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After Clause 205, insert the following new clause--


(" . The duty of the Secretary of State under section 16 of the Metropolitan Board of Works (Various Powers) Act 1885 to work a ferry-boat across the river Thames is transferred to Transport for London by this section.").

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The noble Lord said: This amendment provides for the Secretary of State's duties to operate the Woolwich ferry to be transferred to Transport for London. The ferry is an important river crossing and is a link in the road network that the Government propose should be the responsibility of TfL. The new clause will permit the use of powers in Part XII of the Bill to transfer the property rights and liabilities associated with the ferry from the Secretary of State. It will allow the replacement of the Secretary of State's powers, to make orders on the use of the ferry with by-laws made by TfL and permit any existing orders or by-laws made by predecessor bodies to be treated as by-laws made by TfL.

The staff who operate the Woolwich ferry are employed by the London Borough of Greenwich, which has an agency agreement with the Secretary of State. TfL will inherit the current arrangements when it takes over responsibility and staff will continue to be employed by the London Borough of Greenwich.

Lord Brabazon of Tara: I am grateful to the Minister for explaining the new clause. I only wonder how the Woolwich ferry could have been forgotten for so long, until the Bill reached a Committee of this House.

Does the Woolwich ferry make or lose money? I suspect that it loses money. If so, presumably it currently receives a subsidy from the Secretary of State. If that is the case, will that subsidy be paid by Transport for London? Will the Secretary of State therefore make a special grant to TfL? If the Woolwich ferry makes a profit, all well and good. Presumably the TfL will enjoy that profit. Perhaps the Minister could enlighten us.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: While scribes are scribing in other parts of this Committee, perhaps I may simply rise to welcome the amendment--which is thoroughly sensible and a delightful example of not exactly devolution but, at any rate, devolvement of power. It is most satisfactory.

Lord Avebury: Why was it decided to transfer the powers this way, rather than by the tidier method of repealing the 1885 Act and conferring the powers directly on TfL?

Lord Whitty: The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, is correct. The present provisions for the Woolwich ferry arise from the 1885 Act, but we felt that, rather than make an amendment to that statute, it would be appropriate to insert an explicit clause.

As to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, I believe that the requirement is to run a free service. If I am wrong, I will write to the noble Lord. The annual running costs are paid directly by the Secretary of State. Henceforth, the money will form part of the GLA transport grant and be included within that.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Baroness Gardner of Parkes moved Amendment 295:

After Clause 205, insert the following new clause--


(" .--(1) A person shall not smoke or carry lighted tobacco in a London taxi where passengers are by means of a prescribed notice informed that smoking is prohibited.
(2) For the purposes of this section, "prescribed notice" means a notice or marking of such type, and displayed in or on a London taxi in such manner, as the Secretary of State may by order prescribe.
(3) A passenger who contravenes subsection (1) may be required by the driver to leave a London taxi and, where the passenger refuses to comply with that requirement, may be removed by the driver or, on the request of the driver, by a constable.
(4) Nothing in subsection (3) shall be taken to relieve a passenger from the obligation to any pay fare and where a passenger is required to leave or is removed from a London taxi in accordance with that subsection before reaching his destination he shall be liable to pay the fare up to the point where he is required to leave or is removed from that taxi.
(5) A person who--
(a) contravenes subsection (1),
(b) refuses to comply with a requirement made in accordance with subsection (3), or
(c) resists lawful removal in accordance with that subsection,
is guilty of an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.
(6) Notwithstanding the provisions of any enactment requiring certain hirings to be accepted, it shall be lawful for the driver of a London taxi bearing a prescribed notice to refuse to carry a passenger who is smoking or carrying lighted tobacco.
(7) In this section "London taxi" means a hackney carriage licensed under section 6 of the Metropolitan Public Carriage Act 1869.").

The noble Baroness said: It is clear that taxi drivers, having had such success with their last amendment, have not managed yet to persuade the Minister on the issue of smoking--which is why they have asked me to table this amendment.

Amendments Nos. 295 and 296 are much the same. The first covers black London cabs, which always like to be differentiated from any other form of car transport because they are such an exceptional service, to which we pay tribute. Lord Winchilsea and Nottingham would certainly have done so, had he been here. The second relates to other vehicles, to what were previously called minicabs and are now termed private hire vehicles. These new clauses would give drivers the right to choose whether passengers may smoke in their vehicles. They would not oblige drivers to designate their cabs non-smoking--after all, some taxi drivers themselves smoke--but they would increase the individual rights and freedom of choice of drivers of London taxis and also of passengers. More importantly, it would enable drivers to work in a smoke-free environment.

