Pedicabs (London) Bill [HL] - Second Reading

– in the House of Lords at 4:37 pm on 22 November 2023.

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Lord Davies of Gower:

Moved by Lord Davies of Gower

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Photo of Lord Davies of Gower Lord Davies of Gower Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

My Lords, this Bill will correct a long-standing anomaly where pedicabs are the only form of unregulated transport operating on the streets of London. Pedicab regulation in the rest of England and Wales is done under taxi legislation. However, a legal quirk has meant that pedicabs within London are classed as stage carriages. These are captured under the Metropolitan Public Carriage Act 1869, but that Act’s provisions do not permit their regulation. The reality is that legislation has failed to keep up with the emergence and nature of this industry, making this Bill a small but important addition to the statute book.

Pedicabs have an important role to play in London’s transport mix. They are a quick, green option for Londoners and for tourists looking to get from point A to C via B, while taking in the sights of this wonderful city. They complement London’s vibrant night-time economy, and the entrepreneurial spirit shown by many operators demonstrates the opportunities available to those willing to work hard and get on.

Despite the lack of regulation in this sector, there are hard-working and reputable operators who support this legislation and look forward to working with Transport for London in making the pedicab industry a reputable and respected place to work, providing a safe and reliable road transport option for short journeys in the heart of London. However, as happens all too often, the actions of a few have far-reaching consequences and tarnish the reputations of the majority. We have all seen news reports of unwitting tourists being charged hundreds of pounds to go from Covent Garden to Leicester Square, or being confronted with a bill from Oxford Circus to Marble Arch that would make that pedicab ride the most expensive transport mode in the UK on a per-mile basis.

The consequences are felt not only by visitors but by all who call this city home. Unscrupulous pedicab operators are the cause of nightly misery. They are responsible for noise pollution; for blasting loud music at all hours of the night; for making our pavements hazardous; for congregating in large groups to block footpaths, endangering other road users and pedestrians alike; for cycling recklessly, using potentially unsafe vehicles and generally operating in a way that is not in keeping with the image that London projects to the world. The Bill equips Transport for London with the tools it needs to tackle the anti-social, unsafe and nuisance behaviours found in the pedicab industry. It achieves this by conferring powers on TfL to make regulations concerning the use of pedicabs in public places in Greater London.

It will be for TfL to determine the precise details of a regulatory regime. However, the Bill will allow Transport for London to bring forward measures covering matters such as: the licensing of pedicabs, pedicab operators and drivers, including the conditions placed on licences, their duration, renewal, revocation, and suspension; the fares charged for pedicab services and when and how passengers are made aware of these; and requirements for pedicabs, operators and drivers. This will cover eligibility requirements for operators or drivers, safety and operational standards, such as what equipment must be carried on a pedicab, and their appearance. It will also cover testing, speed restrictions and the working conditions and conduct of drivers. It will cover the operation of pedicabs, including specifying times and places of operation; the provision of publicly available information about licences or the pedicabs, operators or drivers to which they relate; and enforcement of the regulatory regime, which covers the creation of offences and/or civil sanctions, and corresponding rights of appeal for pedicab operators and drivers against enforcement decisions.

Furthermore, the Bill requires that any pedicab regulations brought forward by TfL include provisions corresponding to those in the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998, in relation to immigration status. This will ensure that those working in the industry have been subject to right-to-work checks. These provisions will provide Transport for London with powers to effectively regulate London’s pedicab industry for the first time. In designing the regulations, Transport for London will be required to conduct a consultation, and any proposals will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny via the negative resolution procedure. This Government have been unwavering in our commitment to bringing forward this legislation when parliamentary time has allowed. I am pleased that the legislative timetable has now allowed for this common-sense Bill to be considered for inclusion on the statute book and I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour 4:43, 22 November 2023

My Lords, I welcome the Bill. I am a cyclist, an occasional electric scooter user and of course a pedestrian, and it is certainly needed. I have been in a pedicab too. I do not know how many other noble Lords have been in pedicabs. I do not see many hands going up around the Chamber, but they are actually quite fun when they are driven safely. However, they are just one kind of personal transport that we use, and I hope will continue to use, and they must be safe, they must be reliable and they must of course not upset other road users and transport users to a great extent. We can discuss how upset people get, I am sure.

