§ Mr. Beith
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he is aware that school minibuses owned by parent-teacher associations have been withdrawn from service in some areas because of uncertainty as to whether it is legal for them to be driven without a PSV licence; and whether he will take steps to clarify the situation including, if necessary, the introduction of new legislation.
§ Mr. Marks
I am aware of the uncertainty. I understand that much of this has arisen because of inaccurate advice issued in a county circular. This wrongly attributed to the traffic commissioners for one of the traffic areas the view that, even where no payment is made by passengers towards transport costs, payments for such things as admission charges and the cost of meals during an outing would bring such a journey within the scope of PSV licensing.
I am informed that the traffic commissioners concerned do not, in fact, hold this view. They consider that where there was demonstrably no payment for carriage in a vehicle, then the making of a payment in respect of other matters would not involve operation for hire or reward. This is in line with advice received in the Department over the years.
However, some of the methods used to finance the running of school minibuses would clearly be considered illegal unless the vehicle were properly licensed, and operated, as a public service vehicle. The most obvious one is the charging of fares to pupils or their parents. Other less direct methods could be regarded as at least legally suspect. The traffic area offices and the Department will be 458W prepared to give guidance in particular cases, bearing in mind the rôle of the courts in interpretation of the law.
A second cause of confusion is the widely held belief that an EEC regulation requires a minibus driver to hold a PSV driver's licence. This is not so. Such a licence is required only when a vehicle is operated for hire or reward under the Road Traffic Act 1960.