pensions. There are inconsistencies in the construction of the Bill. The Government have introduced a series of privatisation measures. Not only the Department of Transport but a number of other Government Departments have introduced, during the past two legislative years, a number of Bills which turn over functions either from nationalised industries or from the Civil Service to the private sector. In all those Bills provisions have been made to take care—if I may put it that way—of any possible difficulty which might arise in the transfer of pensions.

    To demonstrate an inconsistency, I turn first to the measures introduced by the Department of Transport. In the Transport Act 1980, in the Transport (Finance) Act 1981 and in part I of the Bill, provision is made for the Secretary of State to make an order, if he judges that to be the right thing to do, for the transfer of pensions from a nationalised industry to the private sector. The Bill provides for the transfer of pensions from the National Bus Company to the private sector. We debated the matter last night and expressed our reservations about such provisions, but there is no argument that the Government judged it right to have such a provision.

    However, in this part of the Bill there is no such provision and I oppose the inconsistency. I cannot see that there is any consistent line of policy which until now in the Department's legislation for privatisation has given the Secretary of State power to make orders for the transfer of pensions, yet there is no such provision in the case of heavy goods vehicle testing stations.

    Another inconsistency is that, when people have been transferred from Government service, as opposed to a nationalised industry—from local government or even the Civil Service—the legislation of other Departments has provided for the transfer of pensions. One example, under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, is people moving from the Audit Commission to another form of service. In the case of the Department of the Environment, the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 created the Countryside Commission and those who had to leave Government employment ceased to be members of Government pension schemes. In the one case I am talking about a local government pension scheme and in the other of the Civil Service pension scheme.

    The consistent thread has been a recognition by the Government that when they move people out of public service into private employment it may be necessary or desirable for a Minister to have a direct power or obligation, or at least the right, if he judges it necessary, to make an order to cover the transfer of pensions.

    The Secretary of State's predecessor judged it correct to use, as a pattern for the transfer, a method that was developed for transferring pensions not from the public to the private sector but between public sector industries. In earlier Transport Acts, when people were required to move between British Rail, British Road Services and the National Freight Corporation, there was a method of transferring pensions. One sees it in schedule 1 to the Bill, which deals with the sale of British Rail subsidaries, and it is repeated in clause 5 of the Bill. The terms are almost exactly the same. It has been accepted in part II of this Bill that a similar power is necessary. That is not surprising. Preservation of pension rights on transfer is a problem that has exercised management and unions in the public sector for many years and, because of the attention that has been given to the problem, we have reached the position in legislation whereby staff can in most cases move freely between schemes in the public sector without jeopardising their pension rights. It is possible to move from British Rail to the National Bus Company or to the National Freight Corporation.

    I hope that the Minister will accept that that protection has been possible mainly because the benefits and schemes that have existed in the public sector have been broadly comparable. One cannot say that all the schemes in the private sector have been comparable with those in the public sector. There have been many significant differences, which I hope I need not detail for the purpose of this argument.

    4.15 pm

    The preservation of pension rights on change of employment has been given much publicity in recent years. The Occupational Pensions Board was requested to examine the problem in depth and to make recommendations, but the Government have decided to proceed with their privatisation legislation before they have the benefit of that examination in depth and the recommendation of the Occupational Pensions Board. Therefore, it is understandable that the Government should have consistently used a mechanism in legislation for the transfer of pensions from the public to the private sector similar to that used for transfers in the public sector.

    In transfers from the public to the private sector, many problems can arise. In my researches, I have found only one precedent when the Department of Transport attempted to transfer employees from the public to the private sector without a provision being made for pensions to be transferred. That is the case of those who were transferred from the road construction units to employment as private consultants. Many problems arose. The Government were unwilling to permit the extension of indexing public service pensions into the private sector. The consultants were unwilling to enter into agreements that would have involved what they regarded as the acceptance of an open-ended liability for index-linking. The Association of County Councils was unwilling to advise its constituent members to negotiate such agreements because, as it claimed, in the event of a consultant's default the superannuation administering bodies would have to pay the bill for the cost of index-linking.

    That is the only example that I can find. If the Minister knows of other examples of people being forced by Government legislation to transfer from the public to the private sector without any legislative cover or without the Minister retaining any rights, I shall be interested to hear what they are and whether it was possible to accomplish the change without any difficulty. All the evidence shows that it has been a matter of considerable difficulty. Therefore, we have supported the Government in such provision as they have made until now and all our criticisms have been addressed in the other direction of having more safeguards in the legislation. Here we must protest that there are no safeguards.

    Those who will be affected by part II of the Bill—I assume that we shall have the misfortune of seeing it carried through this Session—will be covered by the principal Civil Service pension scheme. They are in a scheme that provides benefits indexed to increase in line with Civil Service earnings. Those who have joined the Government test service have been encouraged not only to join the pension scheme but to transfer any pensions that they have in the private sector to the Civil Service scheme.

    If the Minister wishes, I shall quote chapter and verse from the leaflet that was issued within the Civil Service. In effect, it says that a person going into Civil Service employment and the Civil Service pension scheme has the responsibility of deciding whether to transfer his benefits into the principal Civil Service pension scheme, even if his benefits under his present scheme are better, as it might be worth while to transfer to the Civil Service one which gives lower benefits, as it is unlikely that his present scheme will have as good an indexation arrangement as the Civil Service one.

    I have paraphrased the leaflet but I believe that I have fairly represented the basis upon which many people have joined the Government testing service and have transferred their pensions to the Civil Service scheme. As a result of the present legislation, they will find themselves being treated exactly the same, in legal terms, as if they had voluntarily left the Civil Service. They will not be one whit better off than the person who decided of his own free will to leave.

    I challenge the Minister to show me any shred of legal protection or benefit that would have accrued to a person who had voluntarily left the Civil Service. We are now dealing with people who will be forced out by the present legislation. That is the way in which the Government propose to treat them. Not only is the Secretary of State being inconsistent in his treatment of his civil servants as compared with civil servants of other Departments; he is also legislating between those who will be forced to leave his employ in the HGV testing stations and those who will be forced to leave the employ of the National Bus Company under the same Bill. Such inconsistencies are, to say the least, highly unjust.

    I should like to put some direct questions to the Minister. I have addressed them to him before without receiving an answer, but that makes them no less relevant. I hope that the Minister will accept their relevance now. What will happen to civil servants who are currently employed in HGV testing stations which the Government will sell or lease to private employers who may not have a contracted-out scheme? Nothing in the Bill will limit those to whom the Secretary of State might decide to sell HGV testing stations.

    There is nothing to limit the right hon. Gentleman's selling stations to those who have contracted-out schemes. What will happen to the people employed there? Will the Treasury be prepared to make a payment into a scheme of an employer which is not contracted out to secure benefits for the civil servants whom the Bill transfers? If the Treasury will not be prepared to make such a payment, how are the pension rights of the affected civil servants, on ceasing to be civil servants, to be protected? What will happen to those who have transferred into the Civil Service scheme on joining the HGV testing stations service when they have not acquired five years' service? Presumably, they do not even have a right to a frozen pension arrangement. The right to a frozen pension at the current acquired benefit level is dependent upon five years' service.

    I admit that I have had to re-study the legislation to prepare myself for the debate. As I understand the present provisions for transfer guarantee, civil servants with more than five years' service in the Civil Service scheme who go to a contracted-out scheme, provided that it is approved by the Inland Revenue and provided that the trustees of the scheme are prepared to accept the transfer, can have their accrued payments into the Civil Service scheme transferred. They may turn out to be the fortunate few. There is no guarantee that the only people who will be transferred will have five years' or more service in the Civil Service pension scheme, or that the employers to whom they are transferred have contracted-out schemes approved by the Inland Revenue and the trustees of which will accept a transfer from the Civil Service pension scheme.

    Unless all those conditions are met—there is nothing in the Bill to suggest that they will be—civil servants are entirely justified in expressing the fear that has been represented to us through their union that the Bill is utterly inadequate with regard to pensions. It does nothing to protect them. It leaves them substantially worse off than others who have been affected by Government privatisation proposals.

    The Secretary of State may take the same view of that as he took when the Opposition proposed that there should be some statutory liability to make orders of transfer. We were then arguing about a different proposition. It is not pertinent here. When we discussed National Bus Company pensions, we accepted that the Secretary of State had taken an order-making power but that he would retain discretion about when to use it for the transfer of pensions. That is not the argument here. We are discussing why the Secretary of State has not taken an order-making power. Without the amendment, no such power will exist.

    The Opposition cannot and will not accept at this juncture simply the Secretary of State's hope or wish that anyone to whom he transfers civil servants, as a result of the sale or lease of testing stations, will be so honourable, decent, civilised and progressive with regard to pensions that he will run a pension scheme that is capable of taking transferred Civil Service pensions. We may hope for that but we cannot leave the matter to the hopes of the Secretary of State. He cannot say that, because he hopes that that will happen, there is no need to have a provision for transfer when he said previously that order-making powers were necessary, as he did in this Bill and his predecessor did in the two previous ones.

    At the very least, the Government can accept the amendment so that there is a safeguard. The Minister cannot deny, on the basis of the record, that such are the problems of transferring pensions from the public to the private sector that it has been found desirable to have a power to make an order for transfer. That has been done in all the other cases. The amendment deals with one exception that covers a serious range of problems confronting those who have lost their public servant status. For that, if for no other reason, the amendment should be accepted. If it turns out not to be necessary and it is possible to transfer and safeguard pension provisions, no one will be happier than my right hon. and hon. Friends and I. We cannot be happy with the creation of a precedent whereby people who, by legislation, are thrown out of the Civil Service are in exactly the same legal position as those who voluntarily leave or break a contract into which they have voluntarily entered.

    4.30 pm

    We are dealing here with issues of great importance for the employees concerned in the changes proposed by the Government, which we debated yesterday. There is no difference or division whatever between the extremely strong, well-informed and concerned feelings of the right hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth) and those of the Government about the importance of pension provision for those working in the testing stations who will in future be working in the new organisation.

    We must start from the recognition of a great deal of what the right hon. Gentleman says about the need to ensure a fair deal for the staff under the new arrangement and to ensure either that a pension scheme is available in the type of organisation to which the testing stations will be transferred to which, if the employees so wish, pensions can be transferred or that existing and accrued pension rights are properly preserved. All these matters are very much the concern and intention of the Government and are very much in our mind in preparing plans for the negotiation of the transfer of the HGV testing stations to a new organisation of the kind outlined in the debate yesterday. I should not like there to be any difference of view on that.

    The difference arises when the right hon. Gentleman asks why there is not a more explicit power in the Bill relating to the bringing about of this change of affairs and of a situation in which pensions would be guaranteed under the new arrangements.

    The answer given in Committee, which I shall be concerned not just to repeat but to justify very closely again today, is that the amendment is not necessary. The order-making power that it proposes is not necessary to achieve the aims and objectives that both I and the right hon. Gentleman have outlined for the preservation or transfer of accumulated pension rights when an individual ceases to be a civil servant.

    The right hon. Gentleman suggested that the proposition that I have put, and which I shall elaborate—that there is no need for an order-making power of the kind that he seeks because the matter is covered by existing powers and special powers are unnecessary—is in some way unique, that it had never been done this way before and that it must therefore be inconsistent and arouse fears. I know the right hon. Gentleman's feelings in these matters and I know that he would be the last to wish to raise fears and worries for which there is no basis.

    The charge of inconsistency is perfectly fair and I must seek to meet it.

    Just to make sure that the record is completely straight, I did not say that there was no precedent. Indeed, I cited the case of those who were transferred from the road construction units to the private consultants and I instanced the difficulties that it raised.

    I certainly do not wish to mislead or misquote the right hon. Gentleman. As he has said, he cited one instance in which special powers were not involved. There are others. I am advised, for example, that no such provision appeared in legislation relating to the sale of British Rail hotels or Seaspeed. I shall examine whether special powers of the kind that the right hon. Gentleman seeks were found necessary in other areas.

    In this situation, however, the need for such powers does not exist. As we have said before, there seems to be no real difference between us on the question of the pension need. We want to see fair and reasonable pensions for the testing staff after they leave the Civil Service. The only difference between us is about the necessity for legislation to achieve that.

    I mentioned the charge of inconsistency, as I do not wish it to be suggested—I understand from the right hon. Gentleman's intervention that he is not suggesting this—that the arrangement is unique and special and therefore to be feared, because it is not. I place on record again what I said in Committee. Ample powers already exist to make suitable pension arrangements for former civil servants. The principal Civil Service scheme, which was often cited in Committee, contains full and detailed provisions for the preservation or transfer of accumulated pension rights when a person leaves the Civil Service. Provision for future pensions with a new employer will be covered by the rules of whatever scheme the staff joins, so even if it is necessary to set up a new scheme no special provision is required to cover that. The normal and right way to make provision for pensions of staff who leave the Civil Service, as is proposed in this case, is by negotiation and agreement.

    As the right hon. Gentleman fairly pointed out, this follows from Government action. It follows from the policy that was described, debated and approved by the House yesterday. As I have said, there is no need for special legislative provision to deal with this. The right hon. Gentleman says that the Government's word on this is not enough. In other words, in a matter of this kind he is not prepared to accept the assurance that the Government want a fair deal for those involved. He wants it to be written into the Bill. I must tell him that there is no need for legislation because the powers exist already. It is therefore the assurance of the Government in good faith that the powers are available and will be used to ensure adequate pension provision. That is the assurance that the right hon. Gentleman can throw back in the face of the Government, but it is also the assurance upon which I believe that those concerned should rest without fear and with comfort, in the full realisation that a fair deal will be sought and secured for them in the negotiation with the successor organisation. The nature of that organisation was clearly set out in the amendments yesterday.

    I believe that that undertaking is not only adequate but fully sufficient to secure the aspirations and concerns and the immediate, long-term and lasting needs of those involved in the change of ownership.

    Of course, no pension transfer is possible if there is not a contracted-out scheme in the new organisation. Accrued pension rights would then be preserved within the principal Civil Service pension scheme and index-linked, and future earnings-related pensions would come from the State scheme. But in the case of transfer to Lloyd's Register Vehicle Testing Association, which is precisely what we are proposing, this should not arise.

    I indicated in an earlier debate that that was what we were proposing and that plans were well advanced. I spoke of this matter in a way that satisfied the House. If the House will accept that that is the course that we are set en, I do not see why the right hon. Gentleman should feel it vital that we should write in an order-making power on the lines proposed in the amendment. There is no necessity for it. Either a new contracted-out scheme will be established or we shall arrange for staff to join an established scheme.

    That is what we have said again and again. I have been able to give to the House a much clearer indication of the nature of the body that will take over the stations than I was in Committee. In negotiating with the new body, we have said that we are determined that the staff shall have a fair deal, which means that they will be able to enter a pension scheme when they leave the Civil Service pension scheme, and that the question of transfer, as with preservation, will be governed by the principal Civil Service pension scheme.

    I give those assurances most strongly to the House because I wish to counteract firmly any impression that there might be grounds for fear that the staff would not get a fair deal. The Government are determined that they will get a fair deal. I have indicated to the House the sort of organisation to which we propose to transfer the heavy goods vehicle stations. The staff would become employees of the new organisation.