One issue that needs addressing at the start of the Bill is the definition of a pedicab. We see a lot of freight pedicabs going around these days, but they are excluded from the Bill in Clause 1(2) as long as they have only one driver and nobody is paying to sit on the pillion, if you can call it that.

We must try to make sure that this legislation applies to future trends in transport that we are seeing. Can the Minister explain why we do not yet have any legislation on electric scooters or electric bikes—on where and how you use them, where you park them and whether the batteries catch fire when you just look at them, as happens occasionally? I have a Brompton electric bike and was excluded from One Great George Street last week. I am a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, which owns that building, but was told, “You can’t bring your battery in here; you have to leave it outside”. I said, “You can leave it outside and bring it back for me”. “No, you leave it outside or carry it with you into reception.” If I went into reception with the Minister there, carrying my battery which is likely to catch fire, is it a good thing that the Minister catches fire as well? It is a crazy solution. It has been changed now, but there need to be some rules on this. Brompton has them, but others do not. I am very sorry that there is nothing in the Bill about that.

I welcome the Bill, but we must be careful that we do not allow TfL, in its present state and management— I have no worries about it, as it does very well—to avoid having pedicabs around at all, as there are similar arrangements in cities around the country which you get the feeling are making regulations to do that. I accept that they charge unsuspecting tourists, get in the way and park in the wrong places, et cetera, but in future people may well use them just for personal transport, if they feel like it. It is an option. Just as we are now quite rightly not supposed to park electric bikes in the wrong places in London, it is quite right that there should be rules not to park pedicabs in the wrong places. That is a good thing, provided that it is not a regulation dreamed up by the taxi industry to avoid competition. I am sure that noble Lords feel it is important that competition in moving around any city is fair and that there are regulations as necessary. I hope we can look at this in Committee to make sure that the Bill complies with that.

It concerns me that something is missing from the Bill. What is its objective and purpose? It is a new regulatory framework that is not very different from what we have in other cities, and the regulations do not look onerous. Some of them, particularly on charging, certainly need bringing in, but we also have to make sure that it is proportionate. I hope the Minister will consider something along the lines of an objective for the Bill and the regulations, such that we have responsible operators and try to weed out the irresponsible ones while making things proportionate to what is used in other countries and current taxi regulations. This is a really good opportunity, although lots of things are missing, as I said earlier.

The only other issue which we need to look at is the limits of where these things can operate. Presumably, it will be within the whole TfL area, which one would assume is reasonable, but where can we park them? When I look for somewhere to park round here, my hired electric bike has nice dials on the handlebars which tell me where I cannot park—that includes, of course, outside your Lordships’ House, which is a bit irritating but probably a good idea. Then I go down Millbank, to a place where “P” comes up on the bike to tell me that I can park there. People want to be able to park these bikes as close as possible to where they want to go and have them available. We need to look at where they can be parked convenient to those who want to use them—not just tourists but others as well. I hope that this comes into some of the objectives.

As for the rules on who can drive them, Clause 2(9), which says that regulations may impose requirements on drivers or operators, is very important because some of them are, shall we say, not very good at the moment.

Overall, if we examine this in Committee, as I am sure we will, it will be a really good Bill. I hope that, when the Minister replies, he will agree to look at the issue of objectives and at making sure that we can balance the rights and responsibilities of drivers and pedestrians with what may be proposed, and that if someone who hates the things is appointed to TfL, there is no opportunity for them to cancel them completely, which would be a shame. I am sure that is not the Government’s objective, but with a future Government in a few years’ time, who knows what can happen. I am sure it would not be done under a Labour Government —we love pedicabs—but it is just something to add. I am very pleased to support the Bill.

