Clause 11 - Short title

Pedicabs (London) Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 4:00 pm on 26 March 2024.

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Amendment made: 20, page 6, line 1, leave out subsection (2).—(Guy Opperman.)

This amendment removes the privilege amendment inserted by the Lords.

Clause 11, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair.

Bill, as amended, reported.

Bill, as amended in the Committee, considered.

Third Reading

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 4:03, 26 March 2024

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I would like to place on the record my gratitude to colleagues, particularly my hon. Friend Nickie Aiken, who has fought nobly to bring forward this vital legislation to the good burghers of London on an ongoing basis, through thick and thin, through private Member’s Bill, through fair winds and foul. She has done a phenomenal job.

It is rightly said that this is a cross-party Bill. I thank Transport for London for its work with the Department for Transport and my officials, who have done a fantastic job to take it forward. It is right that I mention my hon. Friend Paul Scully, who tried to introduce this legislation previously. Fundamentally, this legislation has been overdue for well over 20 years. It is an important but discrete piece of legislation, and I commend it to the House.

Photo of Simon Lightwood Simon Lightwood Shadow Minister (Transport) 4:05, 26 March 2024

I will keep my remarks brief, as this is the penultimate main business before the Easter recess, and far be it for me to delay colleagues returning to their constituencies. I am grateful for all hon. Members who have participated in the Bill’s progress, particularly Nickie Aiken. I am grateful for the hard work of colleagues in the other place, which meant that the Bill came to us in a much improved state, specifically by adding the provision for the regulation of noise nuisance. Their efforts to pressure the Government into changing their approach on requiring parliamentary approval ensured that the powers are fully devolved to Transport for London. That is commendable.

As I set out on Second Reading and again in Committee, Labour supports the Bill. For years there have been calls on the Government to grant Transport for London the powers it needs to regulate this industry. Labour welcomes the Bill as that will finally become law, and a regulated pedicab industry in London will soon emerge, but it has taken far too long to get here.

I must repeat what I emphasised on Second Reading: there is no doubt that the Bill is hugely welcome to London’s west end and a handful of other London areas, but these measures should have been introduced as part of a far wider transport Bill. Elsewhere in transport policy there remains desperate need for major transport reform, particularly on e-bikes and e-scooters, but the Government continue to duck that responsibility and have refused to use this opportunity to bring forward a long-promised and long-delayed transport Bill.

I have been listening carefully to the Minister’s arguments, and I welcome the Government being content that TfL can mandate enhanced DBS checks for pedicabs under current private hire vehicle legislation. It is regrettable that proposed new clauses 1 to 3, all pertaining to the safeguarding of vulnerable adults and children, were not accepted. TfL itself has indicated throughout its draft licensing framework that passenger safety will be its guiding principle, and it is keen to incorporate enhanced DBS checks into licensing conditions under clause 2(6)(a), but believes that it currently does not have the powers to do so. Each of Labour’s new clauses offered a different way forward to incorporating enhanced DBS checks into TfL’s regulations.

It is disappointing that the Government have not taken the new clauses forward, but Labour welcomes the opportunity that tabling them has presented to facilitate a discussion on the importance of TfL having the powers to integrate enhanced DBS checks into its licensing regime. I welcome the exploration of alternative means, as the Minister described, to achieve the same objectives. In the light of that, I gently ask the Minister to meet me at his earliest convenience to discuss this issue further, and to identify ways that we can work together on a cross-party basis to grant TfL the powers it needs to keep customers safe.

Overall, this Bill is welcome, if not long overdue. It is a great addition to the statute book. Once again, I thank all hon. Members and Lords in the other place for their involvement, in addition to the Clerks and stakeholders who have helped us scrutinise the Bill effectively.

Photo of Florence Eshalomi Florence Eshalomi Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government) 4:08, 26 March 2024

It is great to see progress on this Bill. I want to start by congratulating my constituency neighbour, Nickie Aiken, on first introducing the Bill. I congratulate her on her persistence in getting this hard, long-awaited Bill to its last remaining stages. Like her, my Front-Bench colleagues and the Mayor of London, I have long supported the Bill as a means of giving Transport for London real power to regulate our pedicabs.

I will keep my remarks short. As others have highlighted today, the Bill highlights the serious problem of the unregulated regime for pedicabs in my constituency and other parts of London. My support for the Bill does not come from wanting to see pedicabs banned for good in all forms from our streets. Instead, like everybody else, I want a properly regulated industry that works for everybody. Unfortunately, what we have currently is one that creates tensions. Businesses see their pavements blocked and consumers discouraged, and residents are disrupted by excessively loud music during unsociable hours. Passengers face hiked, or even extortionate, fees for really short journeys. Most importantly, drivers themselves are forced to work in dangerous conditions and are undercut by those who cut corners in maintenance.

