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Commons Amendments

Volume 385: debated on Thursday 14 July 1977

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

[ References are to Bill [94] as first printed for the Commons].

1 Clause 1, page 1, line 8, leave out `within' and insert in 'relation to'.

My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 1. I should like, with the House's permission, to speak also to Amendments Nos. 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15 and 28. Of these No. 6 is the substantive Amendment and the rest, including Amendment No. 1, are minor consequential drafting changes. The substantive Amendment, No. 6, would give the local authority concerned—that is, a county council or, in Scotland, a regional or islands council—power to grant authorisations in respect of the use of certain vehicles for the carriage of passengers for hire or reward, not only within the whole or one or more parts of the experimental area, as your Lordships' copy of the Bill provides, but also on journeys falling partly within and partly outside that area, including journeys falling partly within the area of another local authority. These Amendments would make the task of running experiments which rely on the Bill more straightforward, and would also make the experiments themselves more useful as a means of gaining additional hard facts on rural transport problems. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.—( Baroness Stedman.)

My Lords, when I spoke originally during Second Reading I said that, although we on this side of the House would support the Bill, we only did so with some reluctance. We regretted that the Government had taken so long to do so little about the urgent problems of mobility in rural areas. I have said that the problems are urgent although car ownership is widespread in rural areas. Significant minorities are generally without private transport. These, as the noble Baroness admits, include the old, young and disabled. Public transport services leave much to be desired in many rural areas.

During the time of the last Government we introduced a Bill, the Road Traffic Bill of 1973, which contained clauses to solve this very problem. Regrettably this Government cut these out and did not proceed with our Bill. In its stead little was done in the next three years until this Bill was introduced. And after so long what a timorous little Bill it is!—a mouse of a Bill, as it has been described in another place. However, I am glad to say that in its present form, as returned to us from another place, it is much improved. It may not be a lion of a Bill but it is something a little bigger than a mouse, or perhaps a mouse with sharp teeth. This is largely, I suggest, the result of Conservative Amendments which greatly widened the scope of the Bill.

Lest I seem churlish to the noble Baroness, I should like to say that not all of the good Amendments stem from our side of the House. I particularly welcome Amendment No. 6. A problem of the Bill, as originally framed, was that many journeys did not solely take place within the confines of an experimental area. County boundaries can be a nuisance. I am glad to see that in this Amendment journeys which fall partly outside the area are allowed. They are going to be included in the experiment. I thank the noble Baroness for her explanations.

My Lords, the Amendments to which the noble Baroness referred, particularly Nos. 1 and 6, are sensible and allow a much greater degree of flexibility to the administration of the experiment. One question concerns Amendment No. 13 which we shall be discussing shortly, but it also comes in under this umbrella. It deals with the same problem. What right does an area not in the experiment have in regulating the experimental traffic that is passing through on its way to another experimental area, hospital or other place?

When Amendment No. 13 was being discussed in Standing Committee F the Minister said that in the case of special authorisations co-ordinated control would be maintained over the granting of cross-boundary authorisations. Any other local authority involved would have to give its consent to any such authorisation. The Amendment that we are discussing also deals with cross-boundary authorisations. Can the noble Baroness tell us what will happen if the "unexperimental" area fails to agree with its fellow local authorities who might be running out of these schemes, about what traffic can pass to and fro across its borders? In the case of disagreement, will it be the steering committee which will intervene or will it be left to the local authorities to sort it out among themselves? I should very much like to have an undertaking from the Government, if possible, that, in the event of disagreement, they will not wade into the dispute but will leave it to the local authorities to deal with the problems themselves.

My Lords, as the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, said, this matter comes under Amendment No. 13, but the problem was raised of having a very tight prescribed area for our experiments, with perhaps hospital, special shopping facilities or other special facilities being outside that local authority area. The Amendments we are now discussing enable local authorities to have consultations. If one wants to go into another local authority's area, I am sure it will be amicably resolved between the two authorities.

I know that local authorities are sometimes made the whipping post for not being able to agree with each other. But I am sure that, if within one area there is no hospital and in another there is, we are going to have no difficulty with the second area which has the hospital, although it is not part of the experimental area, in enabling the authorisation to be given for people to be taken on their special journeys to hospital. The noble Earl can be satisfied that our steering committee and the officials at the Department will be at the disposal of the authorities, and if they run into any trouble we will give them all the advice and help that we can.

My Lords, I studied these Amendments in absolute detail. Two essential characteristics of this Bill are common sense and flexibility. It seems to me that these Amendments are going to be in line with the principle of those two characteristics. Therefore, I should have thought they were to be welcomed.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

4.31 p.m.