Transport: Pedicabs - Question

– in the House of Lords at 11:06 am on 27th April 2017.

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Photo of Baroness Couttie Baroness Couttie Conservative 11:06 am, 27th April 2017

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the commitment made by the Secretary of State for Transport on 26 May 2016 to regulate pedicab drivers, when the necessary legislation will be brought forward.

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

My Lords, the Government agree that the Mayor of London should have the power to regulate pedicabs, and have been working with Westminster City Council and Transport for London over the detail of a proposed regulatory system. Of course, it will be for a future Government to determine if and when the necessary legislation could be introduced.

Photo of Baroness Couttie Baroness Couttie Conservative

I thank my noble friend the Minister for his response and am encouraged by his words. Pedicabs in London are not subject to any safety checks and not covered by insurance. Drivers do not have criminal record checks and do not even need driving licences. Pedicabs regularly flout traffic regulations; for example, driving up one-way streets the wrong way or congregating in large numbers outside theatres and other tourist attractions, blocking bus lanes and access for emergency vehicles, and creating tremendous congestion. Their fares are unregulated and we have had some highly publicised examples of exorbitant fares levied on unwary passengers. There are a lot of examples of antisocial behaviour as well. Would the Minister agree that regulation needs to be brought in as soon as is practical when a new Parliament comes in?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

My noble friend articulated the reasons why regulation is required in this area. Of course, she speaks from great local experience in this respect. As I already said, while this is a matter for a future Government to determine, I and the current Government have said on record that we would look towards the earliest opportunity to legislate in this respect. It remains my personal view that we should seek to regulate this industry for the reasons my noble friend stated.

Photo of Baroness Randerson Baroness Randerson Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport)

My Lords, as well as the safety issues involved, there are a number of reported cases where tourists in particular have been charged extortionate amounts of money. Does the Minister accept that this is bad for the reputation of London and of Britain, and can he give us a categorical assurance that, if this Government are returned after the general election, there will be legislation in the coming year—as promised last year but that promise was broken?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

It would perhaps be presumptuous of me at the Dispatch Box to say what Government will be returned on 8 June. I have already made my position and that of the current Government clear: we would look to legislate at the earliest opportunity. The noble Baroness raises an important point about the image of London in the view of tourists who are not aware, perhaps, whether they are getting into a regulated vehicle or of the price that will be charged. I am acutely aware of the challenges the noble Baroness poses. As I said, I am certainly keen to see this area regulated at the earliest opportunity, but it is a matter for a future Government.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

I would like to explore this a little more with the Minister. I agree with the comments made so far about the problem that needs to be addressed. However, my recollection is that in May last year the Government announced that they would regulate the industry. Unless the Minister tells me I have this wrong, I thought they said then that legislation would come forward later in the year—2016. Clearly, it did not. Is this a particularly complex area to deal with? Is that why legislation did not come forward in 2016? Is it proving more difficult than thought, or is there some other reason why nothing was done within the timescale that, as far as I know, the Government originally suggested?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The Government explored various legislative vehicles, such as the opportunity for a sponsored Private Member’s Bill. As I said earlier, without pre-empting what may have happened or will happen in coming months, it is important to recognise that there were opportunities. Certain legislative vehicles in the current timetable could have been used to legislate in this respect. It remains the case—I have given a personal commitment and that of the current Government to this—that this is an important area to legislate in. We will continue to do so at the earliest opportunity if a Conservative Government is re-elected on 8 June.

Photo of Lord Kennedy of Southwark Lord Kennedy of Southwark Shadow Spokesperson (Housing), Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

My Lords, coming from a family of black cab drivers, I endorse every single word said by the noble Baroness, Lady Couttie. I press this Government or whichever Government are elected in a few weeks’ time that this should be top of the agenda for the new Transport Secretary to deal with on day one.

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I am sure that those who aspire to hold that position have taken note of the noble Lord’s comments.

Photo of Lord Leigh of Hurley Lord Leigh of Hurley Conservative

Can my noble friend the Minister advise us whether the Government plan to make any economic assessment of the impact of the imposition of bicycle lanes on London businesses, particularly small businesses and mobile tradesmen such as stonemasons, who effectively have had to stop serving London businesses?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

As my noble friend is aware, cycle lanes are primarily a responsibility of the Mayor of London. I know that views have been expressed in this House and elsewhere, and I am sure those will be taken into account if reviews are carried out of cycle lanes and their operation in London.

Photo of Lord Hamilton of Epsom Lord Hamilton of Epsom Conservative

Can my noble friend assure the House that the pledge he has made to legislate on this matter will not become a manifesto commitment?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Again, I am not going to pre-judge the commitments in a manifesto. I have made as clear as I can at this juncture the intention of the current Government and my personal view in this respect, as someone who oversees legislation and indeed the operation and co-ordination of such activity in London with the Mayor of London. Whoever the Government are, I am sure they will continue to work with the Mayor of London in ensuring that we regulate this industry in the years to come.

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Labour

My Lords, the confusion and despair that are seen as a result of this makes one think of mutinies. Of course, there was a mutiny 228 years ago tomorrow on the “Bounty”. The Royal Navy sent out 40 ships to find the mutineers. I think today we would have difficulty doing that—would they have to be pedalled to get there? Does the Minister agree that we need more ships—ideally, driven?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Pedalling in boats—that is something we have all done, perhaps, on the Serpentine in Hyde Park and elsewhere. My day would not be complete without a history lesson from the noble Lord. As ever, I greatly appreciate that.