Photo of Baroness Stowell of Beeston Baroness Stowell of Beeston Chair, Communications and Digital Committee, Chair, Communications and Digital Committee 4:51, 22 November 2023

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, sets out a case for the future when it comes to pedicabs, and I will come to some of his points a little later. I am going to focus my remarks more on why there is a case for this legislation now.

Before I get to that, I welcome my noble friend the Minister to his new position and wish him every success as the Minister for Transport in this House. I also want to welcome the Bill. It is something I have long championed—some noble Lords may remember I tabled amendments during the passage of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to try to introduce some form of regulation. I apologise in advance to any noble Lords who may feel, when they hear what I have got to say today, that they have heard me make these arguments before. I must also congratulate my honourable friend Nickie Aiken, the Member for the Cities of London and Westminster, for her relentless campaigning for legislation to enable regulation of pedicabs by Transport for London. I commend Nickie Aiken’s determined effort to make sure that the Government honoured their commitment to legislate in government time when her own Private Member’s Bill was, in my mind, unfairly thwarted two years ago. I cannot stress enough how hard she tried to get her Private Member’s Bill over the line, and she very nearly succeeded where many before her had unfortunately too often failed. Today is a good day for her constituents in Westminster and the City of London.

My noble friend the Minister has already explained why primary legislation is needed to enable TfL to act and he put the case for the legislation quite clearly. I am going to be probably more blunt than my noble friend. He said that pedicabs or rickshaws are the only form of public transport in our capital city not currently regulated. To be clear, as things stand these vehicles need no insurance, there are no police or criminal record checks on the drivers and they can hang around in gangs wherever they want, blocking pavements and sometimes being threatening in their behaviour. Some pedicab drivers have been involved in criminal activity, and the lack of registration of them or the vehicle owners makes them quite useful to organised criminal gangs. They drive recklessly—the wrong way up one-way streets, and I have also seen them on pavements. Their involvement in hit-and-run incidents is not uncommon and, without the need for vehicle safety checks, some are unfit to be on the roads. There is more. Pedicabs can charge passengers whatever they want, and there is plenty of evidence of them ripping off tourists. Then, there is the sheer nuisance and disruption that many cause to local businesses and residents from the excessively loud music they play—and when I say loud, I mean loud.

These unchecked, unlicensed and unregulated vehicles are allowed to ply for trade on our streets in direct competition with our heavily regulated black cabs. That is what gets me. I should make it clear that I have no interests whatever to register; I am not even a resident of Westminster. However, I believe that black cabs, which are synonymous with London around the world and an important part of our reputation internationally for quality and high standards, are for ever facing more regulations and new road restrictions, while vehicles and drivers which too often are a disgrace to our reputation have been allowed to operate without having to comply with any law, regulation or rule. Finally, we are going to do something about it.

I come now to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and indeed those of my noble friend the Minister. There are some reputable pedicab firms that want to provide a quality service and do, and my noble friend paid tribute to them. They will prosper in a regulated market. I add that new forms of public transport and the arrival of technology mean that our black cabs too must keep pace with modern public expectations and expect to compete for custom. No one has a guarantee to exist or can afford to be complacent, but there should be a level playing field. As the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, says, in this modern world there will be an appetite for different forms of public transport that some people may prefer because of environmental questions.

I hope that my noble friend the Minister and I have been able to demonstrate why the word “scourge” was a worthy description of the current situation and that the Bill’s inclusion in the King’s Speech is justified. In my mind, this Bill represents something far bigger than just putting pedicabs on a regulatory footing: it is righting a wrong. This Bill stands up for the law-abiding, who all too often are unfairly affected by regulations that we always seem to find the time to introduce, by ending the impunity enjoyed by those who flout our laws because we have not legislated to stop them and making sure that the authorities cannot stand by.

Before I conclude, I have two questions for my noble friend. First, what is the expected timeline for TfL being able to introduce the much-needed pedicab regulations? Secondly, could he explain why the provisions that the regulations may make, as outlined in Clause 2, do not include the amplification of music? That is currently not specified on page 2 of the Bill. Overall, I welcome the Bill. We have waited for it for too long, and I am very pleased that the Government have brought it forward. I thank them for doing so.

