Lords amendment: No. 54, page 33, line 11, at end insert—
( ) Where the running of public service vehicles is restricted or prohibted by any provision contained in—
I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.
This amendment was tabled at the request of the varoius people engaged in the industry who were worried about the implications of a few obsolete local Acts upon public passenger service vehicles in modern circumstances. The amendment empowers the Minister to modify or revoke any provision contained in a local Act or order made under such an Act which restricts or prohibits the running of public services.
What the amendment does is to give the Minister a power to revoke or modify the provisions of local Acts on the application of any person affected by them. At nearly 2 a.m. it is difficult to deal with such a constitutional monstrosity. The most amazing omission on the part of the Minister was his failure to explain why he should be ready to sweep away or modify the provisions of a local Act without any requirement to consult the local authority, on the application of one person. After all the local authority has gone to the trouble of promoting the legislation to deal with a specfic matter known intimately to it. There is no need for primary legislation other than this amendment. All that the Minister needs to do is make an order by statutory instrument. We have had some unhappy experiences of Ministers dealing with statutory instruments. I will not go into that now, but I must ask for an explanation of why local authorities do not have the right to consultation in this process, and we must know what sort of statutory instrument can revoke or restrict local Acts. Will it require an affirmative instrument, and what precedent is there for using delegated legislation to override local Acts in this way?
I might have known that the right hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furnace (Mr. Booth) would not allow me to skip over any of the niceties of this amendment. His inexhaustible eye for detail is as sure as ever. I think that if I put the power that we are taking into context I can satisfy him that major constitutional issues do not arise.
We are dealing with very few, very old, obsolete local Acts. The practice in the early days when municipalities began to run public service vehicles was for local Acts to circumscribe streets and roads along which they might run. Many of those local Acts contain provisions that have not been repealed. I say "many": we can find them only in Newport, Cardiff and Leicester, and they contain provisions such as—and I quote Newport at random—that
it affects only the corporation—
shall not run omnibuses upon so much of the Western Valley Main Road as lies to the north-west of the road leading to the Cefn Smithy at the Cefn Rogerstone
and so on. I imagine that the purpose
in those days was to protect residents of the roads, and it was thought right to restrict where the buses should be run.
As far as we can discover no one has relied on any of these obsolete enactments for years, but there are those in the industry who fear that now that the whole passenger business is being opened up a little by the Bill there will be more applicants for new services and people will start invoking old, obsolete legislation of this kind and insisting that it is against the law to run a bus along a particular street.
It will be open to people who find themselves faced by arguments of that kind to make an application to the Minister, and where he feels it appropriate he will able, by regulation, to repeal the law. We are not aware of any local authority that is resisting this. Nobody in Newport, Cardiff or Leicester appears to be remotely worried. We have brought forward the amendment to allay certain fears in the industry. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his concern for the procedures in this instance, but I hope that I have satisfied him that we are not breaking major new ground constitutionally and are not undermining the position of local authorities.