    Against that background it is right for the Government to put forward through me their intentions. It is not necessary to press for the additional order-making power proposed by the right hon. Gentleman to achieve the objectives that we all want and that will clearly be achieved in the context of the plans outlined in an earlier amendment for heavy goods vehicle testing stations. For those reasons, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.

    With the leave of the House, may I first clear up the misunderstanding by the Secretary of State? As I understood the right hon. Gentleman, he said that he was advised that there was not a statutory provision covering British Rail hotels or Sealink services. That is not the case. Section 4 of the Transport Act 1981 says:

    "Schedule 1 to this Act has effect for the purpose of making certain provisions supplementing sections 1 to 3 of this Act. '
    The first paragraph of schedule 1 gives the Secretary of State powers to make
    "orders under section 74 of the Transport Act 1962 … in relation to related companies as he could make if those companies were subsidiaries of the Railways Board."
    I submit that that provision is applicable to both British Rail hotels and to Sealink. Therefore, those who negotiated on the transfer of pensions of the staff at the three British Rail hotels, which included Gleneagles and the Edinburgh hotel, knew that if they could not secure a satisfactory agreement they could ask the Secretary of State to use his power under schedule 1 to the 1981 Act to make a transfer order.

    4.45 pm

    That is on all fours with what my hon. Friends and I are seeking in the amendment. This is not a question of cur not trusting the Secretary of State. We are asking him to accept an amendment under which we are placing trust in him. That is the interesting point. We are saying that we are happy that he should have the power and the discretion. If he accepts the amendment, it will not place an obligation upon him. It does not say that he must make an order if the transfer can be negotiated. If the amendment were accepted, the Secretary of State could make an order if he deemed it to be necessary or justified.

    If the Secretary of State had the order-making power, it could in certain circumstances influence the nature of the negotiations. It is one thing to negotiate with somebody when it is recognised by both sides that if the negotiated outcome is not satisfactory the Minister can be called upon to make a statutory provision: it is another thing to conduct negotiations if the person with whom the employees are negotiating knows that they have to rely entirely on their own strength and cannot call upon a Minister. That is particularly the case for these civil servants who are without any of the rights that would accrue if there were order-making powers. They are in the same legal position as those who have retired.

    If the right hon. Gentleman thinks this matter through, I do not think that he can say that it is consistent to argue that there is no necessity in this case but that it was right to make such a provision in another case. I am happy to stay with the examples that the right hon. Gentleman cited of British Rail hotels and Sealink. One could cite many other examples. For example, under clause 5 the Secretary of State might have said that it was the Government's intention that the pensions should be negotiated and transferred on a satisfactory basis and that he did not want to have the back-up power. But he did not say that. Very wisely, he defended having exactly the degree of back-up power that we are asking him to take in this case, not one whit more or one whit less. Although we pressed him to take greater powers and greater obligations, he resisted, but he did not resist having this degree of power.

    I put it to the Secretary of State that the precedent has been established for good reasons. I do not want to go over the ground again. The Government have acknowledged the problems of the transfer of pensions from the public to the private sector. In their wisdom, or otherwise, they decided to proceed with the privatisation in advance of getting the benefits of the commission. Having done that, they have said that in all these cases they will call upon the House of Commons to give the Secretary of State this back-up power, which will enable him, if he is not satisfied that negotiations will produce a satisfactory transfer of pension, to make an order. That is what we are asking. It is a modest request. We are reflecting fears which have been expressed to us. Whether we share them is not important for the purpose of this debate.

    We did not bring forward the amendment without having talked to those who have negotiated pensions, to pension experts in transport unions, to pension experts in the TUC and to Civil Service officers who are concerned about pension levels. The Secretary of State cannot wipe away their fears. He cannot say that their fears are ill-founded, in view of all the evidence, and that of course the Government set up a commission to consider the problems of the transfer of pensions. If the Archangel Gabriel came to the Dispatch Box, he could not wave away those fears.

    I am not saying that I do not believe in little miracles, because I believe that big miracles can happen. I am pleading for a very small miracle, and that is for the Secretary of State to accept here what is regarded as consistent and proper in part I of the Bill and in legislation introduced by his predecessor in the Acts of 1980 and 1981. We should rejoice with him if he did not have to use the powers and if the transfer were accomplished smoothly, but we would still say then, as we say now, that the fact that the power to make the order was in the background was valuable and could contribute to achieving a satisfactory arrangement.

    Will my right hon. Friend ask the Minister for an assurance that the fears of the unions which have been negotiating on this matter are unfounded? That would be a great help to them.

    I shall be delighted if the Secretary of State can tell us that he has reached a clear understanding since we last talked with the unions that the transfer will not take place unless every civil servant who is transferred under part II will take with him his accrued rights and the equivalent benefits of his pension scheme. I could then accept that our amendment was unnecessary. I can only reiterate my hon. Friend's appeal. However, that would be surprising, and, with great respect to the Secretary of State, it would be easier for him to accept our amendment than to give that assurance.

    With permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall try to answer some of the right hon. Gentleman's points.

    First, I cannot accept that the special powers that the right hon. Gentleman now presses on the Government would be either consistent or necessary. On the contrary, the pattern proposed and the words that I have used to describe the procedures and the line that the Government will adopt in pursuing their plans for this transfer give the best assurance that there will be a fair deal for the staff. Moreover, the Bill provides that that will take place with the powers "in the background"—if I may use the right hon. Gentleman's phrase—which lie in the principal Civil Service pension scheme. That underlying security provides the background against which the new pension provision, or the transfer or the preservation of accrued rights, will be secured for all employees.

    The right hon. Gentleman returned to the matter of the British Rail hotels. He mentioned Sealink, but in fact Seaspeed was the example that I used. I am still advised that what I said about the right hon. Gentleman's interpretation of the legislation involved in those transfers and negotiations was correct. The right hon. Gentleman quoted textual evidence in an attempt to refute that, but I am advised that the words that I used were correct.

    If there is a misunderstanding and we are arguing about different things, as often happens, or if there are two separate views, or if it will help the right hon. Gentleman, I shall endeavour to support what I said on the matter in correspondence with him. However, that is the clear advice that I have received in support of the words that I used. All the same, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will be the first to agree that it will not help our common objective to get a fair deal for the staff if we get involved in a wrangle about precedents. After all, our aim is to get a fair deal for the staff.

    I wish to take up a further point, because I am anxious that the right hon. Gentleman should feel satisfied about all the matters that he raised. He asked about civil servants in the heavy goods vehicle testing network who had less than five years' service. I understand that, under the principal Civil Service pension scheme, transfer payments may be made even where the individual has less than five years' service and that people with less than five years' service may not opt for a preserved pension. If they do not take a transfer value, they receive a short-service payment instead. If they opt for a transfer, they should be in the same position as civil servants with longer service. I believe that I am giving an accurate representation of the position. I shall, of course, check further on the details of the matter. If any amplification is needed, I shall write to the right hon. Gentleman.

    I listened closely to the right hon. Gentleman, whose views I respect in this connection. Having carefully examined whether special powers of the kind that he seeks are justified, I am clear that there is no need for special legislative provision to make that possible. There is no ground for fearing that the Government intend anything other than a fair deal for the staff who are involved. That is the Government's determination and intention. I have described the kind of body to which heavy goods vehicle testing stations are to be transferred under the privatisation proposal.

    On that basis, I believe that employees can be assured that their pension needs and problems will be well looked after and that there is no need in the Bill for a further legislative order-making power of the kind that the right hon. Gentleman wants. On that basis, I hope that he will withdraw the amendment.

    With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is clear that the Secretary of State is not prepared to make similar legislative provision for these civil servants as has been made for a number of other people forced out of public service. I am not prepared to withdraw the amendment, because it involves the important issue of employment protection rights. My right hon. and hon. Friends and I can only vote on it.

    Question put, That the amendment be made:—

    The House divided: Ayes 221, Noes 281.

    Division No. 170]

    [5 pm

    AYES

    Abse, LeoCampbell, Ian
    Adams, AllenCampbell-Savours, Dale
    Allaun, FrankCanavan, Dennis
    Alton, DavidCant, R. B.
    Anderson, DonaldCarmichael, Neil
    Archer, Rt Hon PeterCarter-Jones, Lewis
    Ashley, Rt Hon JackCartwright, John
    Ashton, JoeClark, Dr David (S Shields)
    Atkinson, N.(H'gey,)Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S)
    Bagier, Gordon A.T.Cohen, Stanley
    Barnett, Guy(Greenwich)Coleman, Donald
    Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd)Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.
    Beith, A.J.Conlan, Bernard
    Benn, Rt Hon TonyCook, Robin F.
    Bennett, Andrew (St'kp'tN)Cowans, Harry
    Bidwell, SydneyCraigen, J. M. (G'gow, M'hill)
    Booth, Rt Hon AlbertCrowther, Stan
    Bradley, TomCryer, Bob
    Bray, Dr JeremyCunliffe, Lawrence
    Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Cunningham, G.(IslingtonS)
    Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)Cunningham, Dr J. (W'h'n)
    Buchan, NormanDalyell, Tam
    Callaghan, Rt Hon J.Davies, Ifor (Gower)
    Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n&P)Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)

    Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd)McWilliam, John
    Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)Marks, Kenneth
    Dewar, DonaldMarshall, D(G'gowS'ton)
    Dixon, DonaldMarshall, Jim (Leicester S)
    Dobson, FrankMartin, M(G'gowS'burn)
    Dormand, JackMason, Rt Hon Roy
    Douglas, DickMaxton, John
    Dubs, AlfredMeacher, Michael
    Duffy, A. E. P.Mellish, Rt Hon Robert
    Dunnett, JackMikardo, Ian
    Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.Millan, RtHonBruce
    Eadie, AlexMiller, Dr M.S. (E Kilbride)
    Eastham, KenMitchell, Austin(Grimsby)
    Edwards, R. (W'hampt'n S E)Mitchell, R. C. (Soton Itchen)
    Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're)Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
    English, MichaelMorris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
    Ennals, Rt Hon DavidMoyle, Rt Hon Roland
    Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)Newens, Stanley
    Evans, John (Newton)Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
    Field, FrankOgden, Eric
    Fitch, AlanO'Halloran, Michael
    Flannery, MartinO'Neill, Martin
    Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
    Foot, Rt Hon MichaelOwen, Rt Hon Dr David
    Ford, BenPalmer, Arthur
    Forrester, JohnPark, George
    Foster, DerekParker, John
    Fraser, J.(Lamb'th, N'w'd)Parry, Robert
    Freeson, Rt Hon ReginaldPowell, Raymond (Ogmore)
    Garrett, John (Norwich S)Prescott, John
    Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)Price, C. (Lewisham W)
    George, BruceRace, Reg
    Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr JohnRadice, Giles
    Graham, TedRees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)
    Grimond, Rt Hon J.Richardson, Jo
    Hamilton, James (Bothwell)Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
    Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
    Hardy, PeterHoberts, Gmilym (Cannock)
    Harrison, Rt Hon WalterRobinson, G. (Coventry NW)
    Haynes, FrankRodgers, Rt Hon William
    Healey, Rt Hon DenisRooker, J. W.
    Heffer, Eric S.Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
    Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire)Sandelson, Neville
    Holland, S. (L'b'th, Vauxh'll)Sever, John
    HomeRobertson, JohnSheerman, Barry
    Horam, JohnSheldon, Rt Hon R.
    Howells, GeraintShore, Rt Hon Peter
    Hoyle, DouglasShort, Mrs Renée
    Hughes, Mark (Durham)Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)
    Hughes, Robert (AberdeenN)Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
    Hughes, Roy (Newport)Silverman, Julius
    Jay, Rt Hon DouglasSkinner, Dennis
    Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillhead)Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark)
    John, BrynmorSnape, Peter
    Johnson, Walter (Derby S)Soley, Clive
    Johnston, Russell (Inverness)Spearing, Nigel
    Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda)Spriggs, Leslie
    Jones, Barry (East Flint)Stallard, A. W.
    Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldSteel, Rt Hon David
    Kilroy-Silk, RobertStoddart, David
    Kinnock, NeilStott, Roger
    Lambie, DavidStrang, Gavin
    Lamborn, HarryStraw, Jack
    Lamond, JamesSummerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
    Leadbitter, TedThomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
    Leighton, RonaldThomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
    Lestor, MissJoanTilley, John
    Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Tinn, James
    Litherland, RobertTorney, Tom
    Lofthouse, GeoffreyUrwin, Rt Hon Tom
    Lyon, Alexander(York)Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
    McCartney, HughWainwright, E.(DearneV)
    McDonald, Dr OonaghWainwright, R. (ColneV)
    McElhone, FrankWalker, Rt Hon H. (D'caster)
    McKay, Allen (Penistone)Watkins, David
    McKelvey, WilliamWeetch, Ken
    McMahon, AndrewWellbeloved, James
    McNally, ThomasWelsh, Michael
    McNamara, KevinWhite, Frank R.
    McTaggart, RobertWhite, J. (G'gow Pollok)

    Whitehead, PhillipWoodall, Alec
    Whitlock, WilliamWoolmer, Kenneth
    Wigley, DafyddWright, Sheila
    Willey, Rt Hon FrederickYoung, David (Bolton E)
    Williams, Rt Hon A. (S'sea W)
    Williams, Rt Hon Mrs (Crosby)Tellers for the Ayes:
    Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)Dr, Edmund Marshall and Mr. George Morton
    Wilson, Rt Hon SirH.(H'ton)
    Winnick, David

    NOES

    Adley, RobertEden, Rt Hon Sir John
    Alexander, RichardEdwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)
    Alison, Rt Hon MichaelEggar, Tim
    Ancram, MichaelEmery, Sir Peter
    Arnold, TomEyre, Reginald
    Aspinwall, JackFairbairn, Nicholas
    Atkins, Rt Hon H. (S'thorne)Fairgrieve, SirRussell
    Atkins, Robert (PrestonN)Faith, MrsSheila
    Atkinson, David (B'm'th, E)Farr, John
    Baker, Kenneth (St.M'bone)Fenner, Mrs Peggy
    Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Finsberg, Geoffrey
    Banks, RobertFletcher-Cooke, SirCharles
    Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyFookes, Miss Janet
    Bendall, VivianForman, Nigel
    Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay)Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
    Benyon, Thomas (A'don)Fox, Marcus
    Benyon.W. (Buckingham)Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh
    Best, KeithFraser, Peter (South Angus)
    Bevan, David GilroyFry, Peter
    Biffen, Rt Hon JohnGardiner, George(Reigate)
    Biggs-Davison, SirJohnGardner, Edward (S Fylde)
    Blackburn, JohnGarel-Jones, Tristan
    Blaker, PeterGilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
    Body, RichardGlyn, Dr Alan
    Bonsor, SirNicholasGoodhew, SirVictor
    Bottomley, Peter (W'wichW)Goodlad, Alastair
    Bowden, AndrewGorst, John
    Boyson, Dr RhodesGow, Ian
    Braine, SirBernardGower, Sir Raymond
    Bright, GrahamGray, Hamish
    Brinton, TimGreenway, Harry
    Brittan, Rt. Hon. LeonGriffiths, E. (B'ySt.Edm'ds)
    Brooke, Hon PeterGriffiths, Peter (Portsm 'thN)
    Brotherton, MichaelGrist, Ian
    Brown, Michael(Brigg&Sc'n)Grylls, Michael
    Bruce-Gardyne, JohnGummer, JohnSelwyn
    Buchanan-Smith, Rt. Hon. A.Hamilton, Hon A.
    Buck, AntonyHamilton, Michael(Salisbury)
    Budgen, NickHampson, Dr Keith
    Bulmer, EsmondHannam, John
    Burden, SirFrederickHaselhurst, Alan
    Butcher, JohnHavers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
    Cadbury, JocelynHawkins, Paul
    Carlisle, John (Luton West)Hawksley, Warren
    Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Hayhoe, Barney
    Chapman, SydneyHeddle, John
    Churchill, W.S.Henderson, Barry
    Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
    Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)Hicks, Robert
    Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
    Clegg, SirWalterHill, James
    Cockeram, EricHogg, Hon Douglas(Gr'th'm)
    Colvin, MichaelHolland, Philip(Carlton)
    Cope, JohnHooson, Tom
    Cormack, PatrickHordern, Peter
    Corrie, JohnHowell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd)
    Costain, SirAlbertHowell, Ralph (NNorfolk)
    Cranborne, ViscountHunt, David (Wirral)
    Critchley, JulianIrving, Charles (Cheltenham)
    Crouch, DavidJenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
    Dean, Paul (NorthSomerset)JohnsonSmith, Geoffrey
    Dickens, GeoffreyJopling, Rt Hon Michael
    Dorrell, StephenJoseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
    Douglas-Hamilton, LordJ.Kershaw, SirAnthony
    Dover, DenshoreKilfedder, James A.
    du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardKimball, SirMarcus
    Dunn, Robert (Dartford)Kitson, SirTimothy
    Durant, TonyKnight, Mrs Jill
    Dykes, HughKnox, David

