If the House accepts tonight the amendments made in another place to the Transport Bill, I shall bring its road service licensing provisions into effect in October. Licences will then no longer be required for long distance services and will be easier to obtain for stage carriage ones. Apart from the abolition of conductor licensing at the end of July, the rest of the Bill's licensing provisions will come into force in the spring of next year.
Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the provisions will not reduce safety measures, particularly on buses, and that they will contribute towards greater efficiency and improvements on existing and new services? Will he also confirm that they will reduce the present level of bureaucracy?
I can assure my hon. Friend on all those points. The safety standards are basic to the system and no changes are proposed. We intend to remove the restrictions that prevent new services from developing. One of the Bill's chief aims is to encourage new services for the travelling public.
Does not my right hon. Friend accept that there is now an opportunity in country districts to use more smaller vehicles, offering greater flexibility, and that when the customer requires, those vehicles should be provided by private enterprise?
We expect that one of the major achievements of the Transport Bill will be to encourage new operators to come forward in rural areas. I agree that nothing is more important than to encourage new and smaller operators in rural areas.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a general tendency for owners of small lorries to order much larger lorries and vans? What does the right hon. Gentleman intend to do about that?
I shall look into that question. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman shares the hope that the Transport Bill, with its removal of restrictions, will lead to new services for the public. At present, the public fare served badly in many areas.
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the proposals in the reply that he gave to his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Bevan) can be put into effect only if the House rejects one of the Lords amendments tonight? Is not he aware that the amendment would sweep away a series of statutory safety standards that now apply to a certain category of bus?
We shall discuss that issue when we debate the Transport Bill and the Lords amendment tonight and, probably, on Thursday night. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, who is an Opposition spokesman, will welcome the new opportunities now presented, for example, by long distance express services. Those services will be of direct benefit to many thousands of people.