Photo of Lord Blencathra Lord Blencathra Conservative 4:58, 22 November 2023

My Lords, it is a delight to follow my noble friend Lady Stowell of Beeston, who has made a very powerful case for this Bill. I give my full support to this trivial little measure, although I did feel sorry for His Majesty during the Loyal Address: he waited 70 years to make a Speech and he had to read out this little Bill. Nevertheless, I support what the Bill is seeking to do.

These things bring this aspect of London into disrepute. They are usually noisy, garish, hold up traffic already ground to a halt by TfL’s obsession with one-way streets and cycle lanes, and in far too many cases they rip off tourists. Why anyone would get into one without first checking the price and then hand over £500 without creating a fuss and calling the police, I simply do not understand. However, I accept that many foreign tourists will be scared to argue, and if they are paying by card then the crooks driving these things can easily add extra zeros.

I was warned about taxi scams when I monitored the elections in Turkey a few years ago, and I was told to video with my phone any notes I handed over, since the cabbies would say that I had given them only 10 liras instead of 100 liras.

Many years ago, when I could still walk, I came out of a restaurant in Regent Street at about 10.30 pm and could not find any black cabs anywhere. I broke my usual rule and took one of those cars from shifty, little guys offering cheap taxi services. We agreed £8 to get me from Regent Street to Marsham Street, but when we were on Victoria Street, he said that it was now £24. I said, “Not on your life, pal”, but he insisted that it was £24. So I said that I wanted to change my location and asked him to drop me off at the junction of Caxton Street and Broadway. When we stopped there, I pointed out the revolving, triangular Scotland Yard sign and said that I was popping in to report him. He told me to get out of the taxi immediately, and he drove off without taking any payment. I accept that the Bill can clamp down on similar pedicab rackets, and I therefore support it.

But are there any good points about pedicabs? They move slowly, unlike e-bikes and e-scooters. You can usually hear them, because they make an infernal racket with loud, raucous music, unlike e-bikes and e-scooters. Of crucial importance, they have not killed a single person —as far as the department knows, according to a Written Answer to me—as opposed to the silent killing machines of e-scooters. That is why I call this a trivial little measure: we have in front of us a full-blooded government Bill, which will go through all stages in both Houses of Parliament, to deal with a menace that has not killed a single soul, while we are doing absolutely nothing about banning e-scooters, which have killed more than 25 people over the last four years and seriously injured over 100 more.

These are statistics I have on a regional basis: in the east of England, there has been one death and 11 serious injuries; in the east Midlands, three deaths and 24 serious injuries; in the north-east, one death and three serious injuries; in the north-west, five deaths and 24 serious injuries; in the south-east, including London, 10 deaths and 36 serious injuries; and in the south-west, four deaths and 15 serious injuries. I do not have the figures for the West Midlands, but I think that they are almost the same as for the south-east.

What we can say for certain is that, since 2019, more than 25 people have been killed by e-scooters, with more than 100 seriously injured and about 400 with other injuries. By serious injuries, I do not mean broken legs; I mean life-changing injuries with permanent brain damage or being confined to a wheelchair. Many of those were children, mown down by thugs on e-scooters authorised by government trials or used illegally as privately owned vehicles. I have a full Excel spreadsheet with all the statistics across the regions that I will forward to my noble friend the Minister. I will not mention the number of dogs killed and injured, since that would make me too angry in this noble House.

I want to amend this little Bill to tackle the far greater problem of innocent people not being ripped off financially but being killed and injured by e-scooters and e-bikes, and the scourge of them being abandoned all over the pavements. Just pop across the bridge to St Thomas’ Hospital across the river, where the pavement is impassable because of e-bikes blocking the pavement—although they do not block the pavement after I go past, since I can bulldoze them into the road with my big wheelchair. What I and other pavement users have to contend with are the Just Eat, Deliveroo and Uber Eats fast-food bike riders, who drive down the pavement at full pelt all the time, delivering to unsuspecting customers food that they think has been prepared in top-quality restaurants but has actually come from some grubby bulk-cut kitchens under the arches. I am big and ugly enough to fight them off, but tens of thousands of more helpless pedestrians, including the frail, elderly and blind, are now risking their lives daily in London, and some of our other cities, because of e-scooter hoodlums driving at speed on our roads and pavements and abandoning their vehicles on the pavements.