    Lamont, NormanRidsdale, SirJulian
    Lang, IanRifkind, Malcolm
    Latham, MichaelRippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
    Lawrence, IvanRoberts, M. (Cardiff NW)
    Lawson, Rt Hon NigelRoberts, Wyn (Conway)
    Lee, JohnRossi, Hugh
    Lennox-Boyd, HonMarkRost, Peter
    Lester, Jim (Beeston)Royle, Sir Anthony
    Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
    Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
    Loveridge, JohnShaw, Giles (Pudsey)
    Luce, RichardShaw, Michael (Scarborough)
    McCrindle, RobertShelton, William (Streatham)
    Macfarlane, NeilShepherd, Richard
    MacGregor, JohnSilvester, Fred
    MacKay, John (Argyll)Sims, Roger
    Macmillan, Rt Hon M.Skeet, T. H. H.
    McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)Smith, Dudley
    McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)Speed, Keith
    McQuarrie, AlbertSpeller, Tony
    Madel, DavidSpence, John
    Major, JohnSpicer, Jim (WestDorset)
    Marland, PaulSpicer, Michael (SWorcs)
    Marlow, AntonySproat, Iain
    Marshall, Michael (Arundel)Squire, Robin
    Marten, Rt Hon NeilStainton, Keith
    Mather, CarolStanbrook, Ivor
    Maude, Rt Hon Sir AngusStanley, John
    Mawby, RaySteen, Anthony
    Mawhinney, Dr BrianStevens, Martin
    Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinStewart, A (E Renfrewshire)
    Mellor, DavidStewart, Ian (Hitchin)
    Meyer, SirAnthonyStokes, John
    Miller, Hal (B'grove)StradlingThomas, J.
    Mills, Iain (Meriden)Tapsell, Peter
    Mills, Peter (West Devon)Temple-Morris, Peter
    Miscampbell, NormanThatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
    Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
    Moate, RogerThompson, Donald
    Monro, SirHectorThorne, Nei1 (IlfordSouth)
    Montgomery, FergusThornton, Malcolm
    Moore, JohnTownend, John (Bridlington)
    Morris, M. (N'hampton S)Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)
    Morrison, HonC. (Devizes)Trippier, David
    Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)Trotter, Neville
    Mudd, Davidvan Straubenzee, Sir W.
    Murphy, ChristopherVaughan, Dr Gerard
    Myles, DavidViggers, Peter
    Neale, GerrardWaddington, David
    Needham, RichardWakeham, John
    Nelson, AnthonyWaldegrave, Hon William
    Neubert, MichaelWalker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
    Newton, TonyWall, SirPatrick
    Normanton, TomWaller, Gary
    Nott, Rt Hon JohnWalters, Dennis
    Onslow, CranleyWard, John
    Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.Warren, Kenneth
    Page, John (Harrow, West)Watson, John
    Page, Richard (SW Herts)Wheeler, John
    Parris, MatthewWhitelaw, Rt Hon William
    Pawsey, JamesWhitney, Raymond
    Percival, Sir IanWickenden, Keith
    Peyton, Rt Hon JohnWiggin, Jerry
    Pink, R.BonnerWilkinson, John
    Pollock, AlexanderWilliams, D. (Montgomery)
    Porter, BarryWinterton, Nicholas
    Prentice, Rt Hon RegWolfson, Mark
    Proctor, K. HarveyYoung, SirGeorge (Acton)
    Pym, Rt Hon FrancisYounger, Rt Hon George
    Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)
    Rees-Davies, W. R.Tellers for the Noes:
    Rhodes James, RobertMr. Robert Boscawen and Mr. Anthony Berry.
    Rhys Williams, SirBrandon
    Ridley, HonNicholas

    Question accordingly negatived.

    Clause 14

    Consultation With Representative Bodies

    I beg to move amendment No. 26, in page 15, line 38, leave out '10 or 11' and insert '10(11) or 11(2)'.

    The sole purpose of this small and simple amendment is to make the Bill a little clearer. Clause 14 lists the subjects on which the Secretary of State must consult representative bodies, and one of those subjects is the designation of premises as testing stations. To make clear what is meant by designation, clause 14(4) refers to the clauses in which the powers to designate premises are to be found. In Committee, it was suggested that it would be helpful if the reader were referred not only to the appropriate clause, but to the right subsection. The Government are happy to oblige. I hope that this small amendment will be generally welcomed.

    I shall not detain the House. The Solicitor-General for Scotland has acknowledged the concern expressed in Committee. I am grateful to him for introducing an amendment that clarifies the position.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Clause 18

    Prohibitions Under Section 57 Of The 1972 Act

    I beg to move amendment No. 27, in page 19, leave out lines 34 and 35 and insert 'any person".'.

    With this it will be convenient to take Government amendments Nos. 76 and 78.

    The amendments improve the drafting of the provisions in the existing legislation on the imposition of prohibitions on dangerously defective vehicles. Clause 18(1), as drafted, amends section 57 of the Road Traffic Act 1972, which is about prohibitions on goods vehicles found to be unfit for service. Clause 18(1) alters the specification of the circumstances in which a goods vehicle shall be prohibited with immediate effect, so as to make that section consistent with the corresponding provision for public service vehicles, which is to be found in section 9 of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981. The formula that clause 18(1) introduces—copied from the 1981 Act—provides that a prohibition shall take effect immediately if using the vehicle

    "would involve danger to the driver, to other persons carried on the vehicle or to other members of the public."
    In Committee, Opposition Members pointed out that the formula was unnecessarily long and complex. A reference to "danger to any person" would do just as well. Accordingly, we propose these amendments, which will amend both clause 18(1) and the model on which it was based—section 9 of the 1981 Act. The amendments have the rare virtue of shortening two pieces of legislation. I hope that that in itself will be enough to commend them to the House.

    Amendment agreed to.

    5.15 pm

    I beg to move amendment No. 28, in page 20, line 6, at beginning insert

    `subject to subsection (9A) below'.

    With this it will be convenient to take Government amendment No. 29.

    The amendments extend the provisions in clause 18 to introduce what is known as a due diligence defence for a goods vehicle operator who is charged with causing or permitting a vehicle to be used in contravention of a prohibition. The amendments will provide him with a defence if he can prove that he took all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to prevent an offence from being committed.

    Clause 18 already contains provisions that give some protection to a driver who is charged with driving a goods vehicle in contravention of a prohibition, but who had no knowledge that the vehicle was prohibited. The amendment extends a corresponding protection to the vehicle operator. In both cases, we are bringing the law on goods vehicles into line with existing provisions for public service vehicles. The provisions in clause 18 are modelled on those in the 1981 Act about public service vehicles.

    It is right and reasonable that such protection should be given to vehicle operators. If an operator can prove that he took all reasonable precautions, he should have a defence against conviction. I emphasise that that will in no way weaken the sanctions that are available against the careless or irresponsible operator. The burden of proof remains on the defendant. He will have to convince the court that he exercised all due diligence. The amendment involves protecting people who are in practice innocent of wrongdoing. It is a modest improvement to the law. I hope that it, too, will be welcomed by the House.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Amendment made: No. 29, in page 20, line 7, at end insert—

    `and the following subsection shall be inserted after that subsection—
    "(9A) It shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under subsection (9)(aa) above to prove that he took all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to avoid the commission of any offence under that provision.".'.—[The Solicitor-General for Scotland.]

    Clause 22

    Forgery And Misuse Of Documents Etc

    I beg to move amendment No. 30, in page 23, line 23, leave out from `section' to '(at' in line 24 and insert

    `32 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980'.
    This is a technical amendment which does not affect the substance of clause 22. It amends subsection (2)(a), which defines what is meant by the "statutory maximum" fine with respect to England and Wales. The clause, as drafted, refers to the provisions of the Criminal Law Act 1977. However, that Act has been repealed, and the relevant provisions now appear in the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980. The amendment accordingly deletes the outdated reference and substitutes the new one.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Clause 26

    Fixed Penalty Offences And Fixed Penalty Notices

    Amendments made: No. 31, in page 26, line 1, leave out from `a' to end of line 5 and insert

    'fixed penalty notice in respect of the offence'.

    No. 32, in page 26, line 10, after 'notice', insert

    'in respect of the offence'.

    No. 33, in page 26, line 29, leave out subsection (5).— [The Solicitor-General for Scotland.]

    I beg to move amendment No. 34, in page 26, line 35, after '(6)', insert

    'subject to section 27(1) and '.

    With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No 38, in clause 27, page 27, line 27 at end insert

    `but no such order may provide for any offence involving obligatory endorsement to be a fixed penalty offence'
    No. 50, in clause 39, page 43, line 20, leave out from 'Act' to the end of line 23 and insert
    'but not any offence involving obligatory endorsement'.
    No. 67, in page 60, leave out schedule 1.

    No. 71, in page 65, leave out schedule 2.

    In Committee, we raised serious doubts about whether we should embark on framing legislation that would bring offences that are currently and properly defined as endorsable into the fixed penalty net. Our concern has been expressed and shared by many hon. Members, particularly by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry), who indicated some dissent in our debates yesterday.

    Over the years, the laws applying to motorists have become more and more complicated. The situation has not been helped by the lack of uniform application. The Bill represents an ideal opportunity for simplifying the process of dealing with motoring offences by enlarging the number of offences to be dealt with under the fixed penalty procedure. I believe that the vast majority of hon. Members welcome such a move, because regulations that are well founded and simple to apply will be readily accepted by the driving public.

    Regrettably, if the Bill's provisions are enacted in their present form, they will have the reverse effect. Drivers will find them complex, confusing and in some ways objectionable. The Bill will probably not achieve its primary objective of simplification, ease of understanding and the removal of the thousands of minor cases from our courts. There are degrees of culpability in all motoring offences and that fact is generally recognised by the current procedure.

    A specific motoring offence may be ignored, or it may result in a verbal on-the-spot warning, a written warning or a prosecution. We believe that the offer of a fixed penalty should be a further option, but that it should not attract an endorsement, penalty points or in any way be given the status of a conviction. That must continue to be a matter for the courts to determine.

    The provisions of the clause and its associated schedules describe the offences which may be dealt with by the offer of a fixed penalty. Many endorsable offences are included. The Bill thereby perpetuates the complication of the penalty points system by failing to accept the basic and essential need to simplify these procedures.

    I contend that fixed penalties should be no more than a further option available to the police for dealing with motoring offences. As I said earlier, any offence dealt with by fixed penalty should not involve the expensive administrative procedure of endorsements, the levying of penalty points and the associated record-keeping that is envisaged in the Bill. Once the fixed penalty has been paid, that should be the end of the matter. However, if the offender comes before a court for non-payment of a fixed penalty, the penalty points procedure should apply as if the matter had been dealt with summarily in the first place.

    We made these points on many occasions in Committee. We have tried to probe the Government on the reasons why they have seen fit to include in the fixed penalty net offences that rightly attract penalty points and other offences that attract endorsements. We have not yet had a satisfactory reply.

    The Opposition contend that some of the offences listed in schedules 1 and 2 for fixed penalty treatment should not rank as such. We welcome the Government's intention to remove from the schedule of fixed penalties the pedestrian crossing offence and the offence of disregarding a school crossing patrol, but most of us believe that other offences should be removed because they demonstrate anti-social driving behaviour and should always result in the culprit appearing before a court. The offences to which I refer are offences committed on motorways; contravention of one-way requirements on a trunk road; failure to comply with traffic directions and signs; dangerous parking; failure to stop when required to do so by a constable; and using a vehicle in a dangerous condition.

    None of those offences should be available for treatment by a fixed penalty notice. I cannot understand why the Government have sought to muddy the waters in that respect. I venture to suggest to the Solicitor-General for Scotland that most of us are in favour of extending fixed penalties into the areas I have mentioned. However, we are not in favour of doing so into areas where there are serious anxieties that the Bill, in seeking to deal with the problem, will actually allow motorists to get away with a more serious offence.

    We are worried that the Government have sought to include offences that are rightly and properly endorsable. We believe that they should continue to be dealt with properly in court. We do not believe that they should be included in the fixed penalty net, although we give a general welcome to the Government's view that fixed penalties should be extended to take minor offences out of the courts. However, I must tell the Solicitor-General for Scotland that I was not convinced by the arguments in Committee. I am still not convinced that we are legislating in the right way. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take my remarks on board.

    Not for the first time, I find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Stott) who speaks for the Opposition on transport matters.

    It is a pity that the House is hardly fuller than it was earlier this afternoon to deal with this important aspect of the Bill, which goes to the root of the observance of, and respect for, the law on the part of the average motorist. Those who have served on a jury dealing with motoring offences will know that there is a marked reluctance by jurors to find someone guilty of a serious offence when a heavy penalty is involved, merely because it is a motoring offence. The reason is that there are a host of minor offences which most of us, alas, probably commit at one time or another, such as exceeding the speed limit.

    The average motorist, although knowing that he has done wrong, does not accept that he has broken the law in the same way as he would if committing burglary, fraud or inflicting grievous bodily harm. In most people's minds there is a distinction between, say, driving at 12 miles an hour above the speed limit and driving dangerously. It is not too hard to distinguish between the two. Because there are so many minor offences—some are technical—that are still subject to endorsement, there is a blurring in people's minds. There is not the clear distinction that one would have thought was necessary between a serious offence and a minor one. It is an important aspect, because it relates to the attitude of the motorist to the law.

    I should have thought that the Government would use the opportunity presented by the fixed penalty system to encourage a clear distinction between committing a serious offence and committing a technical, or minor, offence. Unfortunately, the Government do not appear to have made the saving or reduced the complication.

