Lords amendment: No. 97, in page 52, line 14, at end insert—
except where the local authorities concerned have approved the arrangements under which the journey is made as designed to meet the social and welfare needs of one or more communities, and their approvals remain in force.
(2) In relation to a journey the local authorities concerned for the purposes of this paragraph are those in whose area any part of the journey is to be made; and in this sub-paragraph "local authority" means—
I beg to move, as an amendment to the Lords amendment, after first 'the', insert traffic commissioners and '.
As you have said, Mr. Deputy Speaker, we are discussing also the amendment in line 6, after 'the', insert 'traffic commissioners and'.
One of the effects of Lords amendment No. 97 is to allow, subject to the approval of a local authority, advertising of certain car-sharing arrangements as covered by paragraph 2 of schedule 1. Part I of schedule 1 deals with all the conditions that normally have to be met to allow the owner of a vehicle to charge separate fares in that vehicle without bringing it within the public service vehicle classification or definition.
The Lords amendment opens up possibilities that have never previously been envisaged. What started out as car sharing to be run by car owners for the efficient use of their vehicles could develop into a highly organised entrepreneurial business, embracing the idea that, given that the local authority will allow advertising to take place, it will be open to anyone with a car to advertise for others to join him in organising the provision of any series of services within the terms of the Lords amendment. That could be done by telephone through a central number or, on a wider scale, by computer, with drivers reporting their availability to a central agency. An enormous service could be organised on that basis.
Everything would depend upon the ability to advertise. Our amendment is not intended to block or wreck the Government's proposal. It merely seeks to ensure that before advertising is allowed the traffic commissioners, as well as the local authority, will have to approve it. There is a special reason for our suggestion, and a special logic in it that will not be lost on the Minister.
Traffic commissioners must have regard to how far competition between various forms of public transport in an area can run successfully, whether it is in the public interest to have another service that may conflict with existing services and whether competition is desirable or detrimental. Surely it is wrong to allow a decision on the advertising of car-sharing schemes, which will have an enormous effect on competition, to be made without the traffic commissioners being involved.
Although the local authority is involved, perhaps even as a bus operator, the basic logic of the Bill demands that the traffic commissioner decides whether it is in the public interest that additional road service licences should be introduced Therefore he should be involved in the decision on which depends the ability to organise a new service of highly organised car-sharing arrangements, which may, in some circumstances, be highly desirable. The traffic commissioner and the local authority must both be involved.
I now understand why the right hon. Gentleman tabled his amendment, but it is based on a misconception, which is understandable, given the complexities of the matter. The Lords amendment does not open up a new field. Its purpose is to restore to the Bill a provision of the Transport Act 1978 which it inadvertently removed.
All that we are dealing with are social car schemes approved by local authorities, which may include taxis and hire cars being used by members of the social car scheme. The basic principles of such schemes will be known to the right hon. Gentleman. Some use taxis and hire cars, but there are usually various advertising restrictions on them. When the local authority approves, those restrictions can be lifted. That is the present position. That is what we intend to continue under the Bill.
I suggest, with respect, that control by the local authority is adequate. It would be a case of belt and braces, by way of protection for other operators, to bring the traffic commissioners into the social car scheme. Local authority and traffic commissioners' control is excessive. The reason why it is logical to leave the traffic commissioners out of the matter is that we are dealing with taxis being used as part of social car schemes, and the arrangements that we envisage are those where the owner or driver of the vehicle derives no financial benefit. These are social car schemes, which are not initiated by the driver, but where passengers or organisers of the scheme agree among themselves to divide up the total fare.
I would submit that we should agree with the Lords amendment. I invite the right hon. Gentleman either to withdraw the Opposition amendment, or it should be negatived by the House.
I appreciate that the amendment would apply to the advertising of taxis and hire cars. I indicated that it was being considered in the context of part I of schedule 1, which is headed
Sharing of Taxis and Hire-Cars.
The right to be restored, to which the Parliamentary Secretary referred, is a right that existed in advance of the car sharing provisions of the Bill. It therefore seems to me that the Bill, for the first time, opens up the possibility that the advertising right could be applied to a service that would embrace a form of car sharing that was not open when the right existed previously. I admit that the point is fairly narrow in terms of the competition element between the service organised with taxis and hire cars against other services covered by the road service licence when compared with the new proposition that taxis, hire cars and the new car sharing arrangements will be within the field.
Given the scope of the Bill, it is surely fair to argue that if one has a nine-seater vehicle, or a fleet of nine-seater vehicles, owned by a group of people who want to run them under car sharing arrangements and carry up to eight passengers, it must be within the capacity of modern technological communications to organise them in such a way as to provide any of the services previously covered by the advertising, but on a much wider scale. I am not averse to opening up the scope, but if it is to occur on a scale greater than hitherto and embrace a type of vehicle not hitherto covered by legislation, it seems reasonable to consider at this stage, if it was not considered previously, whether the traffic commissioner should have a part to play.
The amendment merely repeats the wording of the 1978 Act. We are concerned only with exempting from advertising control, and therefore allowing sharing without making it a public service vehicle. We are exempting only in circumstances where the arrangements under which the journey is made are designed to meet
the social and welfare needs of one or more communities
where the local authorities approve and that approval remains in force.
That is the Transport Act 1978 designation of social car schemes. I do not think that it can be extended to private car sharing. We are talking in the Bill only of non-profit making car sharing. I do not believe that it will bear the meaning put on it by the right hon. Gentleman, or that it can be extended in that way. His proposal would be a restriction compared with the stage that had been reached in 1978. I do not believe that the Bill arouses fears of a sufficient order to justify going back on the 1978 provisions.
I accept the Parliamentary Secretary's assurance that the amendment is not intended to bear the meaning that I attributed to it and that the provision will therefore apply only to the advertising of arrangements made with hire cars and taxis, and not to car sharing arrangements. On that understanding, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment to the Lords amendment.