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Delivery Vans to be Exempt from Record Keeping?

25th November 1955
Page 49
Page 49, 25th November 1955 — Delivery Vans to be Exempt from Record Keeping?
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

BY OUR PARLIAMENTARY CORRESPONDENT DURING the committee stage of the Road Traffic Hilt in the House of Commons last week, the Minister of Transport flatly refuted suggestions that denationalization had led to more prosecutions on the matter of drivers' hours. He also said he would attempt to deal with the exemption of delivery vans from the keeping of records.

The Minister undertook to look at delays in the docks and their effect on drivers' hours.

When the discussion was resumed on the amendment by Mr. Gresham Cooke t C., Twickenham) to exempt delivery vans from the keeping of records, Mr. J. Boyd-Carpenter said that, from the point of view of the road haulage industry generally, the issues raised in the amendment were bigger than Mr. Cooke seemed to indicate.

Parliament would be unwise in present circumstances to take a step which might be thought to indicate that they were not concerned to see that the law relatingto drivers' hours was strictly enforced. Various suggestions had been made about the widespread evasion of the law on this subject, but there had been a fair number of prosecutions. There was a difficult problem.

Amendment Too Wide

The amendment in its present form would cover A and 13, as well as C, licences, and, with the radius of 25 miles, would make too big a hole in the enforcement machinery in respect , of drivers' hours.

With regard to retail deliveries and similar matters, he had come to the conclusion that it was not possible to act by statutory provision, because the definition of retail deliveries for this purpose was almost impossible to achieve. The only way something could be done would be by taking action by regulation.

He would be willing, if the committee wished, to enter into consultations with both sides of the industry to see whether some preliminary agreement could be reached on regulations, which might be inserted later, to dispense with the need for keeping records.

Mr. Cooke withdrew his amendment, but said that, on looking at it again, he thought it had been too widely drawn. Perhaps the radios should• be 10 to 45 miles. .

Five miles," suggested Mr. T. C Pannell (Lab., Leeds. W.).

Mr. Cooke replied: "Perhaps 5 or 10 miles." There were in use 9,000 pedestrian-controlled vehicles, which he was sure were not originally meant to be covered. He asked the Minister to pursue the Matter, with the assistance of employers interested in retail deliveries, and hoped he would be able to bring about an alteration in the law by regulations.

On the question' of the approval of Clause 23, Mr. Ernest Davies (Lab., Enfield E.) asked why the clause was necessary. Was it because there had been greater infringement of the law on licensing conditions?

Did the Minister envisage that, as a result of the clause, the Licensing Authorities would use the power to revoke licences more than they had done up to the present? It was desirable that they should.

"Since denationalization there has been an increase in infringements of the law on the road. That cannot be disputed in view of the large number of prosecutions that have taken place recently," he added.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter said the clause owed its origin to two decisions of the High Court. Blenk in v. Bell and Woolley v. Moore, in 1952. The substance of the decision was that the general apparatus of regulation of speed limits, keeping of records of drivers' hours and so on did not apply to goods. vehicles when being driven unladen.

Closing Loophole

The purpose of the clause was to restore the law in substance on this point to what it was believed to be before these decisions, and to make it clear that these various enactments applied to those vehicles, whether they were laden or unladen.

At one point the clause made a change in the law, which in strict law altered the position of the Licensing Authorities. They would legally have _power to act only after a conviction.

Replying to Mr. Davies, he said: "The constant assertion which you make that there have been increases in the breaches of the law clue to the disposal of the British Transport Commission's road haulage undertaking is not sustained by the evidence."

Mr. G. Nabarro (C., Kidderminster) raised the question Of the delays at the docks. Would the Minister consider the wording of Clause 23 (t) (c), which was the operative sub-section which

generally led to prosecutions. • [Clause 23 (1) (e) refers to "the time for which drivers . . . may remain continuously on duty and the hours which they are to have for rest A Kidderminster concern was recently prosecuted for 'offences relating to a number of vehicles over a period of several months. It was given in evidence for the defence that nearly all the offences arising from excessive hours worked by the _drivers had occurred because of the unavoidable congestion at London and Liverpool docks.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter said that a real 'problem arose out of the high level of exports and the considerable proportion of them which was taken to the docks by road. The road facilities in and outside the docks, particularly in London, were heavily taxed. He had asked the Ports Efficiency Committee to report on.the problem, but hewould certainly look at Mr. Nabarro's suggestion.

The clause was approved.

30 m ph. Limit Presumed Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth (C., Hendon S.) moved an amendment to Clause 24 on street lighting, which was agreed. Its effect, he said, was to create a presumption where the lamp posts were not more than 200 yd. apart and there were no derestriction signs. It would be presumed in such a case that the road was subject 'to a 30 m.p.h. limit.

On trunk roads the Minister would ensure that signs were put up intermediately and on classified roads the Minister was to take steps to impress on local authorities the need for doing this. The Home Office would advise the police to keep a check on all new systems of lighting put up to ensure that this was done at once. "The police would know the status of each road and it was • highly Unlikely that they would .start proceedings in a case which would be unfounded. •

On Clause 26, the committee accepted amendments by the Government to carry out the broad recommendations of the Thesiger Report on appeals relating to road service licensees. The amendments require the Traffic Commissioners, iet dealing with variations of conditions to consider whether they would exercise their powers under the 1930 Act. .

Delays in Appeals

In the debate, some Members complained of inordinate delays in decid ing appeals. Replying to suggestions that a new appellate body should be set up, Mr. Hugh Molson, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry. of Transport, said he believedthat; whilst there was much to be said for an independent tribunal, the balance lay in maintaining the present position.

The matter had been considered in the department since the Government came into office, and although they started with a strong prejudice against administrative law, they supported the conclusions of the Thesiger Report. At the same time, it was possible that the matter might come within the purview of the committee which the Government had recently set up to consider administrative law and the quasijudicial functions of Ministers.

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