    It is noticeable that both of the major motoring organisations, the Royal Automobile Club and the Automobile Association, are against the Government's proposals in this respect. To illustrate the attitude of the motoring organisations and my own point of view, there is no more typical offence than that of speeding. If a person drives along the motorway at 120 miles an hour, he is clearly a major danger to other road users and to himself. On the other hand, it is also commonly known that one can drive at 79 miles an hour along the motorway and probably escape prosecution simply because there is a margin offered to the offender who just exceeds the limit. But there is no doubt that the driver doing 79 miles an hour is speeding. However, the odds are that he is not causing any danger either to himself or other road users. Therefore, speeding is fairly obvious whether the offence is serious or a minor infraction of the law.

    I have been listening to my hon. Friend with a great deal of interest and I agree with him to a large extent. Clearly serious offences should be punished with severity. Although all of us from time to time unwittingly or through negligence have committed motoring offences, does my hon. Friend agree that there are many people who persistently break the law by committing what he calls small and technical offences and, as a result, are bad drivers and a menace to other people?

    I take that point. However, a number of offences that are considered to be endorsable do not, to my mind, fall into that category. I accept what my hon. Friend says about the person who habitually speeds. None the less, in other countries—the United States is an example—it is normal to get a ticket for exceeding the speed limit up to a certain level above the norm.

    5.30 pm

    Having said that, I go on to say that a person who perpetually breaks the law in a dangerous way is hardly likely to exceed the speed limit by just a few miles an hour. He will probably be the sort of driver who will exceed it by 20 or 30 miles an hour. In such cases he should be prosecuted, and I believe that the offence should be endorsable.

    I want the Government to get the advantage of introducing a fixed penalty system, but I believe that they have unnecessarily complicated the issue. Secondly, I want to encourage motorists to keep and respect the law. I therefore believe that we must look at speeding as a two-tier conviction. Thirdly, the motoring organisations that speak for many millions of British motorists have given useful advice, and it is a great pity that the Government have not accepted their point of view.

    As the hon. Member for Westhoughton said, a policeman now has an alternative. He can either caution, as he does on certain occasions, or he can issue a fixed penalty. In addition, if there is any doubt, he can insist on a prosecution against the offending motorist. The fact that those three alternatives exist take care of the case where there is some doubt about whether the motorist has committed a less serious or more serious offence. If the policeman is in any doubt he can issue a notice of intended prosecution, in which case the courts can decide.

    I am in agreement with the Opposition amendments. The Government should explain why they have not accepted this common sense advice. If we have fixed penalties that insist on endorsement, there is the problem of levying the penalty points. There is the record-keeping associated with that and all the administration that is involved. Surely the practice in other countries should have given us some guidance.

    We should not forget one thing. British motorists are about the most law-abiding in the world. The accident rate on our roads is excellent compared with that in nearly every other major industrialised country. The British motorist is not a habitual law-breaker, yet the one area where there is friction between the police and the public is that covering traffic offences.

    The Government appear to have missed an opportunity to reduce at one fell swoop the time taken by the courts to deal with minor offences, by convincing the motorist that he will be heavily penalised if he commits a serious offence. On the other hand, using the fixed penalty system without an endorsement will ensure that police-public relations are not worsened. Frankly, many of the offences that are now listed as endorsable are not accepted as serious offences by the vast majority of motorists. I therefore ask my hon. Friend to be realistic about the real world and to think again about this part of the Bill.

    I shall be brief in my support of the amendments. In doing so I agree not only with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Stott) but with what was said by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry).

    I believe that the Government have missed an opportunity. Transport legislation should aim to achieve quick and fair justice. If that is the case, many parts of the Bill do much to expedite matters and to establish a quick relationship between the punishment and the crime. Most people involved with safety and driving behaviour believe that that is of the essence. If the paying of the fine or penalty takes place as soon as possible after the committing of the misdemeanour, all the research that has been carried out in many countries shows that that is the best possible solution, because people than respond.

    Only yesterday, in our debate on wheel clamps, we heard how some sections of the law on driving and parking have fallen into disuse because there is no clear relationship between the misdemeanour or crime and the penalty that is paid. If that attitude creeps into the behaviour that has been described by my hon. Friend, we shall be in danger of the law falling further into disrepute. I therefore believe that we must have a system that is fast and fair.

    We shall create a dangerous precedent if at the same time as introducing a fixed penalty system on a much broader scale we introduce a system which the motoring public regard as unfair. The provisions of the Bill are not bad when viewed in the long term. However, I should have liked a phasing in of the legislation so that in the first year or two, when motorists are learning about the fixed penalty system, the penalties do not result in a loss of licence.

    This is a major change. Many of us have underestimated the size of the change and the qualitative step that we are taking by introducing a much broader fixed penalty system. If we allow the motoring public two years to learn about the fixed penalty system, we can then assess in a fair and pragmatic way how the system has worked. We shall then be able to see more clearly whether there is a need to introduce fixed penalties into the system, from which penalty points and loss of licence flow.

    I cannot understand why the Government cannot adopt a much more tentative approach at this stage. After all, we must be realistic. It is unlikely that a transport Bill will be introduced each and every year.

    My right hon. Friend is right. Even though many of us would like to see improvements in the law each year, we realise that a transport Bill will not be introduced each Session.

    Surely the drafting of this Bill can be amended so that the penalty points system can be phased in over, say, a two-year period. That would be similar to some of the provisions of the 1981 Act. I do not know why that is impossible. I hope that the Government will examine this again, bearing in mind what has been said about police-public relations, and will more seriously consider the views of the major motoring organisations.

    As someone who has served on two Standing Committees on transport Bills, I pay tribute to the motoring organisations. In a sense, Oppositions are more grateful to motoring organisations than Governments, because they do not have large armies of bureaucrats helping them with drafting and so on. The reputation of the two major motoring organisations in Britain is second to none. Although we may disagree with some of their actions, by and large they reflect the wishes and desires of the motorist. In the short time between the Bill going to another place and returning to this House, I hope that the Government will talk to the motoring organisations and have second thoughts on this aspect of the Bill.

    I apologise for coming late to this debate, but I am concerned about the issue involved in the amendment. I subscribe to the general thesis behind the proposal in the Bill that, in so far as it is possible to extend the fixed penalty system, it could be done for a number of comparatively minor traffic offences. It seems to me that a fixed penalty would be appropriate for offences of the kind set out in the schedule. However, what I find unacceptable is that, under the points system, those penalties can be the accumulator for disqualifying people from driving.

    Disqualification is the severest punishment that magistrates' courts can impose. It can create far more difficulties for an offender than a prison sentence. A prison sentence of, say, a month may disrupt his life and cause him to be socially ostracised, but disqualification can end his job and lead to a collapse of his living standards. In the present economic climate, perhaps he would not work again for a considerable time. I do not believe that totting up the number of endorsements imposed simply as traffic precaution measures, which fixed penalties would be, should be a prerequisite for cutting a man's standard of living.

    Therefore, I am opposed to the suggestion that fixed penalty endorsements should be used as part of the system of points regulation for disqualification. If the Government wish to continue to use these fixed penalty offences as part of the system of points regulation for disqualification, they should provide that after, say, three fixed penalty endorsements, there should not be any further fixed penalty endorsement and that any subsequent endorsements would be for other offences. The fixed endorsement principle would apply, say, only three times.

    If one looks at the offences that will be part of the fixed penalty endorsement system, it is not too much to say that none of them, even cumulatively, should count for disqualification. The offences that are suggested are a nuisance, but represent the kind of thing that any driver of any vehicle can do from time to time. They are not offences like dangerous driving, driving without insurance or driving under the influence of drink, which can be said to be criminal offences. They are the inevitable pattern for anyone who is on the road for a long period. Those who can say that they have not committed any of these offences are probably people who do not often drive.

    5.45 pm

    In those circumstances, it is right to say that it should not be possible for a fixed penalty endorsement for this kind of offence to be dealt with by disqualification. I am opposed to the Government's proposition. I favour the amendment.

    As the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Stott) said, there was considerable debate on this matter in Committee. I recognise that the division of opinion on what should be done has not necessarily followed party lines. My hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) has made clear in this debate and previously how he feels. It was suggested in Committee that endorsable offences should not attract penalty points if they were dealt with by the fixed penalty system. That proposal was not acceptable, but at least it maintained one of the principal objectives of the Bill that I had understood both sides of the House considered desirable—to reduce the considerable burden that road traffic offences impose on the police and the courts.

    We are now discussing a proposal that no endorsable offences should be included within the fixed penalty system. If that were to be followed, we would effectively demolish the objective of this part of the Bill. The estimate is that up to 600,000 cases a year could be taken out of the courts by the extension of the fixed penalty system. That number would be so significantly reduced by this proposal as to make it hardly worth while, because about 500,000 cases would have to be dealt with by the courts.

    How many of the cases that come before the courts are for comparatively minor speeding offences? According to my information, the majority of cases are for speeding. If, therefore, only offences where the speed limit was exceeded by more than 15 miles an hour had to come to court, there would be a considerable saving.

    Two points are involved. The first concerns offences which are ordinarily dealt with following a plea of guilty and where there is no necessity for a court appearance. I shall come to that point. It is important to establish that the introduction of the fixed penalty system is not intended to devalue the seriousness of endorsable offences or their consequences. We are providing a simpler and more efficient method of dealing with many traffic offences that are currently processed through the courts.

    Of the endorsable offences, only the less serious ones are being included in the extended fixed penalty system. We are not proposing to include careless driving or any of the more serious offences. Except for the more serious breaches, with which only the courts will be able to deal appropriately, the net effect of committing an endorsable offence will be little different if it is dealt with by fixed penalty. The licence will still be endorsed with penalty points, although the fine may be slightly less and there will be no record of conviction. The endorsement will, of course, be a record of the offence itself.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Smith) made an important point. Although the degree by which the speed limit is exceeded—many hon. Members may on occasion have done just that—may be small, what is more important and what is, I believe, in the interests of public safety is that, if a motorist repetitively commits that offence, it would seem appropriate that the courts should have that in mind. If we know that a motorist has been driving in this way on a number of occasions, eventually he will have to pay a greater penalty.

    I have heard the worry that dealing with endorsable offences in this way, and not through the normal process, will lead to a diminution of respect for the law. If that were to be so, I should be concerned. However, I do not believe that that will be the case, particularly as in a substantial number of cases there is no personal appearance in court. For straightforward speeding and other endorsable offences—the type ideally suited to the fixed penalty treatment—a substantial proportion of offenders plead guilty by post. This does a great deal to save court time, but a large amount of court work is still necessary in such cases, which would be removed if the fixed penalty procedure were used.

    It must be remembered that the fixed penalty system is not being introduced exclusively, or as the only option. It will be one of three options. A constable will still have the discretion to caution or prosecute when there are serious breaches of the law. I know that much of the concern about the introduction of endorsable offences into a fixed penalty system originally centred around the need for the licence at the roadside. We have already dealt with that matter, which is not a particularly relevant problem over the border. If that problem disappears, some of the anxieties about including endorsable offences in the fixed penalty system will also disappear.

    In all the circumstances, it seems to me that what is being provided is an additional option that gives the police greater flexibility. Concern was expressed that people m ho have had fixed penalties imposed on them may rind that the accumulator works against them, and that it might be undesirable to do all this within the fixed penalty system. It must be emphasised that the motorist is not obliged to accept the fixed penalty notice. If it is a matter that concerns him, and he wishes to go to court, there is nothing to stop him doing that, even with the fixed penalty system. It would be alarming if motorists believed that we were introducing this system to deprive them of the fundamental right, in the last resort, to go to court.

    There are two threads which, although they may not conflict, none the less are evidence of an unease, for different reasons, about what has been introduced. On one side, there is the argument that this will diminish the respect for the law, and reduce the seriousness of the offences involved. Another thread, which the RAC has been suggesting, is that we ought to be reducing the importance of such things as lesser speeding offences by taking them out of the penalty points system.

    I understand that that is what the RAC is suggesting in the latest briefing that it has sent to hon. Members. It appears that it is suggesting that, in the more serious speeding offence, it would be incumbent on the prosecution not only to establish the speed at which the motorist was going and the prevailing speed limit, but to point to some additional evidence of potential accident risks. In such circumstances, we should not be making a true distinction among the different effects of speeding at a particular degree above the limit but, in that category of dangerous or reckless driving, introducing yet a further category of offence in which speeding, of itself, is not necessarily a major part.

    I agree that the proposal by the motoring organisation is misconceived, but does the Minister agree that speeding can be either a potentially dangerous activity or not, depending on the circumstances? It may not be simply a question of degree. The speed of 30 miles an hour could be dangerous in a particular place, yet 100 miles an hour on a motorway might not be dangerous in any circumstances.

    In that respect, would it not be better for us to reconsider the whole realm of speeding and whether we should make it, as it has been in this case, simply subject to a fixed penalty? If the driving is thought to be dangerous or reckless, charges should follow, which would deal with the serious danger that is occasionally caused by speeding.

    I follow the hon. Gentleman's point, but as I understand the position—this is the case north of the border on which I can speak—if someone was doing 120 miles an hour in a 30 miles per hour limit close to a school, he would not expect to be prosecuted only for breaking a speed limit. He would be charged with the more aggravated offence of careless driving. I understand the argument and realise that it is appropriate to look to the circumstances of the driving, such as the condition of the road, not just the speed.

    With regard simply to speeding offences, we are allowing in the Bill a simple and necessary flexibility, with three options. First, if the offence is minor, all that the constable needs to do is give a caution or warning. Secondly, if the offence is more excessive, the fixed penalty would be more appropriate. Thirdly, if it is significant and serious but does not involve one of the other driving offences it is still open to the police to take the case to the courts. That flexibility is desirable.

    By deleting all of schedules 1 and 2, these amendments would have an odd effect. I doubt whether the hon. Member for Westhoughton intended that. It would mean that when we introduce the new system we should have to seek parliamentary approval, by the affirmative resolution procedure, for the use of fixed penalties for offences, such as parking offences, that have already been in the fixed penalty system for many years. I think that the hon. Member for Westhoughton accepts that that is an appropriate system to deal with such offences. Rather than adding to the list of fixed penalties, we should have to seek further approval for those that we already have. We should be moving backwards rather than forwards.

    I appreciate the concern expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough on this matter. However, as this system allows for flexibility, if we were to exclude all the offences that were endorsable, all that we have sought to do in this part of the Bill would effectively be worthless, because so many offences would be left before the courts. For those reasons, I am not inclined to recommend that these amendments should be accepted.

    I join my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman) in his tribute to the motoring organisations. Throughout the proceedings on the Bill, on Second Reading, on Report and in Committee, we have been greatly assisted by the Royal Automobile Club and the Automobile Association in formulating our amendments and our view of the Bill. I pay tribute to them because they co-operate fully with all hon. Members.

    6 pm

    We have had an interesting short debate. Good contributions have been made by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) and by my hon. Friends the Members for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman) and York (Mr. Lyon), all of whom, like me, feel that endorsable offences on principle ought not to be included in the fixed penalty net. It is clear from what the Solicitor-General for Scotland said that the Government have no intention of withdrawing that provision because they believe that it will assist in taking out of the courts many of the offences that are taken to court at present.

