Fare-Paying Passengers on School Buses

Transport Bill – in the House of Commons at 10:28 pm on 25th June 1980.

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Lords amendment: No. 41, in page 27, line 26, at end insert (1) Subject to subsection (2), a local education authority may—

  1. (a) use a school bus, when it is being used to provide free school transport, to carry as fare-paying passengers persons other than those for whom the free school transport is provided; and
  2. (b) use a school bus belonging to the authority, when it is not being used to provide free school transport, to provide a local bus service; and the following provisions, that is to say, section 144 of the 1960 Act (public service vehicle drivers' licences) and sections 15, 16, 17 and 18(1) of this Act shall not apply to a school

bus belonging to a local education authority in the course of its use by the authority in accordance with this subsection.

(2) Subsection (1) does not affect the duties of a local education authority in relation to the provision of free school transport or authorise a local education authority to make any charge for the carriage of a pupil on a journey which he is required to make in the course of his education at a school maintained by such an authority.

(3) In this section— free school transport" means transport provided by a local education authority in pursuance of arrangements under section 55(1) of the Education Act 1944 for the purpose of facilitating the attendance of pupils at a place of education;local bus service" means a stage carriage service other than a service as regards which the condition specified in section 3(3)(a) above is satisfied;school bus", in relation to a local education authority means a motor vehicle belonging to that authority which is used by that authority to provide free school transport.

(4) In the application of this section to Scotland—

  1. (a) for the references to a local education authority there shall be substituted references to an education authority;
  2. (b) in subsection (2) for "maintained by" there shall be substituted "under the management of"; and
  3. (c) in subsection (3) for the definition of "free school transport" there shall be substituted—
    • ""free school transport" means transport between a pupil's home and place of education provided in pursuance of arrangements under subsection (1) (a) of section 51 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1962 (pupils for whom such transport facilities are necessary) or, in pursuance of subsection (2) of that section (other pupils allowed to use vacant seats free of charge)".

(5) The repeal by this Act of section 12 of the Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1953 and section 118(4) of the 1960 Act shall not affect the operation of those provisions in relation to any consent given under the said section 12 which is in force immediately before that repeal takes effect.

Read a Second time.

Amendment proposed to the Lords amendment: in subsection (1), leave out from 'say' to 'sections'.—[Mr. Booth.]

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 68, Noes 133.

Division No. 374]AYES[11.45 pm
Alton, DavidBennett, Andrew (Stockport N)Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)
Ashton, JoeBidwell, SydneyCampbell-Savours, Dale
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Booth, Rt Hon AlbertClark, Dr David (South Shields)
Beith, A. J.Brown, Ronald W. (Hackney S)Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)
Cohen, StanleyGrant, George (Morpeth)Marshall, Jim (Leicester South)
Coleman, DonaldHamilton, James (Bothwell)Miller, Dr M. S. (East Kilbride)
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.Hardy, PeterMitchell, R. C. (Solon, Itchen)
Cook, Robin F.Haynes, FrankMorris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw)
Cowans, HarryHolland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall)Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Cryer, BobHome Robertson, JohnPalmer, Arthur
Cunliffe, LawrenceHooley, FrankParry, Robert
Dalyell, TamHowell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)Penhaligon, David
Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford)Hudson Davies, Gwilym EdnyfedPowell, [...]aymond (Ogmore)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)John, BrynmorPrescott, John
Dixon, DonaldJohnson, Walter (Derby South)Skinner, Dennis
Dobson, FrankJohnston, Russell (Inverness)Spearing, Nigel
Dormand, JackLestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)Stoddart, David
Eastham, KenLitherland, RobertTinn, James
Evans, John (Newton)Lyons, Edward (Bradford West)Welsh, Michael
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)McCartney, HughWinnick, David
Forrester, JohnMcGuire, Michael (Ince)
Foster, DerekMcKay, Allen (Penistone)TELLERS FOR THE AYE
George, BruceMcNamara, KevinMr. Walter Harrison and
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr JohnMarks, KennethMr. George Morton.
NOES
Alexander, RichardGorst, JohnPage, Rt Hon Sir R. Graham
Alison, MichaelGower, Sir RaymondPage, Richard (SW Hertfordshire)
Aspinwall, JackGrieve, PercyParris, Matthew
Banks, RobertGriffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyGummer, John SelwynPatten, John (Oxford)
Bendall, VivianHannam, JohnPollock, Alexander
Berry, Hon AnthonyHawkins, PaulProctor, K. Harvey
Best, KeithHawksley, WarrenRaison, Timothy
Bevan, David GilroyHeddle, JohnRathbone, Tim
Biggs-Davison, JohnHeseltine, Rt Hon MichaelRenton, Tim
Blackburn, JohnHicks, RobertRoberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Boscawen, Hon RobertHogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham)Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)
Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West)Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Rossi, Hugh
Boyson, Dr RhodesHunt, John (Ravensbourne)Rost, Peter
Bright, GrahamHurd, Hon DouglasSainsbury, Hon Timothy
Brinton, TimJopling, Rt Hon MichaelScott, Nicholas
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe)Kershaw, AnthonyShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Bruce-Gardyne, JohnLe Marchant, SpencerSilvester, Fred
Buck, AntonyLester, Jim (Beeston)Sims, Roger
Bulmer, EsmondLloyd, Ian (Havant & Waterloo)Speller, Tony
Cadbury, JocelynLloyd, Peter (Fareham)Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Carlisle, John (Luton West)Lyell, NicholasSquire, Robin
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)McCrindle, RobertStainton, Keith
Chalker, Mrs LyndaMacGregor, JohnStanbrook, Ivor
Chapman, SydneyMacKay, John (Argyll)Stevens, Martin
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Major, JohnStradling Thomas, J.
Cockeram, EricMarland, PaulTemple-Morris, Peter
Colvin, MichaelMarlow, TonyThompson, Donald
Cope, JohnMates, MichaelTownsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)
Corrie, JohnMather, CarolViggers, Peter
Cranborne, ViscountMaude, Rt Hon AngusWaddington, David
Crouch, DavidMaxwell-Hyslop, RobinWakeham, John
Dorrell, StephenMeyer, Sir AnthonyWalker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)
Dover, DenshoreMiller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch)Waller, Gary
Dunn, Robert (Dartford)Mills, Iain (Meriden)Ward, John
Eden, Rt Hon Sir JohnMiscampbell, NormanWatson, John
Fairbairn, NicholasMoate, RogerWells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)
Faith, Mrs SheilaMorrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)Wheeler, John
Farr, JohnMurphy, ChristopherWickenden, Keith
Fenner, Mrs PeggyMyles, DavidWinterton, Nicholas
Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesNeale, GerrardWolfson, Mark
Fookes, Miss JanetNeedham, Richard
Fowler, Rt Hon NormanNelson, AnthonyTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Fraser, Peter (South Angus)Neubert, MichaelMr. Peter Brooke and
Garel-Jones, TristanNewton, TonyLord James Douglas-Hamilton.
Glyn, Dr AlanOnslow, Cranley