In submitting evidence to the Commons Transport Select Committee in March this year, Sarah Gayton of the National Federation of the Blind of the UK said:

“It is very clear the e-scooters trials have failed, turning pavements into terrifying rat runs for e-scooter riders and dumping grounds for e-scooters when not in use. The trials have shown that even with strict regulations, e-scooters cannot be regulated safely for the rider, for pedestrians and pedestrians who are blind, visually impaired, disabled or vulnerable. Some of the trials visited have mercifully been shut down, along with others not visited which have been turned off and there is an urgent need to shut all remaining ones down as they are still not safe, cannot be regulated safely and are a danger to the public”.

That was the organisation’s conclusion after visiting 18 cities, some multiple times, where e-scooter trials were taking place. Trials in Rochdale, Birmingham and the West Midlands, Coventry, Slough, Kent and Barnstable have already been shut down because of the carnage they were causing.

Now, anytime you raise this with the department, it says that enforcement of the law is a police matter. Of course it is, but this is Pontius Pilate writ large. As we saw last Wednesday night, the Met stood by and did nothing as a baying mob barricaded MPs and Peers into Parliament and no arrests were made of any of those demanding the destruction of Israel and the death of Jews, so do we seriously think that the Met will devote time and resources to chasing after hoodlums riding on the pavement? Of course not, and, to be fair to the Met and any other police force, dealing with terrorism, rape, robbery, murder, housebreaking and the frightening new levels of anti-Jewish hate are far more important than dealing with e-scooters on the pavement. The Department for Transport knows that, and therefore the responsibility now falls on it to legislate to save lives where the police cannot.

The police in Paris, who know a few things about how to knock heads together, could not handle the e-scooter problem, so Paris banned them. What joyous relief it is now to be on the pavements of Paris with no death-dealing e-scooters anywhere in sight or blocking the pavement.

Therefore, in conclusion, I want to amend the Bill to ban all e-scooters in England from any public highway, including pavements, and give police powers to immediately confiscate any they find being used on public roads. All rental e-scooter trials should cease immediately, with greater penalties imposed on cyclists riding on the pavement, especially if they are commercial couriers.

As an aside, I urge our parliamentary authorities to tell the Met Police that, although people have a right to protest, parliamentarians in both Houses have a far more important right, which is to go about our duties free from intimidation, threats and barricades at Victoria station but especially around these Houses of Parliament.

I apologise to have made most of my speech talking about what should be in the Bill, but I am only partially sorry, as I can see no other opportunity in this Session of Parliament to prevent another 25 deaths and hundreds more life-threatening injuries.

Photo of Lord Hogan-Howe Lord Hogan-Howe Crossbench 5:06, 22 November 2023

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra. I congratulated the Minister yesterday, but I commend him today: I think this was the first time I have seen a Bill being introduced in less than four minutes. One only hopes that other people will learn from that experience.

I support the Bill for three or four reasons. As I think the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said, in order to enhance London as a destination, it is probably a good idea for these pedicabs to be regulated. We want tourists to have a great experience, not a bad one, and we want them to go away from London extolling it and not complaining about it. Therefore, it is important that we establish some standards, clearly around safety—we want to make sure both the passages and road users are kept safe—and obviously to restrict excess charging.

There are also some very simple things, such as: if lost property is found in these things, where does it go? It can be quite valuable. Taxis, buses and the Tube all have systems in place to make sure that people can recover their items. That is essential, as if you cannot identify the pedicab or go anywhere to recover the property, essentially it is lost, and it is quite hard to find these people afterwards. Therefore, for very simple reasons like that, it is essential that this legislation comes in.

