Appeals to the Minister

Transport Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:45 am on 25th June 1980.

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Lords amendment: No. 37, in page 27, line 15, at end insert— In this subsection 'local authority' means—

  1. (i) in relation to England and Wales, any local authority within the meaning of the Local Government Act 1972;
  2. (ii) in relation to Scotland, a regional, islands or district council."

Read a Second time.

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

I beg to move, as an amendment to the Lords amendment, in at end insert— other than a parish or community council The Lords amendment grants to parish councils in England and to community councils in Wales the right to appeal to the Minister in certain circumstances against decisions of the traffic commissioners relating to road service licences. This is something which had never previously been envisaged in the Bill, and the amendment seeks to qualify the definition of "local authority" in such a way as to exclude parish and community councils for the purpose of appeal.

It is interesting to note that in clause 5, which deals with the granting of road service licences, the definition of "local authority" is given according to the circumstances in which the road service licence applies. But nowhere in clause 5 does the definition of a local authority extend to the parish or community council. It seems that that could lead to a considerable extension of existing law and practice and, in Government terms, additional bureaucracy which would be contrary to their intentions when presenting the original Bill.

1.15 am

The traffic commissioners have a discretion under existing law to take account of representations from anyone who they think has a proper concern in the granting of a licence. They may decide to listen to the views of a parish or community council, but before the amendment was made in another place the right of appeal had been granted only to objectors who had a right to be heard and not to those whom the traffic commissioners could choose to listen to.

I am not saying that community councils in Wales or parish councils in England do not have a right to be concerned in these matters, but by the time that the commissioners have considered an application and we reach the advanced stage of an appeal it may be proper for the small local authorities to take up their concern with their district councils. If the district agrees that the point is valid and does not run counter to its interests, it should pursue the appeal, even if a community or parish council has the facilities and expertise to conduct an appeal. In some cases, it will not have the expertise and might have to hire it. Since parish and community councils are part of the district for most road transport considerations, it would be appropriate that they should have to carry the district with them and that the district should advance the appeal rather than our having another area of appeal litigation opened up.

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

I do not think that the Lords amendment opens up a new area. It seeks to change the definition of "local authority" in this clause in order to resolve various ambiguities that have been raised with us. The original Bill followed the Road Traffic Act 1960 definition of "local authority", which we thought was satisfactory. We intended to reproduce the existing situation on appeals. However, some doubts have been expressed about that, and in order to resolve any doubt about what we mean we seek to insert a definition taken from the Local Government Act 1972 and to be specific about Scotland. The effect is that the local authorities covered by the definition are county, district and parish or community councils in England and Wales and regional, islands and district councils in Scotland.

All those are elected local authorities with local government functions, and it seems to us that if they have made representations to the commissioners they should have a statutory right of appeal against the granting or refusal of a licence. The argument seems to be about the parish or community councils, but I cannot see why those councils, which have a legitimate local government function and a definite interest in transport services, should be excluded from the right of appeal which they enjoy at present. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman would wish to press that.

The right hon. Gentleman drew a contrast with clause 5, but the local authorities in that clause are those whose transport policies and plans have to be considered by the traffic commissioners. Parish councils do not normally grandly set themselves the duty of drawing up transport policies and plans, but they often know well the conditions in their community and I do not see why they should be excluded from a right of appeal and obliged to go through district councils. They are a good vehicle for local opinion, and I suggest that we accept the Lords amendment as it stands.

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

I do not want to prolong the argument at this late hour. I do not think that Parliamentary Secretary can deny what I say about the legal effect. The effect is to create the right of appeal. If it was not there, the appeal line would not be open to these bodies.

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

It would not be open under the definition that we had. The ambiguity was about community councils in Scotland. I do not think the House wishes to go into that matter at this time of night.

Amendment to the Lords amendment negatived

Lords amendment agreed to.