The Bill, with support from the Department for Transport, the Mayor of London and cross-party councils across London, strikes the right balance in allowing a sustainable and supported pedicabs industry to develop and flourish. We have waited far too long for it to be passed. While we have been waiting, we have continued to see people being ripped off, and consumers and visitors deterred from coming into the heart of London. We want more tourists bringing their families and their money, but when they have a bad experience, that spreads faster than the good experience. It is therefore really important that we continue to work together in the spirit of cross-party collaboration, and ensure we put an end to unregulated practice and get the Bill on to the statute book.

Photo of Nickie Aiken Nickie Aiken Conservative, Cities of London and Westminster 4:10, 26 March 2024

I cannot quite believe we are here, to be honest. Mr Deputy Speaker, you have spent many a Friday in the Chair listening to me make the argument for why we need pedicab regulation. It has never been about eradicating pedicabs. It has always been about making them safer for the tourists who use them and for the drivers who drive them, and making Westminster a much more pleasant place to live, work and have a business.

People do not appreciate that in the west end of London there are thousands of people living in social housing, whether in Soho, Fitzrovia, Covent Garden or Marylebone. They have no choice where they live. They are given a home in a social housing block, whether via the council or a housing association, and they are not able to move. Often, they have to live with horrendous experiences that a minority of pedicabs ply: the loud music played for hours on end in the early hours; tourists ripped off; and so many other examples.

We must continue to grow the London economy, especially the central London economy, which has taken such a battering following covid and the energy crisis. We need to ensure that when tourists come here they have a fantastic time. I personally fully believe that licensing for pedicabs will improve the offer. It will ensure that people enjoy it and that they have a special time in London.

I am absolutely delighted that, after four private Members’ Bills, the Government accepted the need for the Bill. I reiterate my thanks to those in No. 10, Will Tanner and James Nation, for all the support they gave me, and to the Prime Minister, who was fully behind it. My greatest thanks go to the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend Guy Opperman, who has really worked me on this. I thank him so much. I thank the shadow Front Benchers for their support and my dear friend Florence Eshalomi—people talk about having friendships in the Chamber, and I am so proud to have her as a friend. I would also like to thank all the organisations across the west end—the Soho Society, the Marylebone Association and others—who have been behind me all the way. I honestly believe the Bill will make a huge difference, so I thank everyone again. For the people of the west end, this will make a huge difference.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch 4:13, 26 March 2024

I, too, add my thanks to the people involved in this issue. In particular, I am grateful to my hon. Friend Nickie Aiken for the way in which she has taken forward the interests of her constituents. I am disappointed, in a sense, that she has decided to throw in the towel and not stand again at the next general election. Perhaps in her retirement from the House she will be able to become a licensed pedicab driver herself—[Laughter]—and thereby be able to use her knowledge and experience. She certainly will not have much difficulty in being able to pass the regulatory requirement of knowing the location of central London and how to get around it.

I also thank the London Pedicab Operators Association and Cycling UK, both of which have helped me in putting questions about the Bill. I think it important for awkward questions to be put to those who are promoting legislation such as this, and I have found it disappointing that a number of London Members have not questioned any of it. I think that today’s interchange between the Minister and me should concentrate minds on ensuring that the regulations, when they are finally implemented, do exactly what we want them to do, so that we are able to have a thriving pedicab industry and activity throughout the country, rather than just in London. As we have heard, that is already the case on the continent and in North America.

Soon after I was elected—a long time ago—I started to take my two children on a tandem trailer, with my wife and I on the tandem. As a result, my commitment to cycling knows no bounds and cannot be questioned. I hope that the Bill will reinforce the strong case for cycling, and encourage more people to take the strain and allow others to join them. Indeed, an increasing number of parents are now taking their children to school and on outings on the back of their bikes, and good on them for doing so.

It may have taken 20 years for this legislation to get here, but reforming legislation is an iterative process. Twenty-odd years ago the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association was completely against the idea of pedicabs, but I hope we will find that it now tolerates and indeed accepts them, and perhaps we can encourage taxi organisations outside London to welcome this very valuable alternative form of transport.

Photo of Shaun Bailey Shaun Bailey Conservative, West Bromwich West 4:17, 26 March 2024

I will be brief, because I had not intended to speak, but having followed the debate, particularly in Committee and on Third Reading, I want to thank my hon. Friend—I say that with such heartfelt meaning—Nickie Aiken, who has demonstrated the power of this place. We talk about coming here and making tangible change, but what has happened today—in addition to the commendable work that my hon. Friend has done, along with Florence Eshalomi, in producing this legislation—just goes to show that despite the bandying around and argy-bargy that sometimes happens, we can make truly bring about real change.

I must also put on the record how sad I am to lose my hon. Friend from this place, and how much of a loss it will be. She represents, without doubt, the best of this place and, if I may say so, the best of our party. I want to say how proud I am to have watched her take the Bill forward over the last four years in the way that she has. The fact that she has been able to do this for her constituents constitutes a monument to her and a legacy. I simply say to her—and I think we would all agree, across the House—that she should be very proud of what she has done today, because she has followed this through and won it for her constituents. She has done what all of us in this place set out to do, and I think that her constituents will be proud of her and grateful as well.