Some of these questions may be answered by secondary legislation, which is inferred in the Explanatory Notes. However, it is worth exploring a just a little, perhaps more in Committee. My first question is about insurance. The notes say that the secondary legislation will talk about insurance, but is it insurance only for the passengers or will it also be against third parties? That will make it more expensive, but of course these pedicabs can hit people and they can be hit by other vehicles, and it seems essential that there is good insurance in place. If it is in secondary legislation, as we have heard, the rest of the country has its own local by-laws. However, this is a vehicle, and if we have inconsistent approaches to it, it may be important to try and establish a consistent approach for the future.

The second question is—this may be covered by secondary legislation—how will the public be able to identify each pedicab? At the moment, you can identify a bus or vehicle by a registration plate, but these things do not have them. Of course, the drivers may have some kind of badge like a taxi driver would, but how are you to be identified by a plate? We need to understand what that would be, because it needs to be big enough to be seen, particularly at night and, frankly, by those who are inebriate—and, frankly, for many of us our sight deteriorates at night. Therefore, it is essential that it is quite clear and not quite as small perhaps as those some of our Hackney carriages carry at the moment.

My third question is: is the taxi analogy to be a Hackney type or an Uber type? Is it to be ordered on the street or by an app? The app could work pretty well, I would think, but it imposes different types of thinking about how regulation should be developed. It would be interesting to hear the Government’s approach to this. Would they prefer the Hackney approach, the Uber approach or a little of both? It would be helpful to hear.

On the whole, legislation should be developed depending on data and evidence. Although the Minister set out very clearly why we are concerned in general—and we are all agreeing in principle—it might be helpful to hear some data on how often these things have been involved in collisions; how many times people were hurt; was any compensation awarded; were any regulations broken; and what was the outcome? We might hear from other parts of the country where they have already been regulated. What is the evidence that there is a need for legislation? That is not because I disagree with it, but because I think it is important for the Government to set out clearly why legislation should be introduced and the costs that go with it.

I wonder whether the fines mentioned, which are levelled at around £2,500, are of the right order. It says very clearly that prison is not intended to be included. We know one or two things about fines. One is that only 50% of any financial penalty, whether in a court or by fixed penalty, is paid, so it is not always the most effective form of enforcement. But £2,500 is the maximum. It is very rare for a maximum to be imposed by any court, and these fines are generally to be enforced by fixed penalties. We should consider that some of these pedicabs are worth something of the order of £6,000—they can cost between £1,800 to £6,000. Let us say that they generate income of £50,000 a year—we do not seem to know their income levels. Is £2,500 a deterrent? If you get caught only once a year, it might be regarded just as a business cost. The more severe penalty is probably seizing the vehicle, which is clearly indicated within the legislation, but I wonder about the level at which the fines are set.

My final points are fairly simple, but I think Hackney carriages might be interested. Are pedicabs to have some form of knowledge? As noble Lords know, the Hackney carriages still do, and I think it is a great thing for tourists. They do not only ask to go to a place, they often ask to go to a particular hotel, or they know roughly where they are going but not exactly, and our best taxi drivers are able to help. I know companies such as Uber often rely on satnav, and I do not dismiss it, but in central London, people often want not only the place but a particular thing, and it would be interesting to hear whether any thought has been given to that and whether it would helpful.

It is a very detailed point, but will there be a requirement for people to quit if they are asked to? Often, the police get involved when somebody refuses to get out of a cab or refuses to get off a bus. If you do not have the power, you can be there all night trying to persuade somebody to leave when you have no power. In my experience, people at their drunkest are at their least compliant and least rational. Can the Minister say anything on that?

My final point, which is an extension of the point of the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, around electric cycles, is that if we learn any lessons about holding pedicab drivers and owners to account, could we consider whether we take those lessons and apply them to cyclists? I fear that my list of people who are dangerous is longer than just people who have electric scooters and electrically charged cycles. I fear that cyclists, particularly in London, seem to be entirely unaccountable. I know I have mentioned this before, and I accept that it is a big issue, but even having a registration plate somewhere on the back would not be a bad idea to make sure that people are held to account and it is not totally without consequences if they choose to ignore things that are meant to keep us all safe. On occasion they have terribly injured people, and on some occasions killed them. I know that is not in the purposes of the Bill, but there may be lessons learned here that could be applied elsewhere.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Conservative 5:14, 22 November 2023

My Lords, I follow other noble Lords in welcoming this Bill, which intends to deliver on the Government’s commitment to enact legislation that will make it possible for Transport for London to regulate London’s pedicab business. I live part of the week in Westminster—I am there when Parliament is sitting—and I very much welcome the work that has been done there by our local MP.