    I still remain opposed to the principle. I speak only for myself from the Dispatch Box, not for my party, because this is not a party issue, but an issue that concerns the House generally. Therefore, I must say that I still oppose the principle because I do not wish to see those offences given the status of a conviction, which I fear may happen.

    The Solicitor-General seemed to try to mollify me by saying that the problems envisaged in Committee in respect of the licence had been removed, so the major plank of our objections was removed. That is a useful step. I am pleased that the Government have taken our advice, but our fundamental objection to the principle enunciated in the Bill has not been removed. While I recognise that many Conservative and Opposition Members may support the hon. Gentleman, a number of us, including hon. Members who have spoken this afternoon, still oppose that principle.

    I am keenly aware that I might attract the wrath of the House if I were to force a Division, but I shall restrain my natural inclination only because I believe that their Lordships will have taken note of what we have said in Committee and in the Chamber. I am sure that when the Bill goes to another place, their Lordships may be able to persuade the Government to remove endorsable offences from the provisions of the Bill because many hon. Members do not believe that they should have been included.

    The Question is, That the amendment be made. As many as are of that opinion say "Aye". Those of the contrary opinion say "No".

    Amendment negatived.

    On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. When you put the Question a moment ago, I said "Aye". I may not have said it loudly enough, but I said it. In those circumstances, is it right that the Division should not have taken place?

    I put the Question clearly. I did not hear any "Ayes". I said: "The 'Noes' have it". There were still no "Ayes" in my hearing. When I moved on, the complaint was made. I was sure in my own mind that the "Noes" had it.

    On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was sitting next to the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) and I distinctly heard him say "Aye". I imagined that the Division would take place.

    I did not hear that. I waited and still did not hear any "Ayes". I heard the "Noes", so the amendment was defeated.

    Amendment made: No. 35, in page 27, line 12, at end insert—

    '(8A) In this Part of this Act, "fixed penalty notice" means a notice offering the opportunity of the discharge of any liability to conviction of the offence to which the relates by payment of a fixed penalty in accordance with this Part of this Act. '—[The Solicitor-General for Scotland.]

    Clause 27

    Further Provisions With Respect To Fixed Penalty Offences And Notices

    Amendment made: No. 36, in page 27, line 22, at beginning insert

    `Proceedings shall not be brought against any person for the offence to which a fixed penalty notice relates until the end of the period of twenty-one days following the date of the notice or such longer period (if any) as may be specified in the notice (referred to below in this Part of this Act as the suspended enforcement period in respect of the offence).
    (1A).'.—[The Solicitor-General for Scotland.]

    I beg to move amendment No. 37, in page 27, line 26, leave out ' (including Schedules 1 and 2)'.

    This amendment has been coupled with amendment No. 57. Hon. Members may observe that my remarks will also be relevant to amendment No. 58.

    These minor amendments do no more than seek to make the Bill easier to understand. Schedule 2 is not introduced until clause 39 and it therefore seems inappropriate to refer to it in clause 27, before the reader knows that it has anything to say about fixed penalties. However, in order to retain the meaning of the existing reference to schedules 1 and 2 in clause 27, we need to say that references to this part of the Act include the schedules introduced by it.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move amendment No. 39, in page 28, line 17, at end insert

    `( ) Chief officers of police shall operate the provisions of this Part of this Act on the same basis and in respect of the same fixed penalty offences in accordance with written advice from the Secretary of State for the Home Office and the Secretary of State for Scotland.'.
    We debated this issue in Committee. We did not get much satisfaction from the Under-Secretary of State.

    Perhaps, if the Solicitor-General listens to my remarks, he will moderate his view.

    We debated the uniform application of the fixed penalty system. Under the Bill a constable or the procurator fiscal in Scotland may issue a fixed penalty notice. It seems that the availability of the fixed penalty system as an alternative to prosecution will remain a policy decision for individual police forces rather than be nationally implemented on a uniform basis.

    That will perpetuate the present unsatisfactory and confusing situation whereby in different areas of the country the fixed penalty is used to a differing extent for different offences. Under the terms of the Bill over 30 more offences will qualify for fixed penalty treatment in Scotland compared with the rest of the United Kingdom. It is inequitable that a decision whether to prosecute or issue a fixed penalty should depend upon where the offence took place rather than on the nature of the offence.

    A first step in simplifying motoring offence procedure would be that the fixed penalty system should be available on the same basis throughout Great Britain for the same offence. The Solicitor-General may recall that in Committee I gave some examples of the wide discrepancy among the police forces of Essex, Suffolk and Kent in respect of certain fixed penalty provisions. Chief constables do not apply the fixed penalty procedure uniformly. The amendment provides that some uniformity would be a good thing in new legislation.

    It appeared that the Government were sympathetic when the Under-Secretary of State for Transport wound up the debate in Committee. I prayed in aid in defence of the amendments the recommendations of the report of the inter-departmental working party on road traffic law. Paragraph 50 says:
    "We have acknowledged the reasons put forward by Chief Officers of police for the unevenness of the application of the existing fixed-penalty system. The resource argument in that connection would have little if no relevance to offences under the extended system since it is designed to reduce the work of the police in preparing and undertaking prosecutions and we therefore consider that there should be uniformity in practice."
    The acceptance of the amendment would make the extension of the fixed penalty provisions uniform throughout the United Kingdom, as they should be.

    We had a considerable debate on this matter in Committee. I do not quite know what the words "on the same basis" mean. I understand the amendment to mean that there should be uniformity of practice in the conduct of the fixed penalty system both in terms of procedure and offences dealt with. It is hoped to achieve that uniformity by circulars to the police.

    The Government's reservations are essentially the same as they were about the amendment that was debated in Committee. I thought that it was accepted that it would not be right to seek to impose complete uniformity of procedure on the police and unrealistic to suppose that all forces could deal in the same way with all possible offences. The Committee was aware that the interdepartmental working party on road traffic law had recommended that the system should be operated uniformly. The Association of Chief Police Officers has accepted that recommendation in principle. It is accepted that uniformity should be our goal but it may have to be achieved gradually rather than instantly. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Stott) withdrew his amendment in Committee on the basis that he accepted the assurance of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Transport that the fixed penalty system would be operated as uniformly as possible. It is with some surprise that we find a further amendment on the Notice Paper.

    The hon. Gentleman may feel that there is a distinction between imposing uniformity by statute and advising it by circular. The drafting of the amendment does not make such a distinction. It provides for circulars to be issued giving advice and the police would be under a statutory obligation to comply. That is quite contrary to normal practice, where advice to chief constables has no statutory force although it is issued in the expectation that it will be fo—llowed. It would be unusual for a statute to provide that Ministers should not only offer guidance but also stipulate the contents of the advice. The amendment is similar to a provision for regulation-making powers. Ministers frequently give undertakings as to the advice they will offer but not on the face of the Bill.

    Technically, it is not conventional to refer to the particular Secretary of State. I cannot accept the amendment and commend it to the House. The most that it would be appropriate for me to do would be to undertake to explore with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland the possibility of guidance being issued to the police to the effect that consistency of practice is desirable if possible. Since the Association of Chief Police Officers has already agreed to that approach, it might be thought that such advice would be superfluous. The Government do not object to the principle of uniformity.

    6.15 pm

    I have a sense of deja vu since the same people have said much the same thing in Committee. To be consistent, I should like to say that we should not regard uniformity as something to be universally sought. There may be circumstances in which the application of the provisions within a particular police area may be considered by the chief constable to be necessarily operated in a way that is not entirely consistent with that operated in other police areas.

    Certain areas of the country are affected by motoring offences at particular times of the year—Christmas or the New Year—when chief constables may wish to carry out particular schemes designed to discourage motorists from committing road offences by telling them in advance that there will be a blitz on that type of offence. Anything which inhibited a chief constable from carrying out such a scheme because it did not conform with the way the fixed penalty system was being operated elsewhere would be most undesirable. This amendment is an interference in chief constables' operational decisions. It was wrong when it was suggested in Committee and it is even worse that it should be included in the Bill.

    The hon. Member for Portsmouth, North (Mr. Griffiths) made exactly the same points in Committee. My response, now as then, is that, although I understand the resource argument, I believe that the amendments we tabled then and now are valid to try to make the Government ensure that the fixed penalty scheme is applied on a uniform basis. It may be that we did not table it correctly but we intended to ensure that the Government were apprised of our feelings.

    The Solicitor-General for Scotland asked me why I withdrew the amendment in Committee. As the hon. Gentleman well knows, I am famous for being able to facilitate progress in debate. That is one reason why I withdrew the amendment.

    I was pleased to hear the Solicitor-General for Scotland say that the Government will issue guidance to chief constables on the new provisions within the Bill. If uniformity cannot be written into the statute, guidance to chief constables will be most welcome. The motoring public will feel that it is unfair if one area of the United Kingdom issues more fixed penalty notices than another merely because the chief constable considers them to be especially important in the first area. That will cause confusion in the minds of the motoring public.

    I did not say that the Government undertook to issue guidance to chief constables. I said that my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Transport and for Scotland will consider the possibility of issuing that guidance and that that will now be explored.

    I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I hope that when the Secretary of State for Scotland and other Ministers have considered that possibility they will see fit to give guidance. It is important that it is given. With that in mind, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause 28

    Effect Where Fixed Penalty Notice Is Given To The Alleged Offender

    Amendment made: No. 40, in page 28, line 20, after '26(1)', insert

    'or [Fixed penalty notices given at a police station] (2)'.—[Mr. David Howell.]

    Clause 32

    Endorsement Of Licences Without Hearings

    Amendments made: No. 42, in page 33, line 13, after '26(1)' insert

    'or [Fixed penalty notices given at a police station] (2)'.

    No. 41, in page 33, line 24, after '26' insert

    'or [Fixed penalty notices given at a police station]'[Mr. David Howell.]

    Clause 33

    Licence Receipts

    Amendment made: No. 43, in page 35, line 3, after '26(1)' insert

    'or [Fixed penalty notices given at a police station] (2)'.—[Mr. David Howell.]

    Clause 35

    Registration And Endorsement Invalid In Certain Circumstances

    With this it will be convenient to take Government amendments Nos. 45 to 47.

    The amendments remove an anomaly in clause 35, which deals with the statutory declaration. As the clause stands, if a person makes a statutory declaration under subsection (2)(b) to the effect that a hearing had been requested in respect of the fixed penalty offence in question, the registration of the fine and any proceedings to enforce it are void. However, that person's licence may already have been endorsed. The clause, as drafted, has no provision for cancelling that endorsement. The amendments put right that anomaly.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Amendments made: No. 45, in page 38, line 11, leave out 'and'.

    No. 46, in page 38, line 13, after 'registered', insert

    'and any endorsement, in respect of the offence in respect of which the relevant fixed penalty notice was given, made under section 32 of this Act before the declaration was served'.

    No. 47, in page 38, line 17, at end insert—

    '(6A) It shall be the duty of the clerk of the relevant court to cancel an endorsement of a licence under section 32 of this Act that is void by virtue of subsection (5) or (6)(a) above on production of the licence to him for that purpose, and to send notice of the cancellation to the Secretary of State.'—[Mr. David Howell.]

    Clause 36

    Notification Of Court And Date Of Trial

    Amendment made: No. 48, in page 40, line 21, after '26(1)'

    'or [Fixed penalty notices given at a police station] (2)'—[Mr. David Howell.]

    Clause 38

    Provision For Exclusion Of Fixed Penalty Procedures Where Fixed Penalty Notice Mistakenly Given

    Amendment made: No. 49, in page 41, line 37, after '26(1)' insert

    'or [Fixed penalty notices given at a police station] (2)'.—[Mr.David Howell.]

    Clause 44

    Evidence In Fixed Penalty Notice Cases

    Amendments made: No. 51, in page 48 line 34, after 'notice' insert

    'or a notice under section [Fixed penalty notices given at a police station] (1) of this Act'.

    No. 52, in page 48, line 37, leave out 'fixed penalty'.

    No. 53, in page 49, line 30, leave out from 'the' to end of line 33 and insert

    'relevant date.
    In paragraph (b) of this subsection, "relevant date" means—
  • (i) where the accused gives notice requesting a hearing in respect of the offence in accordance with any provision of this Part of this Act, the date on which he gives that notice; and
  • (ii) where a notice in respect of the offence was given to the accused under section [Fixed penalty notices given at a police station] (1) of this Act but no fixed penalty notice is given in respect of it, the last day for production of the first-mentioned notice at a police station in accordance with that section.'.—[Mr. David Howell.]
  • Clause 47

    Supplementary Provisions

    Amendments made: No. 54, in page 50, line 40, after '26' insert

    '[Fixed penalty notices given at a police station]'

    No. 55, in page 52, line 34, at end insert

    'or in respect of which a notice has been given under section [Fixed penalty notices given at a police station] (1) of this Act'—[Mr. David Howell.]

    Clause 48

    Interpretation Of Part Iii

    I beg to move amendment No. 56, in page 53, line 27, after 'constable', insert

    'or, as the case may be, to a constable in uniform'.
    In Committee it was accepted that the Bill should make clear that a constable must be in uniform when he issues a fixed penalty notice. This technical amendment is consequential to that. It maintains consistency by ensuring that references to a constable in uniform, as well as to a constable, are to include a traffic warden for the purposes authorised.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Amendment made: No. 57, in page 53, line 31, at end insert—

    '(4A) Subject to any express exception, references in this Part of this Act to this Part of this Act include Schedules 1 to 3. '.—[Mr. Eyre.]

    I beg to move amendment No. 58, in page 53, line 34, after 'this' insert 'Part of this'.

    When I was speaking to amendments Nos. 37 and 57 I said that this amendment naturally fell with them. It is a technical amendment that relates to amendments Nos.37 and 57.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Amendments made: No. 59, in page 53, line 39, leave out '(1)' and insert '(8A)'.

    No. 60, in page 54, line 10, leave out ' 26(5)' and insert '27(1)'.— [Mr. David Howell.]

    Clause 49

    Control Of Operation Of Goods Vehicles On Environmental Grounds

    Amendment made: No. 61, in page 54, line 16, leave out clause 49.— [Mr. David Howell.]

    Clause 54

    Regulations And Orders

    I beg to move amendment No. 62, in page 57, line 35, after '(2)', insert

    'subject to subsection (2A) below'.

    With this, it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 63, in page 57, line 38, at end insert—

    (2A) The Secretary of State shall not make any orders under section 27(1) of this Act unless a draft thereof has been approved by both Houses of Parliament.'.

    This is a reference back to clause 27(1), which gives the Secretary of State power to create new fixed penalty offences or to remove certain fixed penalty offences from that category. We had a considerable debate in Committee on a wider issue about whether the orders should be by affirmative or negative procedure. I do not want to repeat that argument in full.

    It is interesting to note that if the Secretary of State wishes to extend the functions of traffic wardens under the 1967 Act, he has to proceed by affirmative order. We believe that moving offences into or out of the fixed penalty system should be done with some consistency and that consistency should be taken into account.

    There are difficulties with the negative procedure, the most obvious one being lack of time. The House NA ill recall that during 1971–72 a Joint Committee of both Houses considered delegated legislation. I shall not go through the report, but there was considerable criticism about a number of prayers that were not taken. There have been changes since then and it is now possible to consider statutory instruments in Committee. But that is no guarantee that a matter will be debated in time.

