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Lord Hanningfield moved Amendment No. 39:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in view of the result of the previous testing of the opinion of the House, I hope that I will not have to test the opinion of the House on this amendment as well. I hope that the Government will accept the previous result. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bradshaw moved Amendment No. 40:

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Schedule (Young drivers' scheme: passenger carrying vehicles) shall have effect."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we talked about the young drivers' scheme on the last day in Committee. I propose that drivers who undergo a proper scheme of training will be allowed to drive vehicles once they have passed the test and before they are 21 years old. I am given to understand that the Confederation of Passenger Transport has had a meeting with Karen Buck, the Minister in another place, who has undertaken to raise these issues with the European Community because there is some argument about whether present European law allows those drivers to drive.

If the Minister can give us an undertaking that the Minister in another place will raise that matter, and seriously means to raise it in Europe, we may allow the matter to pass. But I will be very interested to hear what the Minister has to say. I reiterate that in the passenger transport industry there is a grave shortage of drivers. Many companies are now importing drivers from places like Poland, but that is not an inexhaustible source of drivers. We need to replenish our stocks and set up a proper vocational scheme for drivers. I beg to move.

Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw. I have heard the Minister say, and we all agree, that there is a shortage of drivers of heavy goods vehicles and public transport. A vocational scheme such as this would be a great way to train people and bring them into the profession. I wait with interest to hear what the Minister has to say. I support the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, on this amendment.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I fear that the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, is resting rather more on the meeting which my honourable friend in the other place will have on European issues than perhaps is merited. Of course, we are concerned about aspects of the European directive and we are carrying out discussions in Europe. But his amendment seeks to achieve something to which the Government are not committed at present, nor can I give an assurance from the Dispatch Box that we will argue the case in quite the terms of the amendment.

As I said in Committee, I share entirely the noble Lord's wish to increase the skills of our young people. Driving is an important area and the acquisition of such skills can be extremely useful. We have a shortage of skilled drivers and I am at one with the noble Lord in looking at ways, through the sector skills councils, of improving opportunities. We are involved in secondary legislation which will need to be passed by both Houses of Parliament to implement a European directive providing for the introduction of a certificate of professional competence for bus drivers and its renewal on a five-yearly basis. That will link in with European rules on minimum driving ages. The implementation of the directive will provide a suitable
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opportunity to introduce a coherent stakeholder-supported scheme for young PCV drivers that will enable them to work commercially while acquiring their certificate of professional competence.

However, I should say that we are not absolutely committed to the concept outlined in the noble Lord's amendment. Our position is clear. We understand the argument regarding truck drivers and the noble Lord knows that we support schemes in that area. The problem with public service vehicles is obvious; that is, passengers are being carried. The noble Lord's amendment would open the prospect that a person who learned to drive such vehicles would be in charge of passengers at a very young age. I repeat that we are in discussions in Europe on this. My honourable friend Karen Buck in the other place is going to Europe to discuss the Council directive. We are also at one with him on the objective of improving training opportunities. But I hope he will accept that if the amendment were agreed to, we would be operating within a framework that might not suit us in relation to the European directive, which still needs a considerable amount of work. In any case, separate legislation would have to be proposed in this House to give effect to the objective of the amendment.

This is a live issue, and a constructive one. We have much the same aim as the noble Lord, but to introduce such a provision at this point would not advance the cause. Indeed, it might set us back. On that basis—that we are in talks about the implementation of the European directive and that secondary legislation will have to be brought before this House and another place—I hope that the noble Lord recognises that we will meet his objectives in large part, but we cannot be tied to the introduction of this amendment.

Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. He has indicated to the House that we are seeking to permit drivers to drive passengers in vehicles where at present they are not allowed to do so. In fact they are allowed to do so for distances of up to 21 kilometres. That is a very restrictive agreement, allowing drivers little scope to exercise the skills which the Government have legislated for in setting up learning and skills councils. So, to be consistent, it should be possible for the drivers concerned to gain experience by easing the restriction on distance by raising the limit to 50 kilometres. That would be much more useful to drivers seeking to develop their skills. If the Minister will say that the distance over which young drivers can drive might be increased and that this issue will form part of the discussions that the Transport Minister is having in Europe, I shall be happy to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, that would be an odd procedure, and I cannot give the noble Lord that assurance in categorical terms. The noble Lord has identified, and I agree with him entirely, that we have to thrash out this issue in the European directive. We are involved in negotiations and the Minister is on the point of going to Europe to discuss these issues. We have the same objectives as the noble Lord in regard to
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skills training which we aim to achieve as best we can. I merely indicate to him that there is a process through which those objectives will largely be achieved. If there are imperfections in the process when the matter comes before the other place and this House, then no doubt the noble Lord will articulate any criticism of our position at that time. However, it is not necessary to have this amendment in the Bill. I hope that the noble Lord will accept that argument.

Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, I will accept the Minister's assurance that he will do his best to ensure that this issue is included in the discussions. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 41 and 42 not moved.]

Lord Bradshaw moved Amendment No. 43:

(1) The Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981 (c. 14) is amended as follows.
(2) In section 13(1) (classification of licences), omit the word "either" and before the word "or" insert "limousine licence".
(3) After subsection (1) insert—
"(1A) A limousine licence authorises the use (whether on national or international operations) of—
(a) limousines not adapted to carry more than eight passengers, or
(b) limousines not adapted to carry more than sixteen passengers."
(4) After section 13 insert—
Subject to the provisions of this section, in this Act "limousines" means a motor vehicle which being a vehicle not adapted to carry more than sixteen passengers, is used in the course of a business for the purposes of carrying passengers with the services of a driver for hire and reward where the arrangements for the payment of fares by the passenger or passengers carried are made before the journey began."
(1) A limousine adapted to carry more than eight passengers shall not be used on a road unless an examiner appointed under section 66A of the Road Traffic Act 1988 has issued a certificate (to be referred to as a limousine certificate) that the prescribed conditions as to fitness are fulfilled in respect of the vehicle.
(2) If a vehicle is used in contravention of subsection (1) above, the operator of the vehicle shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale."
(5) Sections 8, 10 and 11 of Part II shall apply to limousines adapted to carry more than eight passengers.
(6) Section 12 of Part II shall apply to a limousine operators' licences.""

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Minister will be pleased to hear that this is a probing amendment which we certainly do not wish to press to a Division. It concerns the issue of what are known as "stretch limousines". These are the huge white vehicles that you see cruising around the streets. If you go to places such as Blackpool or Brighton, you will see even longer ones
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with even more people in them, who are notable for their consumption of alcohol and the few clothes they wear.

This is an unregulated section of road traffic vehicle legislation and the object of the amendment is to ask the Minister whether it is the Government's intention to introduce regulation into this sector, particularly in regard to the number of people who can be conveyed in the vehicles and the total length of vehicle allowed. These vehicles tend to get longer and longer and to carry more and more people. There must be a limit somewhere. I beg to move.

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