New Clause 14

Road Safety Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 10:00 am ar 20 Ebrill 2006.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Pedicabs

‘(1) The appropriate national authority may make regulations providing for—

(a) the application of relevant enactments to pedicabs; and

(b) the enforcement of relevant enactments in relation to pedicabs.

(2) The regulations may, in particular, make provision for—

(a) identifying the person against whom enforcement action may be taken if there is a contravention of a relevant enactment;

(b) the registration of pedicabs by specified authorities and the provision and display of registration plates on pedicabs;

(c) the payment of fees for registration;

(d) the making of registers available for inspection and sale;

(e) offences relating to registration;

(f) transitional arrangements.

(3) In subsection (11) of section 15 (parking on footways, grass verges, etc.) of the Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1974, in the definition of “vehicle”, after ‘means', insert ‘a pedicab' (within the meaning given by section (pedicabs) of the Road Safety Act 2006 (c. )).

(4) The London Local Authorities and Transport for London Act 2003 is amended as follows—

(a) in section 4(5) (penalty charges for road traffic contraventions), for the words “motor vehicle” there is substituted “vehicle”;

(b) in section 4(16), the definition of “motor vehicle” is omitted and the following definition is inserted at the end—

‘“vehicle” means a mechanically propelled vehicle intended or adapted for use on roads, or a pedicab within the meaning given by section (pedicabs) of the Road Safety Act 2005.”.

(5) The “appropriate national authority” means—

(a) in relation to England, the Secretary of State;

(b) in relation to Wales, the National Assembly for Wales;

(6) A “pedicab” means a cycle constructed or adapted—

(a) to seat one or more passengers; and

(b) for the purpose of being made available with a driver for hire for the purpose of carrying passengers.

(7) “relevant enactment” means—

(a) section 15 (parking on footways, grass verges, etc.) of the Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1974;

(b) Part II of the Road Traffic Act 1991 (traffic in London);

(c) Part II of and Schedule 1 to the London Authorities Act 1996 (bus lanes);

(d) regulations made under section 144 of the Transport Act 2000 (civil penalties for bus lane contraventions);

(e) Part 2 of the London Local Authorities and Transport for London 2003 (road traffic and highways);

(f) regulations under section 72 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 (civil penalties for road traffic contraventions);

(g) any other enactment relating to road traffic regulation, specified in regulations made by the appropriate national authority, which provides for the service of penalty charge notice or notices to owner on the owner of a vehicle.

(8) “specified authority” means—

(a) in Greater London, Transport for London;

(b) elsewhere in England and Wales, a traffic authority.'. —[Mr. Scott.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Lee Scott Lee Scott Ceidwadwyr, Ilford North

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Although I originally called for pedicabs to be banned totally, I am pleased to speak in favour of new clause 14. It seeks to apply traffic and parking restrictions to pedicabs or rickshaws and specifically to apply penalties to the owners of pedicabs. I have received petitions and met a number of organisations, including the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association. Its members have direct and daily experience of problems caused by pedicabs in London. Up to 300 pedicabs now operate at any one time in central London, and they also operate in Bath, Cardiff and, I understand, Newcastle. The problems are common throughout the country, but are most intense in London.

Pedicabs are currently not subject to parking or traffic regulations. Pedicab drivers are not tested and are not required to train. They ride and park wherever they choose. As a result, they cause obstructions for road users, taxis, buses and emergency vehicles, particularly outside theatres and restaurants in central London. They use and block bus lanes, pedestrian crossings, pavements and box crossings. They also obstruct emergency vehicle access points, which has implications for the safety not only of road users, but of the wider public.

Thus, applying parking traffic regulations to pedicabs is an urgent necessity. We seek to apply them to the owners because of the nature of the industry. Many of the drivers are employed casually and it would not be practical to apply penalties to them. It is the owners who must take responsibility—after all, they are the ones making huge profits.

As well as being untested and untrained, and often casually employed, drivers are not vetted, which of course contrasts with every other licensed taxi trade. The dangers of unlicensed minicabs have been widely recognised over the years. The same considerations apply to pedicabs. As an illustration of the dangers, it is worth noting the tragic case that concluded on 18 March last year, when a pedicab rider was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment for the rape of a 23-year-old female passenger who had been in their care.

Pedicabs themselves are dangerous. No standards are applied to their construction. They are often poorly constructed and not subject to any tests, such as MOTs. The Transport Research Laboratory—the independent body used by the Government—was asked to examine one of the most common pedicabs. It concluded that, in its professional opinion, the passenger compartment would provide little or no protection in the event of an accident.

