'(1) Where, immediately before the commencement of this section, the provisions of the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 with respect to hackney carriages (as incorporated in the Public Health Act 1875) were not in force throughout the whole of the area of a district council in England and Wales whose area lies outside the area to which the Metropolitan Public Carriage Act 1869 applies, those provisions (as so incorporated) shall—
(2) Where part only of a district council's area lies outside the area to which the Act of 1869 applies, that part shall, for the purposes of subsection (1) above, be treated as being the area of the council.'.— [Mr. Michael Spicer.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.During the 18th sitting of the Standing Committee, as reported at column 996 of Hansard, my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) pointed out that, because the taxi-sharing provisions were rightly restricted to licensed vehicles, people living in rural areas where taxis were not licensed would not benefit from the new provisions for sharing. My hon. Friend suggested that this might be the moment to require that taxis throughout the country should be licensed so that everyone could benefit from the provisions, and the Government agreed to consider the matter. Before dealing with the new clause itself, it may help if I explain briefly how taxi licensing currently operates. Taxis may be licensed by district councils under the provisions of the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 applied through the Public Health Act 1875 and the Local Government Act 1972. The net effect of that somewhat archaic legislation, which we have already agreed to review, is that most district councils licence taxis throughout their areas. However, about 70 districts out of a total of 360 control taxis in only part of their areas. A further 60 councils—or about 20 per cent. of the total—do not license taxis at all. The new clause deals with that 20 per cent. The councils are generally in rural areas, where shared taxis might make an especially important contribution to the provision of local transport. The new clause will extend the taxi licensing provisions of the 1847 Act throughout England—outside London—and Wales. All district councils will license taxis throughout their areas and provide for taxi ranks or other authorised places to facilitate the operation of shared taxi schemes. We have discussed the new clause with the Association of District Councils, which has agreed that an extension of taxi licensing seems to be the only way to ensure that all areas are placed on an equal footing.
Will there be some differentiation between stands for shared taxis and stands for taxis that will operate, without the restrictions, for passengers on their own? Is the licensing arrangement so framed that certain taxis will be forced to stand at taxi ranks? Under the licensing procedure, will further safety rules be followed? The Minister will remember that there was much discussion in Committee about extending the provisions for taxis to include what would be, in effect, minibuses. Will such taxis be covered by the licensing provision in the new clause?
There will be no distinction between taxi ranks for shared taxis and for other taxis. That issue was debated in Committee.The hon. Lady mentioned minibuses. There are provisions in the Bill to deal with that subject. I hope that I understood the hon. Lady's question correctly; if not, perhaps she will intervene again. Licensing conditions—for instance, conditions of fitness—will be a matter for the district. As we have already said, we may produce some guidance on the conditions. The very tough conditions applied in London may be repeated in other parts of the country, but that will be a matter for the discretion of the districts.
There are restrictions on who may use shared taxis. Is the Minister now saying that any taxi may operate either as a shared taxi or as a single passenger taxi provided that it takes phone bookings? There will be difficulties if the public are not clear which taxis are shared taxis. That could happen if there is no differentiation in the stands, and if the other clauses in the Bill are complied with.I am not clear—I do not say that there is necessarily any disadvantage involved—whether any taxi operating from any stand may perform in any capacity. There may be a difficulty with passengers sharing taxis.
The hon. Lady knows that there are at least three different types of sharing. There are provisions which allow taxis to act in effect as registered buses, there are provisions concerning pre-booking and there are provisions for carrying at separate fares from taxi ranks.It being Ten o'clock, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to the order [1 April] and the resolution this day, to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.
Question agreed to.
Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER then proceeded to put forthwith the Question on the new clause, moved by a Member of the Government, of which notice had been given, to that part of the Bill to be concluded at Ten o'clock.