Taxi and Private Hire Vehicles

Pasted at the end of this article are Mark’s contributions to a debate on taxi licensing. He was not able to make the full speech he had prepared owing to time constraints but would have advised the following:

  • In July 2011 the Law Commission began a review of the law relating to the regulation of taxis and private hire vehicles. After a period of consultation, it is their intention to publish a draft Bill on 23 May 2014, after the local and European elections.
  • During consultation many stakeholders complained about vehicles operating at the fringes of licensing, or outside of licensing altogether. Pedicabs and stretch limousines are two examples that the Commission recommends are brought clearly within the scope of taxi and private hire regulation.
  • I wish to make clear my firm desire to see the Law Commission stick to that position and include pedicabs within the scope of the draft Bill.
  • I put forward a Pedicab Bill in 2010 which sought to control rickshaws. The Bill’s provisions would have included licensing and registration of pedicabs, the maximum number of passengers to be carried, reporting of accidents and display of advertisements.
  • I did this with the assistance of Westminster City Council since the proliferation in the West End and beyond of such vehicles is something that has been causing huge disturbance and disruption to my constituents for some years now.
  • The proliferation of these vehicles also causes traffic chaos in my constituency and there are also serious safety concerns relating to their use. A few Christmases ago, for instance, motors began to be fitted to the vehicles which led to a police operation to stamp out the problem. Often drivers have no training and are uninsured. In 2005, a pedicab driver was even convicted of raping a passenger.
  • The biggest gripe for my constituents, however, is the incessant noise from these vehicles. Many operators attach boom boxes to their vehicles that blare out music at all hours of the evening. In February, six pedicab drivers were ordered to pay fines and costs totalling more than £3,000 after breaking noise laws in the West End. Residents are fed up but there is little that can be done while these vehicles remain outside the scope of regulation. I therefore fully support these vehicles being licensed and regulated so that we do not have more summers of misery.

Mark’s Contributions

Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster, Conservative)

My understanding of what the Law Commission is trying to do is not that the broad thrust will be deregulatory at all. In my central London constituency, we have great concern about pedicabs and stretch limousines—two matters that the Law Commission recommends should be brought within the scope of taxi and private hire regulation. Does the hon. Gentleman share my view that it is desirable that the Law Commission should stick to that position and include pedicabs in the scope of regulation, rather than taking a deregulatory approach such as he has described?

Ian Lavery (Wansbeck, Labour)

I fully understand what the hon. Gentleman says, and other coalition Members have made similar remarks. It has been suggested that the Law Commission report should be looked at. There has not been any consultation about input into that, and it has not yet been published. People have not yet had the opportunity for input, as the hon. Gentleman was perhaps suggesting they should.

Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster, Conservative)

My hon. Friend the Minister is absolutely right. This issue is a frustration for us all. As I mentioned in my earlier intervention, I would like pedicabs to be brought within the scope of regulation and the Law Commission is quite keen that they be regulated. But clearly, once the Law Commission reports, it will take some time before a Bill gets on to the statute books. I say to all Opposition Members that it surely makes sense that elements of deregulation that apply to all small businesses, whether in the private hire vehicle industry or elsewhere, should become apparent sooner rather than later, given that it will probably be, I fear, the next Parliament before we can get the fruit of the Law Commission’s work into a Bill that, I hope, all of us will be able to support in Parliament going forward.

Stephen Hammond (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport; Wimbledon, Conservative)

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. He is absolutely right. The measures that we are introducing via the Deregulation Bill will apply in England outside London and Wales. They represent the first part of a longer journey towards a deregulated trade. As I said, my hon. Friend is right. I remember in the last Parliament arguing in this very Chamber that pedicabs should be regulated and the member of the Government saying that they should not be. Perhaps there has been a change of view on regulation. I see this as the first part of a journey that my hon. Friend is right to say is likely to take longer than the lifetime of this Parliament, because of the necessary review of theLaw Commission report. Let me just state this on the record. I do expect there to be more comprehensive reforms. We have asked the Law Commission to undertake extensive consultation, and it has done that. I referred earlier to the more than 3,000 responses that there have been already. It is worth stating on the record that each of the measures that we propose we have already discussed in detail with the Law Commission.