Clause 1 - Power to regulate pedicabs

Part of Pedicabs (London) Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons am 3:15 pm ar 26 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Ceidwadwyr, Christchurch 3:15, 26 Mawrth 2024

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point, which is similar to one made by the London Pedicab Operators Association, which has been campaigning for 20-plus years to have proper regulation of pedicabs so that its business can be carried out in a lawful and responsible way and not be plagued by rogue operators. It is good to hear that the organisation to which she referred is of a like mind. Indeed, I think nobody across the House is against the idea of having some regulation of pedicabs. The difference is in whether we want to introduce safeguards that will prevent those regulations from being so stringent that they regulate pedicabs out of existence.

When my hon. Friend and I had the discussion to which she referred earlier, she was unfortunately unable to commit—in what was her Bill at that stage—to including provisions that would have set that out in clear language. I suspect that was because, as we know, one of the organisations that would like to legislate pedicabs out of existence is the London Taxi Drivers Association. That is perfectly understandable—it is much easier for its drivers if they have fewer competitors on the streets—but we owe it to the people who have transformed transport for people in the centre of London, particularly in the late evenings and past midnight, and have introduced this alternative: namely, the provision of pedicabs.

Amendment 15 would ensure

“that the powers to immobilise and seize pedicabs are assigned to police constables in uniform or to traffic officers duly authorised by local authorities, and that they are proportionate to the powers to immobilise and seize motor vehicles in section 59 of the Police Reform Act 2002.”

I hope that that is a no-brainer and that, in responding, the Minister will be able to assure us that exactly that will happen in practice. At the moment, it is not clear in the regulations that Transport for London has that in mind. It seems to be keen on the fixed penalty notice regime, with all the potential injustice that flows from that.

Amendment 18 is on how we define a pedicab. The amendment would ensure that power-assisted pedicabs—pedicabs not just driven by human effort but assisted with a battery—are defined as a pedicab that conforms to the Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles Regulations 1983, thereby securing some consistency across the regime. As you will know, Sir Roger, a power-assisted pedal cycle under those regulations is not allowed to go more than 15.5 mph, although apparently quite a lot of them do. I have seen cyclists going a lot faster than 15.5 mph, but Transport for London has it in mind in the draft regulations to require pedicab operators to install equipment—in effect a speed limiter—that would prevent the pedicabs from going faster than 15.5 mph. That must reinforce the case for saying that electrically assisted pedicabs should be regarded as electrically assisted cycles rather than as other sorts of powered vehicles. There is a clear distinction in law between vehicles subject to the Electrically Assisted Pedal Cycles Regulations and those that are not, which could be regarded as ordinary motor vehicles.

Whether we define a pedicab as a cycle or as a motor vehicle will have significant implications in third-party liability insurance. One of the biggest constraints on pedicab operators is the cost of insurance. The regulations will rightly require insurance, but it is important that they should be drafted in such a way as to make it easier for the costs of that insurance to be less penal than they might otherwise be if pedicabs were defined as equivalent to an ordinary vehicle.

I have referred to amendment 19, and amendment 3 offers a less preferable alternative.

Amendment 10 would clarify that which is not clear in clause 7: that the Secretary of State’s guidance to Transport for London should encompass the making of the regulations as well as the exercise of the functions under those regulations. You will appreciate the difference between those two propositions, Sir Roger. I look forward to hearing whether the Minister can provide us with some reassurance in relation to that guidance.

Amendment 11 goes back to the objectives of this Bill. Chris Smallwood, the spokesman for and on behalf of the London Pedicab Operators Association, has written to me to express his support for my amendments, and he has suggested a number himself. He has said that he has had introductory meetings with officials from TfL. He names them, but I will not repeat their names in the House. He says:

“A concern was that when questioned about the objectives that TfL’s regulations are seeking to achieve, they”— those officials—

“talked only about the safety of pedicab drivers and other road users, which of course is a very important objective, and is reflected in our proposed amendment on the objectives for the Regulations. However, they seemed reluctant to acknowledge that a well-regulated pedicab sector could provide health, environmental and other benefits, and that securing those benefits should also be an objective.”

He went on to say:

“It’s not essential that this should be written into the Bill itself, if the Government states that these objectives be written into their guidance to TfL.”

I hope that, in his response, the Minister will be able to assure us that those objectives will be written into the guidance to Transport for London, because it appears from what is being said by TfL officials, representatives from Cycling UK and the London Pedicab Operators Association that that is not common ground at the moment, which it should be. I hope that my amendment 11, which sets out the issues to which the Secretary of State must have regard when preparing the guidance, is both helpful and constructive.

Amendment 5 repeats the point made earlier about the need to consult with the London Pedicab Operators Association, Cycling UK and whoever else is thought appropriate. Amendment 16, which is linked with amendment 15, would define a “civil enforcement officer” as having the same meaning as is given in section 76 of the Traffic Management Act 2004. Amendment 13 would insert a provision that a “traffic authority” has the same meaning as in section 121A(1A) and (2) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984.

Let me turn now to the new clauses and amendments put forward by other Members—I look forward to hearing their contributions. I fear, however, that the collective consequence of those amendments and new clauses would be to make it even easier for pedicabs to be legislated out of existence, rather than facilitating a positive regime, which is what I want, where pedicabs are welcomed, encouraged and enabled to contribute to the life of London. At the same time, the Conservatives would be seen to be supporting the hard-working small businesses that are involved in this perfectly legitimate activity.

I say good luck to all those who wish to promote the cause of pedicabs not just in London, but across the country. Hopefully, in due course, the Government will ensure that pedicabs become a much more widespread means of transport in places where they are not currently used, despite the efforts of a few entrepreneurs, I hope the Government will introduce appropriate regulations so that it will be not just London but the United Kingdom that is prided across the world as having this very important form of transport.

Mr Evans, may I say what a pleasure it is to be speaking with you in the Chair? However, having said that, I am very grateful to Sir Roger for not having interrupted me once during the time that I have been speaking. I hope that that is an indication of the genuine good will that exists across the House about the importance of this issue and how we need to get to grips with it and resolve it amicably.

This issue has been going on for more than 20 years. As I mentioned on Second Reading, it could have been dealt with in the 2005 private legislation, which was brought forward by London authorities. It has never been implemented because there has always been a conflict between those in London who want to legislate pedicabs out of existence and those who wish to have a properly licensed regime with good, effective and proportionate regulation. On that basis, I commend my amendments to the Committee.