Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation Twelfth Report


4th February 1998

By the Select Committee appointed to report whether the provisions of any bill inappropriately delegate legislative power, or whether they subject the exercise of legislative power to an inappropriate degree of parliamentary scrutiny; to report on documents laid before Parliament under section 3(3) of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 and on draft orders laid under section 1(4) of that Act; and to perform, in respect of such documents and orders, the functions performed in respect of other instruments by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.



  1.    The draft order[1] which was laid before the House of Lords on 9 December 1997 relates to two separate issues linked only by their connection with taxis and private hire vehicles. The Department consulted about four proposed changes of which only two featured in the draft order which was laid before Parliament. These were to:

    (i)    permit the use of licensed private hire vehicles as well as taxis and buses when train services have been discontinued;

    (ii)  recognise driving licences issued in Northern Ireland as meeting part of the qualifications required for a licensed taxi or private hire vehicle driver in England and Wales.


  2.    The Department of Transport opened consultations on four proposals on 16 October 1996, requesting replies by 13 December 1996. The Department received 80 replies by the due date, of which 48 referred to the proposal that licensed private hire vehicles should be able to be used for substitute rail services, and 21 referred to the Northern Ireland driving licence proposal. All the responses on the Northern Ireland part of the proposal were in favour, and the Committee considers that part of the consultation entirely satisfactory.

  3.    The same can not be said about the consultation on the part of the proposal relating to substitute train services. The Department received 48 substantive responses concerning this proposal, 27 in favour and 21 either against or with reservations. The Department's consultation list focused on licensing authorities, the railway operating industry and taxi and private hire vehicle interests.

  4.    To the Committee's surprise, no passenger group was included in the Department's consultation list. This was curious on two grounds. First, such groups might have been expected to have a view to express on the question of the maintenance of necessary protection under the proposal. Second, the explanatory memorandum suggested that "the main beneficiary [of the proposal] may well be the public which gets a better service",[2] again without consulting any of the Rail User Groups to see whether they thought that this would be the case.

  5.    The Committee's initial discussion of this aspect of the proposal therefore focused on the issue of the maintenance of necessary protection for passengers, particularly that of potentially vulnerable groups of passengers, including women and disabled people (who might not be easily accommodated in private hire vehicles). In the light of the limitations of the Department's consultation list it invited a number of organisations to submit written evidence on this subject. These responses are printed in the Annex to this report.[3]

  6.    One of those whom the Committee invited to submit evidence was the Office of the Rail Regulator. The letter dated 16 January which the Committee received from the Director, Passenger Services Group of that Office concluded that the proposal would have no practical effect and therefore no necessary protection would be lost as a result. This letter prompted the Department to review the need for the proposed order relating to private hire vehicles being used for substitute rail services. On 28 January - seven weeks after the proposal for the draft order had been laid before Parliament - the Committee received notification that the Minister had decided not to proceed with this aspect of the proposal.

  7.    In the Committee's view, the Department's preparation of the substitute rail services part of the proposal provides a catalogue of mistakes for Departments to avoid in future. First, the extent of the Department's consultation was inappropriately limited, concentrating on licensing authorities and those with a vested business interest in the supposed burden which the proposal might remove and not focusing on user groups. Secondly, the Department's legal advice at the time that the proposal was laid before Parliament appears not to have been up-to-date. The Committee considers that in the circumstances the Department's decision not to proceed further with this part of the proposal was the best course of action for it to take.

  8.    The remainder of this report concentrates with the single remaining proposal, dealing with the recognition of driving licences issued in Northern Ireland.


  9.    The explanatory memorandum explains that the proposed change would remove a burden on people who wish to become taxi or private hire vehicle drivers in England (outside London) or Wales and who now hold Northern Ireland car driver licences. They would no longer have to wait 12 months before they can be given a taxi or private hire vehicle driver licence. In addition, any taxi owner or radio circuit owner who wished to employ such a person would be able to do so as soon as the licensing authority granted the necessary licence or licences, and there would not have to be a delay of at least 12 months.[4]

  10.    The Committee is satisfied that the Northern Ireland part of the proposal would reduce a burden.


  11.    As outlined in paragraph 2 above, all the responses on the Northern Ireland part of the proposal were in favour. The Committee is satisfied that there was adequate consultation on the Northern Ireland part of the proposal.

Necessary protection

  12.    The Committee agrees with the Government's view that nothing in the Northern Ireland part of the proposal "would remove or reduce necessary protection. A licensing authority will still be required, under both sections of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, to satisfy itself that "the applicant is a fit and proper person to hold a driver licence"."[5] The Northern Ireland part of the proposal would bring provincial areas into line with London and Scotland where there is no such barrier.

  13.    The Committee does not consider that the Northern Ireland part of the proposal raises any difficulties in the maintenance of necessary protection.


  14.    The Committee is satisfied that the Northern Ireland part of the proposal for the Draft Deregulation (Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles) Order 1998 meets the requirements of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 and is appropriate to be made under it. We accept the Government's decision to amend the proposal to delete the part relating to substitute train services, and consider that this decision, which was taken following evidence submitted to this Committee, shows that consultation on this part of the proposal was inadequate.

Request for evidence

The Committee requests submissions in writing no later than Monday 16 February on the following proposal for a draft deregulation order laid before the House on the date shown. Copies of the proposal and accompanying Explanatory Memorandum are available to Peers from the Printed Paper Office-

Draft Deregulation (Methylated Spirits Sale by Retail) (Scotland) Order 1998
(26 January 1998)

1   The proposal was laid before Parliament in the form of a draft of the Order and an explanatory memorandum from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. Back

2   Explanatory memorandum paragraph 1.6. Back

3   The Committee also received a number of written submissions on the Department's original consultation document, including matters which were not included in the proposal laid before Parliament. These have not been printed. The Committee is grateful to everyone who submitted evidence, whether printed or not. Back

4   Explanatory memorandum, paragraph 2.5. Back

5   Explanatory memorandum, paragraph 2.7. Back

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