When we go into a restaurant, we are entitled to choose the no-smoking area. When we travel on the tube or by bus, no smoking at all is permitted. The only form of public transport in London where smoking is permitted, unless the situation is different as regards the ferries, is a taxi. It can be very unpleasant for people to travel in a cab after someone in it has been smoking heavily. This provision would not eliminate all smoking in cabs. People who required a cab in which they could

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smoke would either be able to specify that if ordering by telephone or wait until a cab came along in which smoking was permitted. But it would mean that if a driver had chosen to place a no-smoking sign in his cab, it would be enforceable.

The proposal is set out in considerable detail, and therefore requires little explanation--whereas many amendments that merely propose to replace two words require a long explanation. I shall therefore not go into detail. The new clauses are self-explanatory.

In a letter to the London Taxi Board, which has led this campaign in a most professional way, the chief executive of the British Lung Foundation commented that:

    "Drivers should be able to work in a smoke-free environment and passengers should have the right to hire a smoke free cab, for everyone's safety, comfort and health". Irving Yass, of London First, states that:

    "If legislative provision to govern smoking in cabs is not introduced now it could be some years before there is another opportunity". The Government have accepted the position in principle, committing themselves as far back as July 1998 that the change would be introduced "when parliamentary time permits". The Minister may say that this is not the parliamentary moment. But if it is not, I should like him to tell me when is. It is important with an issue such as this to bring it forward at a time when it can be fitted in and is appropriate. Surely, when we are dealing with transport in London, this would seem to be the moment. I beg to move.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: I strongly support the amendment. I particularly support the noble Baroness's previous point. We have just welcomed government Amendment No. 294G, which could have been achieved in a different way; namely, by amendment of another Act. The Government's response was that they felt that this was the more suitable place to introduce the provision. The noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, has made precisely the same point. This is a good opportunity to put forward this new piece of legislation governing taxis in London.

Lord Berkeley: I cannot resist the temptation to support the noble Baroness's amendment. As a keen anti-smoker, I believe it is right to enable drivers to ban smoking from their taxis. It is rather a long amendment; however, the noble Baroness has provided a ready explanation for that. Perhaps her next move will be to change some of the custom and practice in this House so that we have rather more non-smoking activities here. It certainly seems a good idea.

Lord Brabazon of Tara: I am neutral in my response to the amendment. As a recent convert, now a non-smoker, I see the force of my noble friend's arguments. I do not have much sympathy for the drivers of black cabs. They can shut the glass window between themselves and the passenger and smoke in the front of the cab, which they frequently do.

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In principle, we can give some support to the amendment. The only point that slightly concerns me relates to the statement in subsection (3) of the first proposed new clause that a passenger who refuses to comply,

    "may be removed by the driver or, on the request of the driver, by a constable". The second part is fine, but I am not certain that removal by the driver will necessarily be easy to achieve. It could give rise to more trouble than is envisaged. That is particularly the case in regard to the second amendment relating to private hire vehicles. I wonder what would happen if someone got into a cab late at night after being at the pub and lit a cigarette and the driver tried to eject him. I leave that for the Minister to comment on.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Whitty: This was an area of high policy that was subject to an enormous amount of discussion in another place. More broadly, as the noble Baroness said, my honourable friends in another place indicated that, in principle, we were quite strongly in favour of such a proposal. But there are serious problems in regard to how it is done and what the consequences might be. It is therefore the Government's view is that we need the widest possible consultation before we can consider bringing forward legislation; and that legislation should be on a national basis rather than specifically a London basis.

That commitment to consult on a national provision still stands. A consultation document is being prepared. Our aim is to issue that document during this summer. It should set out all the issues and options, their merits and problems, and will give all concerned a chance to have their say.

As the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, hinted, there are some serious difficulties. There is the problem of evidence. There might be substantial trouble with the driver or police constable ejecting people from the cab. By the time the police arrived, if passengers were quick enough on their toes, they would presumably have thrown away the cigarette, and there are unlikely to be other witnesses. Would the police or the Crown Prosecution Service take up those new tasks?

Safety issues are also involved. In the kind of situation referred to by the noble Lord, the passenger might be a young woman, possibly slightly drunk late at night. If she insists on smoking, what does the taxi driver do? Does he have a legal right to throw her out anywhere? There are serious complications as regards the enforcement of such a provision: for example, how soon the taxi driver has the right to throw someone out and how the police become involved. All those are difficult issues.

At present, a taxi driver can request someone not to smoke in the back of the cab; 99 per cent of the time that occurs and there are relatively few problems. With this provision, I can see the possibility of some quite nasty problems. They may be resolvable. If there is overwhelming public support for the proposal, clearly it will be the Government's intention to legislate in the

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light of that consultation. However, the consultation should take place first. The views of the enforcement authorities as well as taxi drivers and consumer interests should be taken into account. I hope that the noble Baroness will recognise the weight of that argument.

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