As one who has seized every opportunity for raising matters about which I feel strongly, for instance, those of injustice and the need for legislation, I admire the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam) for tabling the amendment. Its effect would be to reduce the age for driving certain vehicles from 21 to 17.
But even if the House accepted the amendment, it would not be possible for us to carry it out, because EEC Regulation 543/69 overrides our own Road Traffic Act. As I said on Second Reading, the Bill is short, technical and un-controversial. The amendment would not allow vehicles with more than nine seats, inclusive of the driver's, to be driven by persons under 21 unless they already held licences.
I appreciate the anxiety about the minibus controversy. I have dealt with it at length in previous debates. If a vehicle is used for hire or reward, the driver must have a public service vehicle licence, but if it is not, my right hon. Friend the Minister accepts the ordinary driving licence as a certificate of professional competence to drive a minibus.
The Bill, concerned as it is with drivers' ages, cannot deal with all the matters suggested. EEC Regulation 543/69 is being reconsidered by the Community and there are signs that some of our views are being taken into consideration. Perhaps I should remind hon. Members that parts of Regulation 543/69 came into effect in 1973 as a result of our joining the European Community. The Bill is largely designed to cover up the gaps and to make certain clarifications to the regulation.