§ Mr. Kenneth Clarke
I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 2, line 38, leave out from 'tramcar' to end of line 5 on page 3 and insert'which—
- (a) being a vehicle adapted to carry more titan eight passengers, is used for carrying passengers for hire or reward; or
- (b) being a vehicle not so adapted, is used for carrying passengers for hire or reward at separate fares in the course of a business of carrying passengers.(2) For the purposes of subsection (1) a vehicle "is used" as mentioned in paragraph (a) or paragraph (b) of that subsection if it is being so used or if it has been used as mentioned in that paragraph and that use has not been permanently discontinued.'.In Committee we had considerable discussion about the definition of a public service vehicle as set out in clause 2, and it was generally agreed that it was unsatisfactory and could be improved. As a result, we are bringing forward this drafting amendment, which in no way changes the meaning of the clause. It does not affect the debates in Committee. It is a tidying up of the way in which the definition is presented. This is a drafting amendment, which meets the undertakings that I gave in Committee, and I hope that it will be generally acceptable to the House.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Vivian Bendall (Ilford, North)
I beg to move amendment No. 4, in page 3, line 24, at end insert 1284'such costs to be based on the Motoring and Cycling Index'.Clause 2 causes me great concern. As I understand it, the Government will have no control over charges, the way in which charges are made, or how they are indexed. The clause provides that wear and tear can be included, but how much wear and tear can be included? How will the Government check on the amounts that are charged for car sharing?
The other danger is that as people discover that there is no guide on the charges that can be made they will start a business of car sharing. Naturally, that concerns people in the licensed taxi trade who, in effect, have their arms tied because the tariff is set by the Government. It would be difficult for them to be in open competition with anyone who wished to start a business, because there would be no check on that person's charges.
Another problem that has emerged—minicabs were discussed at length yesterday—is that many minicab owners and minicab companies—although illegally—are installing two-way radios. If people were to go into business on a car-sharing basis, and if two-way radios were used, immense problems could occur for the licensed trade.
There should be some check, guide or index to which car sharing owners could relate regarding charges. I agree that there is a difficulty, but some safeguards must be provided. If not, there will be immense problems for the licensed trade, and particularly for London cab drivers. I urge the Minister to consider the matter again.
§ Mr. Fowler
I appreciate my hon. Friend's desire to ensure that drivers tie the increase in their passenger contribution to some sort of index. He did not specify the type of index.
Car sharing benefits ordinary people. It is a practical way in which they can reduce their cost of living, and in which 1285 they can make better use of their cars. Car sharing is already being practised in many parts of the country, particularly in rural areas, but it also has application in the commuter context. If we could persuade people who now drive into London to share a car there would be an impact in respect both of energy saving and of congestion.
There is no difference between Conservative Members and Labour Members on the importance of car sharing. The Transport Act 1978 loosened the car-sharing provision. The only point that divides my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Bendall) and myself is how we seek to define the costs, and how they are shared. We have given much thought to that. At one stage we believed that mileage rates should be fixed for different types of cars.
I am persuaded that if we intend to encourage tar sharing we must keep restrictions to a minimum and have as little formality and red tape as possible. The Bill sets out exclusions—for example, it will not be possible to make a profession of car sharing in the same way as taxi drivers. We are seeking to enable sensible and amicable arrangements to be made. We do not want people to be worried about detailed indexes, formulae or restrictions.
I am encouraged, because all the reports that we have received so far seem to indicate that there have been no problems. For example, there is no problem about insurance. It is right that the public should know that the insurance conditions now cover car sharing. Car sharing can make an important contribution. We shall examine the arrangements as time passes, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North would expect. At this stage it would be wrong to encumber the new system with too many restrictions. I fear that I cannot accept my hon. Friend's amendment.
§ Mr. Prescott
The Minister has given an assurance about car sharing. Is he aware that when the previous Labour Government initiated the rural route experiment, insurance companies charged more for premiums to cover the sharing provisions? Did the right hon. Gentleman take that into account before he eave his assurance?
§ Mr. Fowler
I seek the leave of the House to reply, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The example that the hon. Gentleman has given will not arise generally. I have spoken to representatives of insurance companies. I shall take up the hon. Gentleman's example with them. I was not talking about premiums. I received an assurance from the companies that no difficulties would stand in the way of car sharing. In other words, I have been told that insurance policies cover car sharing. It was feared that insurance cover did not do so. The advice of the companies, and of insurance associations, is that those fears are unfounded and that the public should not be afraid to share cars. The Government hope that when the Bill becomes law car sharing will increase. I believe that such arrangements will ease congestion and benefit transport generally.
§ Mr. Bendall
As my right hon. Friend has given me an assurance that he will undertake reviews from time to time, and in order to save the time of the House, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.