    The Department is open to criticism on this score. My attention has been drawn to the occasion when the hon. Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer) prayed against an order dealing with right-hand sidecars on motor cycles. In Committee, the Government were defeated, but the then Under-Secretary of State, the hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), who is now the Minister for Health, refused to accept the decision of the Committee on the ground that the debate had taken place one day out of time. When a Department cannot arrange to take matters in time, it does not inspire us with confidence in the negative procedure. It is even worse than that, because the then Secretary of State declined to take the matter on the Floor of the House so that the view of the House might be taken. That does not inspire confidence in the negative procedure.

    In Committee, we debated penalties as well as offences. It was a two-pronged debate. The Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker), said that she was open to further enticement. The hon. Lady is not on the Government Front Bench to be enticed. We understand why she is not present and we make no complaint about her absence. I hoped that, following the end of our deliberations in Committee, the hon. Lady had been able to persuade the Secretary of State to accept the amendment. I await the Under-Secretary of State's reply with confidence.

    I regret that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) will be disappointed with my reply. He was right to say that this issue was discussed at some length in Committee. The question whether such orders should be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure was considered fully. I do not share the hon. Gentleman's concern about the negative resolution procedure that we are proposing for the order to remove from or to add to the list of fixed penalty offences. Hon. Members need not be worried that we shall want to start including serious offences, such as drinking and driving, in the fixed penalty offences. Any offence which involves the possibility of disqualification could not be included because of the need for a court hearing. However, experience of the system may show that some offences should be taken out or that others should be included.

    6.30 pm

    Things do change. New offences may be created which may subsequently be thought suitable for fixed penalty treatment. In some circumstances the procedure advocated is appropriate, but it is time-consuming and by no means simple. It is not warranted for the type of order that we envisage. This is a matter of judgment.

    There are other considerations. There is no advantage in including an offence if the fixed penalty procedure is not suitable for it. The motorist would probably object and not accept a fixed penalty notice, and the police, too, would not take advantage of the benefits offered by the system.

    My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has given the matter much thought since it was discussed in Committee. He remains of the view that what we propose is adequate and proper. Therefore, I ask the House to join me, if necessary, in resisting the amendment. However, I hope that, in the light of my explanation, the hon. Gentleman will withdraw the amendment.

    I regret that the Minister regrets that he cannot accept the amendment. I would have been happier if he had come to the Dispatch Box and explained that, although the matter arose before he went to the Department of Transport, he could give an absolute assurance that the Government, in the form of the Secretary of State for Transport, would ensure that prayers were not delayed beyond the time that they were due to be debated. That would have been a great reassurance, but the Minister has not said that.

    The Minister put forward a fallacious argument about convenience. What is convenient for the Government is not important, but what is convenient for the House is. It is true that the negative procedure is more convenient for the Government because, once the orders are laid, they lie there unless someone takes action against them. I did not suggest that the Government would act irresponsibly by taking things out or putting them in, but it would be perfectly proper for the Government to use the affirmative procedure. That would mean that they must find time for debate and that the changes could not be effected until the debate had taken place.

    This is a House of Commons matter. I do not wish to delay the House any longer. I am prepared to give way if the Government will give an assurance that they will play the game on the negative procedure. I shall be delighted if the Minister springs to his feet—it rather worries me that he does not—and says that the events which I have described will not happen again.

    Any procedural mishap would be regretted. I have listened to what the hon. Gentleman has said. I do not know enough about the facts of the matter, but I assure him that the Government would want to avoid the repetition of such a procedural mishap.

    Since we appear to be in a friendly mood today, I will go so far as to accept that there was a mishap on the previous occasion, but I have some suspicion that it was not. In view of the assurances that I have finally managed to wring out of the Minister, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause 55

    Minor And Consequential Amendments And Repeals

    Amendment made: No. 64, in page 58, line 7, at end insert—

    `but the repeal in the Heavy Commercial Vehicles (Controls and Regulations) Act 1973 is subject to the saving in section (Definition of heavy commercial vehicle) (3) of this Act.'.—[Mr. Eyre.]

    Clause 57

    Citation, Commencement And Extent

    Amendment made: No. 66, in page 58, line 22, at beginning insert—

    `Sections (Immobilisation of vehicles illegally parked, etc.) and (Definition of heavy commercial vehicle) of this Act and'.—[Mr. Eyre.]

    Schedule 1

    Fixed Penalty Offences

    I beg to move amendment No. 68, in page 61, line 7, column 2, at end insert

    `except an offence in respect of a moving motor vehicle'.

    These amendments are in response to the Opposition's concern that these two offences were not suitable for fixed penalty treatment. Their proposal would have removed all pedestrian crossing offences from the fixed penalty system. We do not feel that is justified.—Schedule 5 Therefore, the amendment is confined to excluding offences

    "in respect of a moving motor vehicle."
    There are many instances where fixed penalty treatment would be appropriate for minor breaches of the pedestrian crossing regulations, especially those involving stationary vehicles. It would be absurd if each of those had to be dealt with in court when one of the main objectives of the new system is to relieve the courts of road traffic cases. However, I am prepared to accept that offences in respect of moving vehicles may be more serious. It must be remembered that the fixed penalty procedure is only an option for a constable who retains the discretion to prosecute for serious breaches of a regulation.

    There is no intention to devalue the seriousness of any offence by making it eligible for fixed penalty treatment. Nevertheless, in view of the concern expressed, we have decided that breaches of pedestrian crossing regulations in respect of a moving motor vehicle should not be included in the extended fixed penalty system.

    We have also decided that the offence of disregarding a school crossing patrol may not be ideally suited to the fixed penalty treatment in all cases. In view of the fact that the number of cases that would stay within the court process is relatively small—about 650 convictions in 1980—and in view of the concern expressed, which to an extent I share, we have decided that these offences, too, should not be part of the fixed penalty system.

    On behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I thank the Minister for bringing forward the two amendments.

    Amendment No. 68 is a sensible amendment with regard to pedestrian crossings. I understand the Minister's point about the moving traffic offence. That is important.

    The Committee was appalled that a provision should be included in the Bill whereby a fixed penalty notice could be given to a motorist who clearly ignored a school crossing patrol. That could not be right. I am grateful that he has taken notice of the view expressed on both sides in Committee.

    This is a useful concession. It is an example of some light being shed rather than just heat being generated in Committee. Once the Committee recognised the division between those offences and the number of prosecutions for moving and stationary vehicles, the need for the amendment became clear. I thank the Government for making that change.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Amendment made: No. 69, in page 61, leave out lines 9 and 10.— [Mr. Eyre.]

    Schedule 4

    Amendments Of Transport Act 1968 Relating To Operator's Licences

    Amendment made: No. 72, in page 70, leave out from beginning of line 1 to end of line 9 on page 76.— [Mr. Eyre.]

    Schedule 5

    Minor And Consequential Amendments

    I beg to move amendment No. 73, in page 77, line 35, after 'in', insert 'any provision of.

    This is a minor technical amendment which makes no difference to the substance of schedule 5. It simply improves the drafting. It amends the definition of "authorised inspector" which paragraph 9(4) of that schedule inserts into the Road Traffic Act 1972.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move amendment No. 74, in page 78, line 27, leave out from—driver"' to "`alleged"' in line 28 and insert

    `for the word "was" there shall be substituted the word "is",.
    This is a technical amendment that alters the amended definition of "driver" in section 5 of the Road Traffic Act 1974. The use of "is" rather than "was" is more appropriate to convey the feeling that the allegation can be a continuing one and consistency with the wording of clause 29(3) is maintained.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move amendment No.75, in page 79, line 21, leave out first 'and' and insert `to'.

    This amendment merely corrects an error of drafting.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Amendment made: No. 76, in page 79, line 40, leave out from beginning to end of line 42 and insert—

    'In section 9 of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981 (power to prohibit driving of unfit public service vehicles)—(a) in subsection (5), for the words from "the driver" to "public" there shall be substituted the words "any person"; and (b) the following subsection shall be added at the end—'—[Mr. Eyre.]

    I beg to move amendment No.77, in page 79, line 44, at end insert—

    `16A. In section 52(1)(a) of that Act (fees for grant of licence), for sub-paragraph (ii) there shall be substituted the following subparagraph—"(ii) applications for certificates of initial fitness under section 6 of this Act which are required by regulations to be made to the commissioners and the issue of certificates on such applications;"'.
    The purpose of this minor amendment is to ensure that if the initial certification of public service vehicles is undertaken by an authorised body in the private sector, applications and fees for the certification work will go to the authority that does it and not, as at present, to the traffic commissioners. The amendment does not contain any specific reference to the payment of fees to a private sector testing authority, but it makes it clear that the destination of applications and fees can be determines in regulations under the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1931. That leaves it open for regulations to specify that fees shall be paid to the prescribed authority.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Amendment made:

    No. 78, in page 80, line 1, leave out 'the 1981' and insert `that'.— [Mr. Eyre.]

    Schedule 6

    Repeals

    Amendments made:

    No. 79, in page 80, line 21, column 3, leave out `Section 68(4) (a)' and insert—

    'In section 63, in subsection (1) the words "Subject to subsection (2) of this section" and subsection (2).
    In section 64(2), in paragraph (d) the words from "and that the place" to the end of the paragraph and in paragraph (e) the words "and of a suitable operating centre".
    Section 68(4)(a).'.

    No. 80, in page 80, line 37, at end insert—

    `1973 c. 44
    Heavy Commercial Vehicles (Controls and Regulations) Act 1973.
    Section 1(7). '.

    No. 81, in page 81, line 34, column 3, at end insert—'In Schedule 4, paragraph 2 (b) and (c).'.— [Mr. Eyre.]

    I beg to move amendment No. 82, in page 81, line 44, column 3, leave out 'paragraph 3' and insert `paragraphs 3 and 5'.

    This is a minor consequential amendment completing the repeals that must be made of parts of schedule 3 to the Transport Act 1978.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Amendment made:

    No. 83, in page 81, line 50, after '7', insert 'paragraph 13 and'.— [Mr. Eyre.]

    No. 84:

    New Schedule

    `Amendments Of Transport Act 1968 Relating To Operators' Licences

    Part I

    Provisions Inserted After Section 69 Of Transport Act 1968

    Control of operating centres for goods vehicles on environmental
    grounds

    Operating centres for authorised vehicles to be specified in
    operators' licences

    69A.—(1) A person may not use a place in the area of any licensing authority as an operating centre for authorised vehicles under any operator's licence granted to him by that authority unless it is specified in that licence.

    (2) A person applying for an operator's licence shall give to the licensing authority a statement giving such particulars as the authority may require of each place in the area of the authority which will be an operating centre of the applicant if the licence is granted.

    (3) Without prejudice to section 62(4) of this Act, a person applying for an operator's licence shall also, if he is required by the licensing authority so to do, give to him such particulars as he may require with respect to the use which the applicant proposes to make, for authorised vehicles under the licence, of any place referred to in the statement under subsection (2) of this section.

    (4) Any person who contravenes subsection (1) of this section shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £500.

    Objection to, and refusal or modification of, applications for operators' licences on environmental grounds

    69B.—(1) Any person entitled by virtue of section 63(3) of this Act to object to the grant of any application for an operator's licence on the ground there mentioned may also object to the grant of any such application on the ground that any place which, if the licence is granted, will be an operating centre of the holder of the licence is unsuitable on environmental grounds for use as such.

    (2) In the case of any such application, any person who is the owner or occupier of land in the vicinity of any place which, if the licence is granted, will be an operating centre of the holder of the licence may make representations against the grant of the application on the ground that that place in unsuitable on environmental grounds for use as such, provided that any adverse effects on environmental conditions arising from that use would be capable of prejudicially affecting the use or enjoyment of the land.

    (3) Where any objection or representations are duly made under this section in respect of any application for an operator's licence, the licensing authority may in any case refuse the application on the ground that the parking of authorised vehicles under the licence at or in the vicinity of any place which, if the licence were granted, would be an operating centre of the holder of the licence would cause adverse effects on environmental conditions in the vicinity of that place.

    (4) Where any objection or representations are duly so made in respect of any such application, the licensing authority may refuse the application, subject to subsection (5) of this section, on the ground that any place which, if the licence were granted, would be an operating centre of the holder of the licence is unsuitable for use as such on environmental grounds other than the ground mentioned in subsection (3) of this section.

    (5) A licensing authority may not refuse an application for an operator's licence under subsection (4) of this section if the applicant satisfies the authority that the grant of the application will not result in any material change as regards—

  • (a) the places in the area of the authority used or to be used as operating centres for authorised vehicles under any operator's licence previously granted by the authority or under the licence applied for; or
  • (b) the use of any such place already in use as an operating centre under an existing licence so granted.
  • (6) Without prejudice to the power of a licensing authority to issue an operator's licence subject to either or both of the modifications or limitations mentioned in section 64(4) of this Act, in any case where—

  • (a) the authority has power to refuse an application for any such licence under subsection (3) or (4) of this section; and
  • (b) any place other than a place unsuitable for use as an operating centre is referred to in the statement under section 69A(2) of this Act as a proposed operating centre of the applicant; the authority may, instead of refusing the application, issue the licence specifying in it only such place or places referred to in that statement as are not unsuitable for use as an operating centre.
  • For the purposes of this subsection, a place referred to in any such statement given to a licensing authority by an applicant for an operator's licence is unsuitable for use as an operating centre if the licensing authority has power to refuse the application under subsection (3) or (4) of this section in consequence of the proposed use of that place as an operating centre.

    (7) A request for the grant of a licence under section 67(5) of this Act pending the determination of a current application shall not be treated as an application for an operator's licence for the purposes of this section, but in granting a licence under section 67(5) a licensing authority may specify in the licence such place or places referred to in the statement given to the authority by the applicant under section 69A(2) of this Act as the authority thinks fit.

    Conditions as to the use of operating centres

    69C.—(1) Subject to the following provisions of this section, a licensing authority may attach such conditions to an operator's licence as appear to him to be appropriate for the purpose of preventing or minimising any adverse effects on environmental conditions arising from the use for authorised vehicle under the licence of any operating centre of the holder of the licence in the area of the authority.

    (2) The conditions which may be attached to a licence under this section shall be of such description as may be prescribed; and, without prejudice to the generality of the preceding provision, the descriptions which may be prescribed include conditions regulating—

  • (a) the number, type and size of motor vehicles or trailers which may at any one time be at any operating centre of the holder of the licence in the area of the authority for any prescribed purpose;
  • (b) the parking arrangements to be provided at or in the vicinity of any such centre; and
  • (c) the hours at which operations of any prescribed description may be carried on at any such centre.
  • (3) Subject to subsection (4) of this section, the licensing authority by whom an operator's licence was granted may at any time vary or remove any condition attached to the licence under this section.

    (4) The power to attach a condition to an operator's licence under this section shall be exercisable by a licensing authority on granting the licence; and that power, and the power to vary or remove any condition so attached, shall also be exercisable in accordance with section 69D of this Act on an application by the holder for variation of the licence.

    (5) Any person who contravenes any condition attached under this section to a licence of which he is the holder shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £500.

    Variation of operators' licences with respect to operating centres and conditions affecting their use, etc.

