Clause 1 - Power to regulate pedicabs

Part of Pedicabs (London) Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons am 3:30 pm ar 26 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Simon Lightwood Simon Lightwood Shadow Minister (Transport) 3:30, 26 Mawrth 2024

My hon. Friend makes a very important point; hopefully, during TfL’s consultation, it will engage with those other organisations to ensure maximum benefit. Labour’s priority, after all, is to grant TfL the flexibility it needs to implement a regulatory regime that promotes safety while also allowing the regulated pedicab industry in London to flourish. Naturally, infrastructure such as pedicab stands would be competing against many different demands for the use of central London’s kerbsides, and it will remain TfL’s responsibility to work with local authorities on where infrastructure can be viably located.

Some hon. Members may not agree that this Bill is an appropriate place to discuss pedicab infrastructure. Labour believes that on the contrary, the conduct of pedicab drivers and the safety of the public are undeniably linked to TfL’s ability to fund and make provision for infrastructure that supports a regulated pedicab industry. Amendment 8 clarifies one potential revenue stream for the provision of that infrastructure, and I hope the Government will consider its merits carefully.

I now turn to new clauses 1 to 3, which stand in my name and those of my Front-Bench colleagues. All three new clauses concern the safety of children and vulnerable adults using pedicabs. As we heard on Second Reading, and as has been reported widely in the media and by numerous stakeholders, misconduct by pedicab operators arguably provides the strongest case for the desperate need to regulate the industry. Blocking streets and pavements, reckless driving and noise nuisance are all important areas that regulation will address, but they pale in comparison with the vital responsibility we have to ensure that TfL has the power to ensure public safety effectively. As TfL’s proposed licensing framework sets out, that emphasis on safety will be its guiding principle for pedicab regulations.

At the front and centre are eligibility requirements for operators and drivers. TfL has set out a raft of proposed licensing requirements, including alignment of visa status requirements with taxi and private hire licensing, English proficiency, and highway code and hazard perception awareness. That is of course welcome, but TfL is also clear that it would like to see compulsory enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service checks for pedicab drivers, again in line with the taxi and private hire requirements. That should be a vital component of ensuring the safety of pedicab customers, but TfL has explicitly stated on page 5 of its draft licensing framework that it would require changes in legislation, because while clause 2(6)(a) of the Bill empowers TfL to regulate licensing eligibility, enhanced DBS checks may not form part of those requirements if TfL does not have the right powers. Those difficulties were raised in the other place and were acknowledged by the Lords Minister himself.

The draft licensing framework also makes a clear distinction between basic and enhanced DBS checks, and explicitly states that enhanced DBS checks for pedicab drivers would be TfL’s preference. I say for the benefit of colleagues that an enhanced DBS check may show information held by local police forces on individuals. That intelligence may prove vital when deciding whether to award a licence to a pedicab driver, and it is absolutely right that TfL should be able to require enhanced checks. While enhanced DBS checks are not a panacea, they are clearly an important component of thorough eligibility requirements. Labour recognises the need to balance getting the Bill swiftly on to the statute books with the need to ensure that it conveys sufficient powers to TfL to truly make pedicabs a trusted and safe mode of transport in London. If TfL does not have the right powers to vet pedicab drivers through enhanced DBS checks, that will threaten its ability to truly implement a watershed regulatory framework.

Labour’s new clause 1 would add this Bill, upon Royal Assent, to the list of existing taxi and private hire vehicle legislation under section 177 of the Policing and Crime Act 2017. As colleagues may be aware, section 177 empowers the Secretary of State to issue statutory guidance on how licensing authorities can ensure the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults. Including pedicabs in the list of licensed activities covered by the statutory guidance would be a crucial step towards a safer pedicab industry.

Labour’s new clause 2 is designed to build on new clause 1 by turning the Secretary of State’s power to issue statutory guidance to TfL into a duty. Crucially, under subsection (2), this guidance would also include a requirement for enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service checks to be a condition of a licence. In concert with new clause 1, this new clause would equip TfL with the powers it needs to properly regulate in the name of safety by including enhanced DBS checks as a baseline standard for driver eligibility.

Finally, Labour’s new clause 3 would insert into the Bill the power for TfL to make enhanced DBS checks as a condition of a licence to operate a pedicab, and provides for the Secretary of State to amend the relevant secondary legislation to facilitate this. It is important to emphasise once again that these are powers that Transport for London has explicitly said it wants to use.

If we are to truly place safety at the heart of these regulations, TfL must have the power to mandate an enhanced DBS check for all pedicab drivers, and the three new clauses provide a way to achieve that. However, in the spirit of getting the Bill on to the statute book as urgently as possible, if it is clear that these amendments do not have the support of the House, I am content to not push them to a vote.