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Ms Glenda Jackson: Before I get to the meat of the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey), I point out to him that the proposals that he has presented to the House as being helpful would in fact lead to a situation in which there would be no requirement for any licensing at all. I find it very odd that a member of the Liberal Democrat party, whose members constantly urge that power be devolved to local authorities, should present a proposal whereby local authorities would have no power whatever over allowing taxis to ply within their own areas, on their own streets and carrying their own taxpayers.

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's opening remarks as to the good sense that he and Members of his party perceived in the fact that the boundaries of the GLA and the new Metropolitan police district would be made coterminous. However, I regret to have to tell him that amendments Nos. 65, 66 and 67 make no sense at all. They would retain, for the purposes of taxi and minicab licensing only, the current Metropolitan police district. That would mean that taxis and minicabs operating in district council areas outside Greater London, but within the current Metropolitan police district, would be subject to regulation by Transport for London rather than the relevant district councils. However, the boundary would be notional; the Metropolitan police would have no role whatever.

Our White Paper, "A Mayor and Assembly for London", stated:

Even before the decision was taken--one that the hon. Gentleman and his party consider makes good sense--it has always been the policy to align the Metropolitan police district with Greater London. Districts outside London would regulate taxis and minicabs in their areas. In seeking to extend Transport for London's remit beyond Greater London, especially by making Transport for London responsible for taxi and minicab licensing outside Greater London, the amendments go against that principle.

Regardless of the anecdotal evidence that the hon. Gentleman has presented to the House of the approach of the Surrey police to his proposals, they would cause untold confusion by implying that the Metropolitan police--seemingly linked to an area called the Metropolitan police district--would have a role in regulating taxis and minicabs, when, of course, they would have no such role. The effect of the amendment would be a patchwork quilt of different boundaries and different responsibilities. I argue that that is a recipe for total and unmitigated confusion.

However, the hon. Gentleman did state concerns that have been expressed to him by some of his constituents who are suburban taxi drivers, to the effect that they might be adversely affected by changes to the Metropolitan police district which they perceive as being likely to cause a reduction in their livelihoods. As I said in Committee, and as I now repeat in the House, those concerns are unfounded.

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Let us take the example of a taxi driver who currently plies for hire in Epsom. From 1 April 2000, when the MPD boundary is scheduled to change, the taxi driver in question may apply to Epsom and Ewell district council, which the Bill will make a single taxi-licensing area, for a licence to ply for hire in that district; or that individual may choose to ply for hire in Greater London, thus carrying on with his or her current licence issued by the Public Carriage Office. That licence will remain valid, giving the right to ply for hire in all or part of Greater London, depending on whether it is an all-London licence, as most are, or a licence for one of the suburban sectors.

Moreover, following consultation with the London Taxi Board, and the Metropolitan police service, the Public Carriage Office has revised suburban taxi sectors. That revision is designed not only to align the sectors more closely with borough boundaries, but to allow drivers a wider area than that which would have been available to them once their current area had contracted. The arrangements are outlined in PCO notice 5/99, dated 31 March 1999. I will arrange for a copy of the notice to be placed in the Library and furnish a copy to all members of the Standing Committee. In respect of the taxi and minicab licensing responsibilities of the eight district councils moving outside the MPD, in September 1998 representatives from each council attended a PCO- organised seminar that addressed the MPD changes. Most recently, my Department has written to each of those district councils in some detail about the transitional arrangements.

8.30 pm

The point to stress in conclusion is that all existing licences granted by the PCO remain valid. If drivers want to apply separately for a licence from a fringe district, they are free to do so. I hope that the House, the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton and his constituents will take reassurance from that, and that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his amendment.

Mr. Davey: I am rather disappointed by the Minister's reply. Her assertion that the cab drivers in my constituency will not be affected and that their livelihoods will be protected by the sectoral review she describes is not borne out by my conversations with them. They are convinced that they will be hit in the pocket by the boundary changes. They are well aware of the sectoral review inside the GLA, but they are convinced that they will lose some of the rich pickings to which they currently have access. The Minister mentioned Epsom, but in Standing Committee I explained that cab drivers are concerned about the business that they will lose there. Their options are either to stay there and be regulated by Epsom and Ewell district council, or to go to Wimbledon and compete with the many other drivers who currently ply the cab rank outside Wimbledon station. The cab drivers are not convinced that they will not be severely hit by the Government's policy.

The Minister appears to suggest that our policy will be difficult to implement, because it will create a patchwork throughout the capital and its bordering districts. However, there is already a patchwork, because we currently have a rather bizarre historical arrangement under which there are several areas just outside the London boroughs where cab drivers are able to ply. Therefore, in practical terms, it makes no difference keeping those boundaries.

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The Minister also suggests that the amendment would cause confusion to the police, but the contrary is true:the police in suburban London see no problems with administering what the Minister calls notional boundaries. I should point out that there appear to me to be notional boundaries already, and that the only question is how one organises the jurisdictions to enforce the regulations.

I am not convinced by the Minister's response, and I intend to go back to my constituents and tell them that I voiced their concerns in Standing Committee and on Report, and that we proposed alternatives to the Government's arrangements, but that the Government have not seen fit to accept our proposals. My constituents will be extremely disappointed, if not angry. I am sure that their retort will be to encourage me to ask my noble Friends in another place to pursue the matter. I hope that, in the meantime, Ministers will talk to some of their hon. Friends who have some knowledge of the cab business--no doubt some still have friends in the cab trade who will be well aware of the impact of the changes.

Let me take the Minister up on one point: she is pleased that my views are in line with the Government's policy of establishing a Metropolitan police authority and democratising London's police force. Liberal Democrats have argued for such policies for many years and we are glad that the Labour party has at last come round to our views. However, rather than continuing to stand here making party political points, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 10

Smoking in London taxis and private hire vehicles

'(1) A person shall not smoke or carry lighted tobacco in a taxi or private hire vehicle where passengers are by means of a prescribed notice informed that smoking is prohibited.

(2) For the purposes of this section, "prescribed notice" means a notice or marking of such type and displayed in or on a taxi or private hire vehicle in such manner as the Secretary of State may by order prescribe.
(3) A passenger who contravenes subsection (1) may be required by the driver to leave a taxi or private hire vehicle and, where the passenger refuses to comply with that requirement, may be removed by the driver or, on the request of the driver, by a constable.
(4) A person who--
(a) contravenes subsection (1),
(b) refuses to comply with a requirement made in accordance with subsection (3), or
(c) resists lawful removal in accordance with that subsection,
is guilty of an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.
(5) Notwithstanding the provisions of any enactment requiring certain hirings to be accepted, it shall be lawful for the driver of a taxi or private hire vehicle bearing a prescribed notice to refuse to carry a passenger who is smoking or carrying lighted tobacco.
(6) In this section--
"private hire vehicle" means a vehicle licensed under the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998; and
"taxi" means a hackney carriage licensed under section 6 of the Metropolitan Public Carriage Act 1869.'.--[Mr. Brake.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

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