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Parliamentary Secretary (Ministry of Transport)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I should point out that there is a printing error in the text of the Lords amendment. It does not accord with the Bill as it left the other place. Three lines from the bottom of subsection (3) of the amendment the words "belonging to that authority" appear. They should not do so. They were deleted by an amendment in the other place. There is, therefore, an error in the printed text before the House.

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull Central

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. With respect, I argued earlier about the definition of "school bus". If the phrase "belonging to that authority" is deleted—it appears in subsection (1)(b) of the Lords amendment, but not in subsection (1)(a) —the question whether a bus is a contract bus becomes relevant. The Parliamentary Secretary should explain at greater length. He should not merely say that there has been an error.

Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Parliamentary Secretary (Ministry of Transport)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I apologise for the fact that it was a late discovery. The error was pointed out to me during the Division. I hope that I can reassure the hon. Gentleman. He will recall that our debates have turned on the possibility of a school bus being used on stage carriage services, when it is not being used to carry schoolchildren. The words "belonging to the authority" will remain in paragraph (b).

When I argued about the extension of exemptions to stage carriage services, I was dealing only with buses owned by local authorities. That argument, therefore, still stands. It is true that paragraph (a) provides that when a bus is being used to provide free school transport, spare places can be filled with fare-paying passengers. That could be a contract bus. With respect, we argued about the stage carriage position of a school bus that was being used not for schoolchildren but for adult fare-paying passengers. My arguments were valid. The words "belonging to the authority" on which I relied appear in subsection (1)(b) of the Lords amendment.

Photo of Mr Albert Booth Mr Albert Booth , Barrow-in-Furness

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The argument that the Government have advanced hinges on the fact that the Lords amendment embraces only a narrow and limited category of vehicle, namely, buses belonging to education authorities. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) made clear that he was not satisfied that it had that effect. The Minister denied that.

It now transpires, according to the Minister's statement, that a whole range of contract buses can be exempted from the safety standards. This is not a minor matter about an amendment but an important difference in principle. It places a wider meaning on the Lords amendment.

12 midnight

Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Parliamentary Secretary (Ministry of Transport)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In our last debate we did not touch on paragraph (a) because it was not a subject of controversy. It is within the recollection of those hon. Members who were here that those who spoke were extremely concerned—for reasons that I understand—about the way in which we were extending these exemptions to stage carriage services which might be in competition with other stage carriage services, carrying fare-paying adults. That relates to paragraph (b), and this printer's error does not affect that.