As a result of all those points of concern, Transport for London and Westminster city council, among others, have sought to regulate pedicabs and apply a licensing regime to them. Licensing has been promised but much delayed. As all parties, including the Government, agree that unlicensed pedicabs cause obstructions to road users and that the way in which they operate puts pedestrians, their passengers and other road users at risk, there is no reason to delay imposing traffic and parking regulations on them.I therefore urge the Committee to support newclause 14.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport)

I shall not detain the Committee for long, but I cannot support the hon. Gentleman’s new clause. Although there is clearly a problem to be dealt with, I am concerned that the new clause would in effect drive pedicabs off the streets, which is not what we should be seeking to do through the Bill. I continue to work on the issue myself, and hope to table an amendment on Report, if the Speaker considers that appropriate.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am disappointed to hear that response from the hon. Gentleman. Let us cut to the thrust of the argument. The pedicabs and rickshaws operating in London exploit a legal loophole that permits pedal-powered vehicles to operate outside the hackney carriage and private hire vehicle regulations. Their construction and maintenance is not standardised or regulated, and most of them have no insurance. The riders are often untrained and are usually overseas students being charged a fee by owners to operate them. The riders have no experience either in the operation of the vehicles or in the routes.

There is no set fee. Clearly, we are in favour of the free market, but the potential to rip off customers and exploit overseas tourists, which is bad news for London business, contrasts with the regulation of most vehicle hire in London. The green, alternative argument that is often put is a fallacy, because most of the journeys that pedicabs operate are short and could be walked. Very often, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Scott) pointed out, their obedience to traffic regulations is somewhere between zero and none. They block west end streets, they congregate at theatres, blocking roads, and there are problems with complying with red lights, which we have discussed on numerous occasions.

More importantly, this is the Road Safety Bill, so let us expand on three points made by the Transport Research Laboratory on the safety of pedicabs. It said:

“A literature review considered existing regulations and standards that could be applied to Pedicabs and found that although both construction and use regulations and the Highway Code could be applied to Pedicabs, no specific mention of them was made in either. The Pedicab tested failed to comply with certain aspects of the regulations reviewed.”

It went on to say:

“Braking and Handling trials tested the braking performance and stability of the Pedicab under various conditions. The braking performance of a laden Pedicab was found to be significantly lower than that of a car.”

Finally, as my hon. Friend said, the TRL

“concluded that the passenger compartment would provide little or no protection in the event of almost any accident.”

If there was ever a compelling case for a clause to close this legal loophole and to make registration compulsory, this is it.

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Minister of State, Department for Transport

Should pedicabs be licensed and properly managed? Yes, of course they should. Everywhere else in the country, outside London, they are licensed as taxicabs and local authorities control them well. We have received no requests or lobbying from anybody outside London for any changes to the existing system or law. In those areas, the pedicabs seem to co-exist happily with the local community. Inside London, I agree that there is a different  problem, because currently pedicabs fall outside the licensing regime. Transport for London is intending to bring them inside the licensing regime very shortly. I hope that when it does so the problems identified by Conservative Members will be resolved.

If I may introduce a note of controversy in what until now has been a pretty consensual Committee on most issues, I suspect that the Conservative Members’ briefs were written for them by the taxi associations. Those associations do not want pedicabs to be managed or to be brought within a licensing regime. They want them off the road, because they perceive that pedicabs are taking away some of their money. The hon. Member for Ilford, North says that pedicab owners are making profits, but what does he think taxi drivers and the people who own taxis are doing?

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Minister of State, Department for Transport

Let me finish. The hon. Gentleman has made his point; I am entitled to put the alternative case. The hon. Member for Wimbledon says that people have to pay to pull pedicabs, but how does he think most of the hackney cabs in London are financed and put on the roads? It is exactly the same situation. If managed properly within a licensing regime, pedicabs could provide an additional level of diversity in the way in which people may move around the city.

I do not imagine that pedicabs will be the transport of choice for people who work in London, but they may be the occasional transport of choice for tourists, people attending the theatre, or those out for a romantic evening who feel that it would be fun to be pulled through the park. If that is what they want to do, why not allow them? [Laughter.] I probably did not phrase that very well. Never having been pulled in the park, I did not realise how that would sound until it came out of my mouth. Pedicabs can add to the diversity of transport in the city, so long as they are properly licensed and the issues about the people who pull them and the ways in which they are parked and use the streets are managed properly.