    69D.—(1) Subject to section 69E of this Act, on the application of the holder of an operator's licence, the licensing authority by whom the licence was granted may at any time while it is in force vary the licence by directing—

  • (a) that a new place shall be specified in the licence as an operating centre of the holder of the licence, or that any place so specified shall cease to be so specified; or
  • (b) that any condition to the licence under section 69C of this Act shall be varied or removed.
  • (2) A person applying for the variation of an operator's licence under this section shall give to the licensing authority such information as he may reasonably require for the discharge of his duties in relation to the application.

    (3) The licensing authority shall publish in the prescribed manner notice of any application for a variation under this section, unless the licensing authority is satisfied that the application is of so trivial a nature that it is not necessary that an opportunity should be given for objecting to it or making representations against it.

    (4) Any person entitled to object to the grant of any application for a variation of which notice has been published under section 68(4) of this Act may object to the grant of any application for a variation of which notice has been published under section 68(4) or under subsection (3) of this section on either of the following grounds, that is to say—

  • (a) that any place which, if the application for variation is granted, will be an operating centre of the holder of the licence is unsuitable on environmental grounds for use as such; or
  • (b) that the use in any manner which will be permitted if the application for variation is granted of any operating centre of the holder of the licence will have adverse effects on environmental conditions in the vicinity of that centre.
  • (5) Subject to subsection (6) of this section, any person who is the owner or occupier of land in the vicinity of—

  • (a) any place which, if the application for variation is granted, will be an operating centre of the holder of the licence; or
  • (b) any existing operating centre of the holder of the licence to which the application relates; may make representations against the grant of any application for a variation of which notice has been published under section 68(4) of this Act or under subsection (3) of this section on either of the grounds mentioned in subsection (4) of this section, but so far only as relates to that place or operating centre.
  • (6) A person may not by virtue of subsection (5) of this section make representations against the grant of an application for variation of an operator's licence unless any adverse effects arising from the use of the place or operating centre in question would be capable of prejudicially affecting the use or enjoyment of land there mentioned.

    (7) On any application for a variation of an operator's licence under this section the licensing authority may refuse the application in any case where it appears to him that the application ought to be refused on either of the grounds mentioned in subsection (4) of this section.

    (8) In any case in which the licensing authority grants an application for a variation of an operator's licence of which notice has been published under section 68(4) of this Act or under subsection (3) of this section, the licensing authority may direct that any condition attached to the licence under section 69C of this Act shall be varied or removed or that a condition shall be attached to the licence under that section.

    (9) If an applicant under this section so requests, the licensing authority may, pending the determination of the application, give an interim direction under subsection (1) or (8) of this section, that is to say, a direction expressed to continue in force only until the application, and any appeal arising out of it, have been disposed of; and a request for such a direction shall not for the purposes of subsections (3) to (7) of this section be treated as an application for a variation under this section.

    Publication Of Notice Of Applications For Licences And Variations In Localities Affected

    69E.—(1) The licensing authority for any area shall refuse—

  • (a) any application to the authority for an operator's licence; and
  • (b) any application to the authority for the variation of an operator's licence of which notice has been published under section 68(4) or 69D(3) of this Act; without considering the merits of the application unless he is satisfied that notice of the application in such form and containing such information as may be prescribed has been published within the period mentioned in subsection (2) of this section in a local newspaper or newspapers circulating in each locality affected by the application.
  • (2) The period referred to in subsection (1) of this section is the period beginning twenty-one days before the date on which the application is made and ending twenty-one days after that date.

    (3) For the purposes of this section a locality shall be taken to be affected by an application to a licensing authority for, or for the variation of, an operators's licence if it contains any place in the area of the authority which will be an operating centre of the holder of the licence if the application is granted, or (in the case of an application for variation) any existing operating centre of the holder of the licence to which the application relates.

    Revocation, Etc Of Operators' Licences For Breach Of Provisions Controling Use Of Operating Centres

    69F.—(1) Subject to subsection (2) of this section, the licensing authority by whom an operator's licence was granted may direct that it be revoked, suspended, terminated on a (late earlier than that on which it would otherwise expire under section 67 of this Act, or curtailed on the ground that the holder of the licence has contravened section 69A of this Act or any condition attached to his licence under section 69C of this Act; and during any time of suspension the licence shall be of no effect.

    (2) Section 69 of this Act shall apply as if the power to give a direction under subsection (1) of this section and the ground there mentioned were respectively conferred by and mentioned in subsection (1) of that section.

    Provisions supplementary to sections 69A to 69F

    69G.—(1) Any objection or representations under section 69B or 69D of this Act shall contain particulars of any matters alleged by the person making the objection or representations to be relevant to the determination of the licensing authority to which the objections or representations relate; and the onus of proof of any matters so alleged shall lie on the person making the objection or representations.

    (2) any objection or representations under either of those sections with respect to any application for, or for the variation of, an operator's licence shall be made within the prescribed time and in the prescribed manner, which—

  • (a) may differ for representations from that prescribed for objections; and
  • (b) shall in either case be stated in the notice of the application published under section 63(1) of this Act or (as the case may be) under section 69D of this Act.
  • (3) In making any of the following determinations, that is to say—

  • (a) any determination with respect to the suitability of any place on environmental grounds for use as an operating centre for authorised vehicles under an operator's licence;
  • (b) any determination with respect to attaching any condition under section 69C of this Act to an operator's licence or varying or removing any condition so attached;
  • (c) any determination with respect to the effect on environmental conditions in any locality of the use in any particular manner of any operating centre of the holder of an operator's licence; the licensing authority shall have regard to such considerations as may be prescribed as relevant to determinations of that description.
  • (4) In making any such determination for the purposes of exercising any of his powers under sections 69B to 69D of this

    Act in relation to an application for, or for the variation of, an operator's licence, the licensing authority shall also have regard to—

  • (a) any information supplied by the applicant in accordance with section 69A or 69D of this Act; and
  • (b) any objections or representations duly made under section 69B or 69D.
  • (5) Notice of an application for a variation of an operator's licence published under section 69D of this Act shall contain

  • (a) an indication in the prescribed form to the effect that the grant of the application may only be opposed on either of the grounds mentioned in subsection (4) of that section;
  • (b) a description of the persons entitled in accordance with that section to make an objection or representations against the grant of the application on either of those grounds; and
  • (c) such other information as may be prescribed.
  • (6) Any statement or information to be given to a licensing authority under section 69A or 69D of this Act shall be given in such form as the authority may require.

    (7) For the purposes of sections 69D(5) (b) and 69E(3) of this Act an application for a variation of an operator's licence shall be taken to relate to an operating centre of the holder of the licence if any condition attached to the licence which the application seeks to have varied or removed relates to that centre.

    Part Ii

    OTHER AMENDMENTS OF TRANSPORT ACT 1968

    '1. In section 63 of the Transport Act 1968 (objections to grant of operators' licences)—

  • (a) in subsection (1) the words "Subject to subsection (2) of this section" shall be omitted;
  • (b) subsection (2) shall be omitted; and
  • (c) in subsection (3), for the words from "of which" to "this section" there shall be substituted the words "for an operator's licence".
  • 2. In section 64 of that Act (grounds for objection to application for a licence under section 63 and decision of licensing authority on applications)—

  • (a) at the beginning of subsection (1) there shall be inserted the words "Subject to section 69E of this Act";
  • (b) the words in paragraph (d) of subsection (2) from "and that the place" to the end of the paragraph, and the words "and of a suitable operating centre" in paragraph (e) of that subsection (which were in each case inserted by the Road Traffic Act 1974 and are superseded by the provisions set out in Part I of this Schedule) shall be omitted; and
  • (c) in subsection (3), after the words "subsection (4) of this section" there shall be inserted the words "and section 69B of this Act".
  • 3. In section 68(4) of that Act (publication of notice of applications for variation of operators' licences)—

  • (a) paragraph (a) shall be omitted; and
  • (b) for the words "the said section 63" (where first occurring) there shall be substituted the words "section 63 of this Act".
  • 4. In section 70(1)(b) of that Act (right of appeal for persons aggrieved by certain directions or orders), after the words "69(1) to (7A)" there shall be inserted the words "or 69F(1)".

    5. At the end of section 92(3) of that Act (construction of references to directing that an operator's licence be curtailed), there shall be added the following paragraph—

    "(d) that any one or more of the places specified in the licence as operating centres be removed therefrom". '.—[Mr. Eyre.]

    Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

    No. 85, in title, line 15, leave out 'the operation of' and insert 'operating centres for'.— [Mr. Eyre.]

    6.43 pm

    Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.— [Mr. David Howell.]

    I take it that the Secretary of State is simply formally moving the Third Reading.

    It is understandable that the Secretary of State does not wish to deploy a case for the Third Reading of such a repugnant measure as this. I realise the reluctance of those who have laboured hard and long on any measure to see it killed or disappear. No matter what the results of one's handiwork, if that handiwork is embodied in the Bill one is reluctant to see it dispatched to the scrap heap, the dustbin or the wastepaper basket of legislative history. Nevertheless, it is my task tonight to commend the House to do precisely that with this measure.

    I commend the House to do so, first, because of the main provisions of clause 1, which are that a power shall be granted to the Secretary of State to instruct the National Bus Company to sell any of its subsidiaries or to so reorganise its assets as to form a subsidiary for the purpose of selling it.

    It is clear to anyone who examines the transport industry that few assets can be sold. There are many that one could not give away, to put it bluntly. However, there are a few profitable areas of operation, jewels that shine from the murky background of the operation—murky in the financial sense, not necessarily in the public service sense. Many operators strive hard to maintain a tradition of good public transport.

    Within the National Bus Company there are a few profitable organisations that were made profitable by much enterprise and effort by those who worked in the company and responded when the Government de-licensed express coaching. It is clear that in part I the Government wished to say "You have used our legislation to create a profitable area in transport. You cannot do that. You will be giving a good name to a public industry and to public transport. Anything that is public must be damned or made unprofitable and, therefore, we shall instruct you to sell it." That is our first objection to what the Government are doing. They have found another profitable area in the holiday agency operation.

    Apart from our difference of philosophy with the Government, we have a mechanical difference with them which we commend to the House. The ability of the NBC to succeed in this area where others have failed does not arise solely from the management expertise, the ability of the staff or the fact that it is a good operator. It arises because it is such a large organisation that it can integrate the provision of other services within its general duty to run the stage carriage services of Britain. As it has garages and booking offices all over the country, it is possible to slot into the framework of that massive organisation express coaching and holiday agencies and to derive a profit, which is currently used to support the non-profitable services such as the rural bus services and the off-peak urban services.

    Last night the Secretary of State urged the House to get the matter into perspective. I took that point carefully. He said that the company made a profit of only £5 million, although it has a large turnover. Which other organisation made £5 million last year running buses anywhere in Britain? That would be a desirable organisation, but I know of none. To make £5 million last year when the competition was cut-throat and when other firms went to the wall in trying to compete is no small achievement.

    That situation will not continue for long. There will be a swing of the pendulum in the other direction and the coach operators that survived the period of cut-throat competition will examine ways in which to put up their fares again so that they can have a larger income. That is all the more reason why we should not attempt to break up that closely integrated operation. I question whether it can be done. It might be done by accountancy, but to remove from the NBC the drivers, buses, garages and offices and to say that those parts must be devoted only to express coach operations or holiday agencies is to make practical nonsense of the operation.

    If only £5 million is to be taken out, will the Secretary of State give us a guarantee that the £5 million will be handed to those authorities whose agreements with the NBC will lapse as a result of the NBC no longer being able to feed in that money by way of transport supplementary grant? If that is not the case, the public will once again be the loser.

    Before raising the Opposition's principal objections about HGV testing stations, I urge the Secretary of State to consider their possible size. I do so incase, despite our superb case against the Bill, the Government's argument may yet be carried.

    The right hon. Gentleman should carefully examine public service vehicle testing. When I talked to operators, I found that the development of testing facilities for public service vehicles on the operator's premises had almost been brought to a halt by Government action. There had been considerable expansion of the installation of such facilities in larger bus garages. The operators tell me that they are uncertain about being able to have coaches tested and about the charges that will be made as a result of the proposed changes.

    If the Secretary of State is to operate the Act, he must take steps to ensure that operators who have good test facilities are assured that they will be provided with authorised testers. There is no guarantee of that at the moment. They fear, with some justification, that some of the authorised testers will be the employees of their competitors for test facilities.

    The Secretary of State appears to disagree. I take the example of a bus operator who has spent a considerable sum of money installing equipment to carry out tests to the Ministry of Transport's requirements. He may have been able until now to rely on the Ministry to supply someone to test buses on his facilities at a fixed fee. The operator fears that he may in future be forced to go to a private HGV testing station to ask for someone to test his vehicles on his premises.

    The private tester will decide when he will make a man available and how much to charge, unless there is a uniform system of charges, without any account being taken of the fact that operators provide their own test facilities. That will be a major disincentive to the expansion of test facilities.

    I plead with the Secretary of State to bear in mind that the provision of such facilities has contributed greatly to the maintenace of bus standards. An operator with his own test facilities does not use them only when the tester arrives. He tests his vehicles first. He will not waste the time of the tester, who might find that the vehicle is not up to standard and the owner will then have to carry out the work. He will test his vehicles first and find the faults. He will carry out the work to prevent the faults from developing. This is done to maintain braking standards, for example. It is in the interests of road safety to encourage that development.

    The Opposition remain alarmed about the down-licensing rather than the down-plating approach of the Government. I hope that the Secretary of State will ensure that vehicle operators who claim the advantage of paying a lower licensing fee under the Finance Bill because they will run below their plated weights will be required to display a plate prominently. That will allow much more effective enforcement.

    In spite of varying cross-party opinions on part HI, the Opposition find parts I and II repugnant. They are narrowly doctrinaire and are conceived to sacrifice the interests of public transport and road safety to Tory monetarist prejudice. They will result in cuts in the Civil Service and the destruction of the public sector because of the aims of a crusade, the achievement of which seems to justify any end.

    For those reasons, we recommend that the Bill be rejected.

    6.54 pm

    I was anxious to hear whether the right hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth) had some worthwhile reasons for opposing what most people recognise as a thoroughly constructive transport Bill. Admittedly it covers a wide range of transport interests, but it is utterly in tune with the needs of those who use public transport, the transport industry and the interests of the community. That is why I thought it right that the right hon. Gentleman should have the opportunity to oppose the Bill and to advance some good reasons for doing so. The House will be confirmed in its suspicion that he has none.

    The right hon. Gentleman dealt with the question of more private money being brought into the bus industry. He mentioned his worry that the profitable operations of the National Express subsidiary of the National Bus Company should be privatised. That is a little strange as, thinking back, he and his right hon. and hon. Friends vigorously opposed—possibly with more vigour than the Opposition have pursued what they think is wrong in the Bill—the measures that enabled National Express to develop healthily into a highly profitable enterprise. What is wrong with that? The right hon. Gentleman opposed it. Now that it occurs he wrings his hands and regrets that private money should be sought to reinforce the success of National Express.

    What is more, the money will be used to reinforce the NBC, which is a minority shareholder in the National Express subsidiary—as I believe it will be—and to provide some resources to back up its other operations. That is a desirable and helpful development. It is not in the mode of party doctrine or dogma. It is a sensible and practical development. I cannot understand why the right hon. Gentleman could not advise his right hon. and hon. Friends to welcome it strongly.