I apologise to hon. Members for the fact that at this late stage I discovered that this printer's error had been made, and I have tried to put it right. This is a printer's error only, and I do not think that it bears the arguments now being put forward. I hope that the House will allow us to proceed. I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

I understand that the Minister has a copy of the amendment that was made in the other place. May I take it that the amendment on which we have just voted is not invalidated in so far as it does not affect this issue?

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. I am trying to be helpful. I will give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity to speak in a moment. Do I take it that any objections could be dealt with by hon. Members opposing the Lords amendment?

Photo of Mr Albert Booth Mr Albert Booth , Barrow-in-Furness

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I seek your advice on whether it is in order for an hon. Member to move an amendment to a Lords amendment to cover printing errors, or for any other purpose, after an amendment to that Lords amendment has been voted upon in the House.

I contend that the first amendment that we voted upon must have qualified subsection (1)(a) and subsection (1)(b). But the amendment which the Parliamentary Secretary is now suggesting is on the definition of "school bus", and the words "school bus" apply in both paras (a) and (b), and therefore it must have had an effect on the understood meaning of the amendment as put to the House.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

. That does not invalidate the vote that has just been taken. The words should not have been in the Bill when it came to the House. Surely there is no injustice done to hon. Members on either side. If the Opposition vote against the Lords amendment, that serves the purpose.

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull Central

I apologise for delaying the House on this issue, particularly to those Members who were in the House when we were discussing the matter, but it is not good enough for the Parliamentary Secretary to say that this matter was not a point of contention. I specifically raised the question why the words "belonging to the authority" were in paragraph (b) and not in paragraph (a). I also raised the question of contract buses. If the Lords have taken out that phrase in the other place, contract buses may be used in order to carry fare-paying passengers as well as schoolchildren. If that is the case, there are not only the 250, 600, 900 or whatever may be the number of buses owned by local education authorities but many others as well because this opens the whole issue of contract service buses. We can in fact have buses owned by a public transport authority going along a particular route where, if it—[Interruption.] You are in charge of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, not members of the Government. The point is that the driver of a bus owned by, for example, the Hull passenger transport authority who carries children to school and fare-paying passengers would not need a PSV licence because he would be covered by the exemption. On the other hand, the driver of a bus picking up only fare-paying passengers will have to possess a PSV licence. The Parliamentary Secretary denied that, and it opens up the debate again.

The Government business managers cannot ensure that Ministers are given briefs that are apposite to the amendments passed by their Lordships. That calls into question not only this matter, but the validity of the second Chamber.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

I have heard the arguments, and I have come to a conclusion.

Photo of Mr Albert Booth Mr Albert Booth , Barrow-in-Furness

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I appreciate that a difficulty has been brought about for you, as for us, by what has happened, but I must ask you to give us a ruling on a specific question of order. Is it in order for an amendment to a Lords amendment to be introduced after a vote has taken place on an Opposition amendment to the Lords amendment?

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

I said that I had arrived at a decision. We are not concerned with an amendment to a Lords amendment. The words should not have been in the Bill when it came to this House. There is aften a mistake in the printing of Bills, perhaps only one or two words, and sometimes the mistake is not even noticed in debates. The vote did not affect the issue.

The most that anyone could say is that the misprint might have altered the emphasis of the argument; it would not have altered the views that have been formed on both sides of the House. Those views will be expressed in a vote, which would have been the same whether the words were in or not. The words should not have been included and, at worst, it is merely the emphasis of the argument that has been changed I shall not allow any more discussion on the matter.

Photo of Mr Albert Booth Mr Albert Booth , Barrow-in-Furness

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. With the greatest respect—

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. If I am wrong, there will be a remedy.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to make a point of order that is contrary to something that I have said, I do not intend to hear it. If he wishes to make another point, I shall listen.

Photo of Mr Albert Booth Mr Albert Booth , Barrow-in-Furness

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I submit that the words "belonging to the authority" in the definition of "school bus" affect the scope of the Lords amendment in a way that we took carefully into account. We did not overlook it. Concern was expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara), and we are opposed to changing the scope in a way that we have objected to in any case.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

I fully appreciate what the right hon. Gentleman has said. That is why I came to the decision that I made. Whether the words were in the clause or not, the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends would have voted against the Lords amendment anyway. As those words should not be in, no damage is done to anyone. That is why I propose to put the Question.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment:—

The House divided: Ayes 131, Noes 64.

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull Central

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sorry to delay the House, and I understand the reason why you wished to push forward the previous vote, but I want to raise with you one of the points you made in relation to that matter.

