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Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, I rise very briefly to support what the noble Baroness has said. I have personally been quite inconvenienced by the said vehicles around Leicester Square station. They are used, certainly late at night, in a pretty reckless fashion.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, I too support the amendment. I travelled home recently in a bus going up Oxford Street. It was obstructed several times en route by one of these pedicabs. The bus driver had a lot of very powerful comments to make about it. I strongly support the amendment.
Lord Borrie: My Lords, perhaps I may give a little support from this sidethough I do not know how much support. I thought I would do so because I feel that, in the West End and the places that the noble Baroness has described, pedicabs are becoming something of a menace. One aspect that the noble Baroness described was the safety of people who may or may not know what the legal position is, but they may be tourists and not realise the dangers.
I am inherently in favour of competition, and therefore I am perhaps not so impressed by what the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, said about taxicabs. I have a feeling sometimes that taxicabs go unduly close to these people because they dislike them and the competition. Can the noble Baroness give one or two facts, maybe from Westminster council, about the numbers involved? Are we talking simply about Westminster or a rather larger area; and do we have any facts about insurance? I imagine there are not any, but I should be glad to know if there are. That sort of thing would help us to determine whether there is a need for this action at this time as distinct from keeping an eye on it.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I cannot support this amendment. It seems to me that this is the ultimate taxi driver's revenge, as my noble friend Lord Borrie has
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hinted. The only time I have used one of these things was about six years ago when I got married, to come from the register office in Marylebone down to your Lordships' House. It was great fun with my wife. These things may be irritating to other people, but that is not a reason per se for saying that they should be banned or controlled.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, said that they sometimes park on the footpaths and they park on carriageways. So do cars, all the time. They get in the way of buses and bus lanes. So do bicycles and motor cycles. They are not allowed in there but they still do. And they block routes of ambulances. Well, so do cars and bicycles. They are at least environmentally friendly. I suspect that there is a problem of insurance as my noble friend has indicated. There does not seem to be much competition in the charges that they charge. But I am not persuaded that that is a good enough reason to try to regulate them. We have not heard from any noble Lord what number of accidents they are reported to have caused, or how many people have been killed, if any, or seriously injured. I tend to agree with my noble friend Lord Borrie: I think that this is the taxi drivers having a jolly good go at getting the competition off the streets.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, in this short debate, we have heard that there are differences of opinion about this issue. The Government's attitude is that we are aware that there is a problem and that there are anxieties, but we think it is premature to act in primary legislation now. The noble Baroness prayed in aid Transport for London as having anxieties. She is right: it is concerned about it. It is examining the whole situation in the round to see what kind of regulation may be necessary. It is exactly the body that should do that.
This is a London issue. To respond to my noble friend Lord Borrie, who asked some pertinent questions of the noble Baroness, pedicabs outside London are subject to license by the licensing authorities, so we are discussing only a London issue. Because of that, Transport for London is the body to examine the position as a whole. We want it to give full consideration to the matter and come up with a scheme that will work. There are problems with the scheme proposed in the amendment. We are by no means convinced that the registration scheme proposed in the amendment would be a proper or comprehensive system of regulation. There is a risk that regulation will be taken by the public as conferring a greater degree of control and safety insurance than may be the case. That is why we need to consider the totality of the positionall the anxieties raised by both my noble friends need to be considered.
The scheme that Transport for London will bring forward will also be directly relevant to the second leg of the concerns underlying the amendment: enforcing traffic and parking offences. Identification and tracking down of offenders is crucial. I recognise that that is a problem with pedicabs at present. Licensing as now proposed in London will provide just that means of identification as part of the wider system of
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control. Pedicabs are already subject to police control and enforcement in moving traffic offences. I recognise the issue of civil enforcement of offences. The department is considering that closely. We are very willing to hold further meetings with all interested parties, but we want Transport for London to take the lead in introducing a new licensing regime. It is the proper body to be able to tackle the issue in the round.
As I said, we do not need primary legislation for other local authorities, because they are subject to licensing at present. The noble Baroness has raised an important issue on which we want action. It may not need primary legislation and we should leave it with the proper body to emerge with proposals. On that basis, I hope that she will feel that her problem is being addressed and that she can safely withdraw the amendment.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, is he aware that it raises a most unfortunate parallel with minicabs when he says that outside London all these things are already regulated but in London they are not? It took years before we got regulation of minicabs in London. Why should London, as the capital, be disadvantaged? I am still unclear about what he said about TfL having the power. Does the Minister mean that TfL has the power already or not? I thought that the whole purpose of the amendment was that TfL did not have the power.
Lord Davies of Oldham : My Lords, we do not know the scheme and the requirements that TfL will propose, therefore we are not in a position to make that judgment. The clause the noble Baroness proposes contains clear imperfections. We are concerned that the issue should be tackled but we respectfully maintain that it is not for Parliament to reach a decision before Transport for London has fully considered all the issues and proposed a scheme. We await the outcome of its deliberations and will assist it with everything that it requires in its proposals.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, once again there is prevarication. It is extraordinary how we manage to lose opportunities on the basis that we can find other legislation in which to bring forward road safety requirements.
In response to the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, I think that I said that there were 200 pedicabs, but the number is rising by the minute because it is quite easy for an unemployed person, for example, to hire a pedicab, set off and earn some money with it. It will be an increasing attraction with time. I am certain that no insurance is involved. That puts people sitting in the back of a pedicab in some peril if it tips over and they
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are hurt. At present, in London, it is primarily Westminster City Council that is affected because it has most of the theatres and tourist attractions.
I do not know whether there have been any accidents or injuries. I would much rather that there had not, and I am sure that that is the case. A pedicab is an unusual and innovative way of getting around London. The question is what we do to ensure that they do not cause trouble.
I reiterate to the Minister that there seems a dichotomy between the roles of Transport for London and the London local authorities in this regard. According to my brief, any future Transport for London Bill cannot introduce the powers to issue PCNs for traffic contraventions because such a Bill cannot address issues that are the concerns of both Transport for London and the local authorities. Transport for London can consider it until its head drops off but there does not seem to be legislation by which it can do anything further about it. Furthermore, if legislation is required for licensingwe are talking about registration because licensing appears to involve those difficultiesit cannot be achieved through a London local authorities and Transport for London Bill because licensing is a concern only for Transport for London. That is the conundrum with which we are left in waiting for a licensing system to be introduced.
I hear that the noble Lord will not support my amendment and I will not push it today because I need further information so that at Third Reading we are clear on the answers to some of the questions raised. It would be unfortunate if the Government did not support a registration system, which is on a lower level than licensing and could be implemented in the Bill to provide at least some control over pedicabs at an early stage, before they cause too much trouble.
If the Minister has any further thoughts on my amendment before Third Reading, I would be grateful to hear them. I shall seek further views from Westminster City Council and Transport for London. For today's purposes, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
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