    The Bill also deals with other opportunities for the development and expansion of the passenger transport business. It will bring higher quality services and better facilities for both the travelling public and the staff. The company has advanced preliminary proposals for separate commercial accounts for National Express and the holiday side of the business. Those ideas are being developed in discussions between the Department and the company with a view to their being in place by the end of 1982.

    With regard to property, the chairman of the National Bus Company has presented me with an interesting package of proposals that involve the private sector in the development and improvement of NBC sites. I shall discuss them shortly with the chairman to try to agree the best way forward for the NBC, the people who use buses and sit in stations and all those, both customers and those in the industry, who wish to see it prosper. I cannot understand why the Opposition find that so objectionable in practice or why they find it impossible to suppress a deep primeval instinct to attack everything to do with the private sector and private money being introduced to further operations. It is a pity that they were not able to override their prejudices.

    Part II proposes a goods vehicle scheme which will be more efficient and better geared to the needs of industry. The way in which I have suggested that that should be done—through discussions with Lloyd's Register—is wholly in line with the requirements and suggestions that were advanced both by the Select Committee on Transport and with the needs and concerns that were expressed in Committee. Again, I should have expected a warmer welcome than we have received from the Opposition.

    I shall, of course, take account of the needs of bus operators in the way that the right hon. Gentleman describes. Of course we want an efficient service in safe hands. I believe that under the scheme being discussed with Lloyd's Register it will be possible to develop the system in a way that meets the needs as well as or even better than at present.

    The Bill also proposes a fairer and much more efficient system of penalties for traffic offences and more effective safeguards for the public from the unpleasant side of lorry operations. Much of the debate on traffic offences inevitably concentrated on the extension of the system to a wider range of offences. Nevertheless, we must not lose sight of the important measures provided by the Bill to improve enforcement of the present system, which have, I think, also been universally welcomed. As the House knows, at present the system is being defeated by a large number of motorists who do not pay because they believe that the penalties will not be enforced. The changes being introduced will help to ensure that that does not happen.

    I have listened carefully to the right hon. Gentleman, but I have heard no good reason why the Third Reading of the Bill should be opposed. We do not feel defensive about it in terms of party dogma. We put it forward with confidence as a series of sound, practical measures which deserve the full support of everyone with a genuine interest in the transport industries of this country and in meeting the transport needs of the community and the customers of the transport services. I hope, therefore, that right hon. and hon. Members will give it full support.

    Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

    The House divided: Ayes 282, Noes 217.

    Division No. 171]

    [7 pm

    AYES

    Adley, RobertBiffen, Rt Hon John
    Alexander, RichardBiggs-Davison, SirJohn
    Alison, Rt Hon MichaelBlackburn, John
    Amery, Rt Hon JulianBlaker, Peter
    Ancram, MichaelBody, Richard
    Arnold, TomBonsor, SirNicholas
    Aspinwall, JackBoscawen, Hon Robert
    Atkins, Rt Hon H. (S'thorne)Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)
    Atkins, Robert('PrestonN)Bowden, Andrew
    Atkinson, David (B'm'th, E,)Boyson, Dr Rhodes
    Baker, Kenneth (St.M'bone)Braine, SirBernard
    Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Bright, Graham
    Banks, RobertBrinton, Tim
    Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyBrittan, Rt. Hon. Leon
    Bendall, VivianBrooke, Hon Peter
    Bennett, SirFrederic (T'bay)Brotherton, Michael
    Benyon, Thomas (A'don)Brown, Michael (Brigg&Sc'n)
    Benyon, W. (Buckingham)Bruce-Gardyne, John
    Best, KeithBuchanan-Smith, Rt. Hon. A.
    Bevan, DavidGilroyBuck, Antony

    Budgen, NickHicks, Robert
    Bulmer, EsmondHiggins, Rt Hon Terence L.
    Burden, SirFrederickHill, James
    Butcher, JohnHogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
    Cadbury, JocelynHolland, Philip(Carlton)
    Carlisle, John (Luton West)Hooson, Tom
    Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Hordern, Peter
    Chapman, SydneyHowell, Rt Hon D.(G'ldf'd)
    Churchill, W.S.Hunt, David (Wirral)
    Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)
    Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
    Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)JohnsonSmith, Geoffrey
    Clegg, SirWalterJopling, Rt Hon Michael
    Cockeram, EricKaberry, SirDonald
    Colvin, MichaelKershaw, SirAnthony
    Cope, JohnKilfedder, JamesA.
    Cormack, PatrickKimball, SirMarcus
    Corrie, JohnKitson, SirTimothy
    Costain, SirAlbertKnight, MrsJill
    Cranborne, ViscountKnox, David
    Critchley, JulianLamont, Norman
    Crouch, DavidLang, Ian
    Dean, Paul (North Somerset)Langford-Holt, SirJohn
    Dickens, GeoffreyLatham, Michael
    Dorrell, StephenLawrence, Ivan
    Douglas-Hamilton, LordJ.Lee, John
    Dover, DenshoreLennox-Boyd, HonMark
    du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardLester, Jim (Beeston)
    Dunn, Robert (Dartford)Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
    Durant, TonyLloyd, Ian (Havant&W'loo)
    Dykes, HughLloyd, Peter (Fareham)
    Eden, Rt Hon Sir JohnLoveridge, John
    Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)Luce, Richard
    Eggar, TimMcCrindle, Robert
    Emery, Sir PeterMacfarlane, Neil
    Eyre, ReginaldMacGregor, John
    Fairbairn, NicholasMacKay, John (Argyll)
    Fairgrieve, SirRussellMacmillan, Rt Hon M.
    Faith, MrsSheilaMcNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)
    Farr, JohnMcNair-Wilson, P. (NewF'st)
    Finsberg, GeoffreyMcQuarrie, Albert
    Fisher, SirNigelMadel, David
    Fletcher-Cooke, SirCharlesMajor, John
    Fookes, MissJanetMarland, Paul
    Forman, NigelMarlow, Antony
    Fowler, Rt Hon NormanMarshall, Michael (Arundel)
    Fox, MarcusMarten, Rt Hon Neil
    Fraser, Rt Hon Sir HughMaude, Rt Hon Sir Angus
    Fraser, Peter (South Angus)Mawby, Ray
    Fry, PeterMawhinney, Dr Brian
    Gardiner, George (Reigate)Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
    Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)Mellor, David
    Garel-Jones, TristanMeyer, Sir Anthony
    Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir IanMiller, Hal (B'grove)
    Glyn, Dr AlanMills Iain (Meriden)
    Goodhart, SirPhilipMills, Peter (West Devon)
    Goodhew, SirVictorMiscampbell, Norman
    Goodlad, AlastairMitchell, David (Basingstoke)
    Gorst, JohnMoate, Roger
    Gow, IanMonro, SirHector
    Gower, SirRaymondMontgomery, Fergus
    Gray, HamishMoore, John
    Greenway, HarryMorris, M. (N'hampton S)
    Griffiths, E. (B'ySt. Edm'ds)Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
    Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N)Mudd, David
    Grist, IanMurphy, Christopher
    Grylls, MichaelMyles, David
    Gummer, JohnSelwynNeale, Gerrard
    Hamilton, Hon A.Needham, Richard
    Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Nelson, Anthony
    Hampson, Dr KeithNeubert, Michael
    Hannam, JohnNewton, Tony
    Haselhurst, AlanNormanton, Tom
    Havers, Rt Hon Sir MichaelNott, Rt Hon John
    Hawkins, PaulOnslow, Cranley
    Hawksley, WarrenOppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
    Hayhoe, BarneyPage, John (Harrow, West)
    Heddle, JohnPage, Richard (SW Herts)
    Henderson, BarryParris, Matthew
    Heseltine, Rt Hon MichaelPawsey, James

    Percival, Sir IanStevens, Martin
    Peyton, Rt Hon JohnStewart, A. (E Renfrewshire)
    Pink, R, BonnerStewart, Ian (Hitchin)
    Pollock, AlexanderStokes, John
    Porter, BarryStradlingThomas, J.
    Prentice, Rt Hon RegTapsell, Peter
    Proctor, K. HarveyTemple-Morris, Peter
    Pym, Rt Hon FrancisThatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
    Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
    Rees-Davies, W. R.Thompson, Donald
    Renton, TimThorne, Neil(IlfordSouth)
    Rhodes James, RobertThornton, Malcolm
    Rhys Williams, SirBrandonTownend, John (Bridlington,)
    Ridley, HonNicholasTownsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)
    Ridsdale, SirJulianTrippier, David
    Rifkind, MalcolmTrotter, Neville
    Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)van Straubenzee, SirW.
    Roberts, Wyn (Conway)Vaughan, Dr Gerard
    Rossi, HughViggers, Peter
    Rost, PeterWaddington, David
    Royle, SirAnthonyWakeham, John
    Sainsbury, HonTimothyWaldegrave, HonWilliam
    St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.Wall, SirPatrick
    Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)Waller, Gary
    Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)Walters, Dennis
    Shelton, William (Streatham)Ward, John
    Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)Warren, Kenneth
    Shepherd, RichardWatson, John
    Silvester, FredWheeler, John
    Sims, RogerWhitelaw, Rt Hon William
    Skeet, T. H. H.Whitney, Raymond
    Smith, DudleyWickenden, Keith
    Speed, KeithWiggin, Jerry
    Speller, TonyWilkinson, John
    Spence, JohnWilliams, D.(Montgomery)
    Spicer, Jim (WestDorset)Winterton, Nicholas
    Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)Wolfson, Mark
    Sproat, IainYoung, SirGeorge (Acton)
    Squire, RobinYounger, Rt Hon George
    Stainton, Keith
    Stanbrook, IvorTellers for the Ayes:
    Stanley, JohnMr. Anthony Beny and Mr. Carol Mather.
    Steen, Anthony

    NOES

    Abse, LeoConlan, Bernard
    Adams, AllenCook, Robin F.
    Alton, DavidCowans, Harry
    Anderson. DonaldCraigen, J. M. (G'gow, M'hill)
    Archer, Rt Hon PeterCrowther, Stan
    Ashley, Rt Hon JackCryer, Bob
    Ashton, JoeCunliffe, Lawrence
    Atkinson, N.(H'gey,)Cunningham, G. (IslingtonS)
    Bagier, Gordon A.T.Cunningham, Dr J.(W'h'n)
    Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)Davidson, Arthur
    Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd)Davies, Ifor (Gower)
    Beith, A.J.Davis, Clinton (HackneyC)
    Benn, Rt Hon TonyDavis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd)
    Bennett, Andrew(St'kp'tN)Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)
    Bidwell, SydneyDewar, Donald
    Booth, Rt Hon AlbertDixon, Donald
    Bray, Dr JeremyDobson, Frank
    Brocklebank-Fowler, C.Dormand, Jack
    Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Douglas, Dick
    Brown, Ron(E'burgh, Leith)Dubs, Alfred
    Buchan, NormanDuffy, A. E. P.
    Callaghan, Rt Hon J.Dunn, James A.
    Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n&P)Dunnett, Jack
    Campbell, IanDunwoody, Hon MrsG.
    Campbell-Savours, DaleEadie, Alex
    Canavan, DennisEastham, Ken
    Cant, R. B.Edwards, R. (W'hampt'n SE)
    Carmichael, NeilEllis, R.(NE D'bysh're)
    Carter-Jones, LewisEnglish, Michael
    Cartwright, JohnEnnals, Rt Hon David
    Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)
    Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S)Field, Frank
    Cohen, StanleyFitch, Alan
    Coleman, DonaldFlannery, Martin
    Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)

    Ford, BenO'Neill, Martin
    Forrester, JohnOwen, Rt Hon Dr David
    Foster, DerekPalmer, Arthur
    Fraser, J. (Lamb 'th, N'w'd)Park, George
    Garrett, John (Norwich S)Parker, John
    Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)Parry, Robert
    George, BrucePenhaligon, David
    Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr JohnPowell, Raymond (Ogmore)
    Graham, TedPrescott, John
    Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)Price, C. (Lewisham W)
    Hardy, PeterRace, Reg
    Harrison, Rt Hon WalterRadice, Giles
    Heffer, Eric S.Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)
    Hogg, N. (EDunb't'nshire)Richardson, Jo
    Holland,S.(L'b'th,Vauxh'll)Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
    HomeRobertson, JohnRoberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
    Howells, GeraintRoberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
    Hoyle, DouglasRobinson, G. (Coventry NW)
    Hughes, Mark (Durham)Rodgers, Rt Hon William
    Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Rooker, J. W.
    Hughes, Roy (Newport)Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
    Janner, HonGrevilleRyman, John
    Jay, Rt Hon DouglasSandelson, Neville
    John, BrynmorSever, John
    Johnson, Walter (Derby S)Sheerman, Barry
    Johnston, Russell (Inverness)Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
    Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda)Shore, Rt Hon Peter
    Jones, Barry (East Flint)Short, Mrs Renée
    Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldSilkin, Rt HonJ. (Deptford)
    Kerr, RussellSilkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
    Kilroy-Silk, RobertSilverman, Julius
    Kinnock, NeilSkinner, Dennis
    Lambie, DavidSmith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark)
    Lamborn,HarrySnape, Peter
    Lamond, JamesSoley, Clive
    Leadbitter, TedSpearing, Nigel
    Leighton, RonaldSpriggs, Leslie
    Lestor, Miss JoanStallard, A. W.
    Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Steel, Rt Hon David
    Litherland, RobertStoddart, David
    Lofthouse, GeoffreyStott, Roger
    Lyon, Alexander (York)Strang, Gavin
    McCartney,HughStraw, Jack
    McDonald, Dr OonaghSummerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
    McElhone, FrankThomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
    McKay, Allen (Penistone)Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
    McKelvey, WilliamThomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
    Maclennan, RobertThorne, Stan (PrestonSouth)
    McMahon, AndrewTilley, John
    McNally, ThomasTinn, James
    McNamara, KevinTomey, Tom
    McTaggart, RobertUrwin, Rt Hon Tom
    McWilliam, JohnVarley, Rt Hon Eric G.
    Marks, KennethWalker, Rt Hon H. (D'caster)
    Marshall, D (G'gowS'ton)Watkins, David
    Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)Wellbeloved, James
    Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)Welsh, Michael
    Martin, M (G'gow S'burn)White, Frank R.
    Mason, Rt Hon RoyWhite, J. (G'gow Pollok)
    Maxton, JohnWhitehead, Phillip
    Maynard, Miss JoanWhitlock, William
    Meacher, MichaelWilley, Rt Hon Frederick
    Mellish, Rt Hon RobertWilliams, Rt HonA. (S'seaW)
    Mikardo, IanWilliams, Rt Hon Mrs (Crosby)
    Millan, Rt Hon BruceWilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
    Miller, Dr M.S. (E Kilbride)Wilson, Rt Hon SirH.(H'ton)
    Mitchell,Austin(Grimsby)Winnick, David
    Mitchell, R.C. (Soton Itchen)Woodall, Alec
    Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)Woolmer, Kenneth
    Morris, Rt HonJ. (Aberavon)Wright, Sheila
    Morton, GeorgeYoung, David (Bolton E)
    Moyle, Rt Hon Roland
    Newens, StanleyTellers for the Noes:
    Oakes, Rt Hon GordonMr. James Hamilton and Mr. Frank Haynes.
    Ogden, Eric
    O'Halloran, Michael

    Question accordingly agreed to.

    Bill read the Third time and passed.