My first point concerns a constitutional matter. You said, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that because the Opposition were determined to force a particular vote and the vote was lost by the Opposition it did not really matter. In relation to the deletion and its effect upon subsection (1)(a) there is the issue whether the House as a whole was misled as to what hon. Members were voting upon.

That has nothing at all to do with Government or Opposition. That concerns the House as such because you will recall, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that in my arguments I asked why the phrase "belonging to the authority," was in new subsection (1)(b) and that I questioned what "belonging to the authority" meant. I asked whether it meant contract buses.

As I understand the situation, because the words "belonging to the authority" have, by some sleight of hand, been deleted even though they were moved, albeit wrongly, by the Minister when he opened the debate on the first group of Lords amendments, he moved agreement to amendment No. 41 as it was before us, not as it emerged from their Lordships.

What is the position if the House was misled—as indeed it was—because those words "belonging to the authority" were relevant both to paragraphs (a) and (b) when we had the first vote? The words were in fact made clear by the hon. and learned Gentleman, the Parliamentary Secretary when he replied to what I was saying and sought to make light of the matter. When he came to correct what he had said to the House, his comments supported the point that I had been making, namely, that contract vehicles would also be subject to this provision.

My first point concerns the question of the advice that was given to the House by the Minister and also the point that you made, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that it made no difference to the Opposition one way or the other. It may well be in the realms of fantasy that Conservative Members, having being seized of that particular point, voted against the Government or supported them despite the House having been misled on that point. Nevertheless, with great respect, I question what you said, Mr. Deputy Speaker, about it not making any difference merely because the Opposition would vote against it in the first place.

My second point arises, Mr. Deputy Speaker, from the fact that you said that errors did occur on these occasions. I am concerned about that because the phrase I have quoted substantially affects the definition. On other matters in the Bill we have received a correction slip. We have had a correction for amendment No. 43 and a correction for amendment No. 94, but there is no correction for amendment No. 41.

The question then arises as to what cognisance the House should take of corrections slipped in, between votes, by a junior Minister when other corrections of substance have been given quite properly on a paper beforehand and could be taken into consideration when debating Lords amendments. One of the corrections is not even of substance. It simply says that the page number should be 51, not 31. However a fundamental correction in Lords amendment No. 41 was not brought to the attention of the House.

How much further can we go with this Bill, given the possibility that every time someone speaks on a Lords amendment he will be told that the phrase in question does not exist? I am not sure that my right hon. and hon. Friends should not be seeking to move the adjournment of the debate, if the Government Chief Whip is not prepared to do so, so that the Law Officers can go through the Lords amendments to ensure that there are no further corrections to be made.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

I have listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman, and I thank him for the manner in which he has presented his point of order. I thought that out of courtesy I should allow him to open a matter that I had declared closed.

The authorised copy from the other place is here in the Chamber. The words in question are not in it. The hon. Gentleman knows that Bills contain words that should not be there, or do not contain words that they should. These things happen. If that first vote had led to an injustice, the situation would have been different. However, it was agreed that the first vote was not affected by the misprint. That clarifies the first point. The first vote was in order.

I said that if those words had not been in the Bill there might have been a different emphasis on the argument. The correct position was explained to the House before it was asked to vote. If the removal of those words had led the Opposition to change their minds, they would then have been entitled to support or reject the amendment. No one voted in the Division under the impression that those words were in the Bill. It was for each individual to decide whether that fact would change the view he held when the matter was explained. Therefore, I could not see that any injustice would arise. Hon. Members were still free to change their minds and to vote "Aye" or "No". That may not satisfy the hon. Gentleman, but that was my conclusion, and I think that we must now move on.

Lords Amendment: No. 2, in page 4, line 14, at end insert— (7) Where a fare is paid for the carriage of a passenger on a journey by air, no part of that fare shall be treated for the purposes of subsection (6) as paid in consideration of the carriage of the passenger by road by reason of the fact that in cases of mechanical failure, bad weather or other circumstances outside the operators control part of that journey may be made by road.

Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Parliamentary Secretary (Ministry of Transport)

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

This is a small technical amendment to clarify an ambiguity in the law. It arises from the fact that most airlines make contingency arrangements for the transfer of passengers by coach between airports when aircraft are diverted for example because of adverse weather. Apparently in practice there is some uncertainty as to whether these services need road service licences.

There is further uncertainty over who should hold the licence if one is needed—the airline, the ground handling agent or the coach operator—and there have been time-consuming disputes before the traffic commissioners over that.

We see no need for such diversionary services, provided in an emergency and on a contract basis, to be subject to road service licensing. I do not believe that anyone ever intended that they should. This amendment will put the issue beyond doubt in the future.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 3 to 6 agreed to.