Pedicabs must follow the same rules of the road as everybody else and they are subject to police enforcement. We discussed cyclists in earlier sittings, and the police should be stopping pedicabs that are breaking the rules just as they should be stopping cyclists who are breaking the rules.

Photo of Lee Scott Lee Scott Ceidwadwyr, Ilford North 10:15, 20 Ebrill 2006

Licensed taxi fares are regulated, but pedicab fares are not regulated by anyone.

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Minister of State, Department for Transport

That is an extraordinary statement for a Conservative to make; are pedicab fares not regulated by the marketplace? If people are being charged too much, will they not simply not get in to pedicabs? I know that the Conservative party is chameleon-like and is trying to change its image, but I did not think that it had completely divorced itself from market philosophy. Clearly that change has happened today. I hope that my colleagues will relay that message to the Prime Minister so that he can take account of it.

Certainly, pedicabs should not rip people off, and should be within a licensed regime. That is what Transport for London is trying to achieve.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

The Minister is at his most disingenuous today. As we have seen throughout our proceedings, his inspiration usually comes not out of his own mouth or mind, but from some gentlemen or ladies who sit at the top table—as does most of his briefing.

We have had several representations on this point. This is not about stifling free enterprise. If the Minister wants a taxi drivers’ regime across London with no regulation, he should introduce it. That seems to be the thrust of his recent argument, although I am sure that that is not what he meant to say. This is about a group of people who currently act outside the law and potentially exploit visitors to this country. If the Minister or I were to walk this afternoon to a theatre in Westminster and decide afterwards that we wanted a ride back to the House of Commons in a pedicab, we would know the going rate for that trip, but a tourist from anywhere in the world might not know that the going rate from a theatre in Westminster to the House of Commons is not £50.

All we are trying to do is bring pedicabs inside a proper licensing regime. We have heard a lot of nonsense about chameleons and the free market, and I am sure that on reconsideration the Minister will want to disassociate himself from that burst of comedy. Let us get back to the serious point behind the new clause: the regulation of pedicabs, and correcting the loophole that exists only in London. Any fair-minded and sensible member of the Committee should want to support the clause.

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Minister of State, Department for Transport

First, let me defend myself. The hon. Gentleman might not have noticed, but I have used the copious packs of briefing put before me every day for precisely one clause during our proceedings. I have not otherwise referred to any of it. In any event, the officials who provide me with inspiration and briefing do so according to instructions that they were previously provided with by me and other Ministers. That is different from using a taxi association briefing, which is truly disingenuous, because it is from people who see pedicabs as competition and want them off the road.

The hon. Gentleman’s new clause argues for what I hope he accepts is the appropriate way to deal with this: for pedicabs to be properly licensed, brought within a licensing regime, allowed to compete with taxi drivers, and made to follow the rules of the road. Enforcement of those rules is a matter for the police.

Mr. Knightrose—

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Minister of State, Department for Transport

Transport for London is already bringing pedicabs within its licensing regime, so new legislation is not required for that. The rest of the country seems to have managed this issue perfectly satisfactorily without new legislation, so I do not see any need for the new clause. Does the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire want to intervene?

Photo of Greg Knight Greg Knight Chair, Procedure Committee

I did want to intervene, but the Minister answered my point in that summing up. I was going to ask whether Transport for London needs any further powers from us to make that change, but he covered that point. However, I must say, in passing, that he is beginning to sound rather demob happy.

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Minister of State, Department for Transport

Demob happy is probably a good way of putting it. It is rather a lot of work for a Minister to have to take a Bill through a Committee by himself. It is lonely work, but I can now see the distant light at the end of the tunnel. Nevertheless, I shall answer the right hon. Gentleman’s serious point.

Transport for London has not asked for new powers to deal with the problem, and I believe that the matter can be properly managed under the law as it stands. In any event, we will not legislate to take pedicabs off the road simply to give others the free use of the marketplace. Pedicabs have a contribution to make—not a major one, I suggest—and with a proper licensing regime they will be satisfactorily managed.

Photo of Lee Scott Lee Scott Ceidwadwyr, Ilford North

I should like to press the motion to a Division.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 10.

Rhif adran 16 Nimrod Review — Statement — New Clause 14

Ie: 5 MPs

Na: 10 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Question accordingly negatived.