I thank my noble friend Lady Vere for hosting a briefing meeting for Peers on this Bill last week, shortly before she was appointed to the Treasury, and at that stage my noble friend Lord Davies was appointed Minister at the Department for Transport. I congratulate both of them on their appointment and wish them every success; I note from Forthcoming Business that both of them are going to be extremely busy up until Christmas—and probably a long way beyond.

I am grateful to the Minister for setting out the objectives of the Bill. I object slightly to people saying the objectives are not there—I can perceive them—but I agree it will be very useful to tease them out further in Committee. I also thank the Minister for setting out the reasons for the provisions within the Bill. I do, however, have a couple of questions on points that have not yet been covered by other noble Lords. They are about the drafting of the Bill. I hope my noble friend may be able to resolve those questions today to save taking up time in Committee.

It is right to ensure that businesses, whether they are small, medium or large, can flourish within a regulatory regime that protects employees, customers and the public. However, it is also important to ensure that legislation does not unintentionally capture within its remit activity that should not reasonably be considered as a business, and I am concerned that there is a possibility that the Bill might just do that.

Clause 1(2) gives us the Government’s definition of a pedicab, which is

“a pedal cycle, or a pedal cycle in combination with a trailer, that is constructed or adapted for carrying one or more passengers and is made available with a driver for hire or reward”.

I would be grateful if my noble friend might elaborate on the definition of “reward” in this context. The Minister’s office kindly emailed me after the briefing meeting last week with some further information on a couple of other points, but with regard to the definition of reward stated that

“our intent is the plain meaning of the word”.

Fair enough, one might say, but I have in mind the impact on parents who I see routinely in the Westminster area cycling responsibly with a trailer taking their young child or children to a nursery or shops or primary schools. In those circumstances there is clearly no payment or reward involved, because it is their children.

But what if, as I am assured does happen, the parent is helping out a friend, neighbour or relative by transporting their child or children in a trailer, perhaps regularly, and is occasionally rewarded by gifts—I am not saying money, just kindly gifts? Do they come within the scope of the Bill and thereby become subject to regulations to be imposed by TfL: for example, clearing criminal record checks and having insurance? If the Government intend that these people should not and cannot come within the scope of the Bill, can my noble friend the Minister please make that clear today?

It is also important that those who are running a pedicab business do not manage to evade the provisions of the Bill by misusing, or changing the use of, the definition of “trailer”. Cargo bicycles are advertised as having a large box attached to the front of the bike, with a seat and removable rain cover, which is set at a height to enable the carriage of passengers. Do the Government intend that the meaning of trailer in Clause 1(2) should, indeed, encompass a box with seating at the front of the bike? If so, can my noble friend the Minister please put that on the record today as well?

I note that the Explanatory Notes in the Bill state at paragraph 11:

“A wide definition is required because there are many types of pedicab”.

Indeed there are, and the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley will tease out the meaning of “pedicab” when we get to Committee.

While I hope the Bill goes through as quickly as possible, because people in London need it, my concern is that its remit will unintentionally trap activity that is not business and, at the same time, exclude activity that is business. I look forward to my noble friend’s response and I wish the Bill a fair wind.

Photo of Viscount Goschen Viscount Goschen Conservative 5:20, 22 November 2023

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Blencathra described this as a “trivial” Bill. It is nothing of the sort. It is certainly very specific, addressing one issue in one part of the country, but I rather think of it as classic House of Lords territory, with a lot of expertise, and some unanimity and consensus around the need for regulation. However, given the law of unintended consequences, I have taken a bit of time to go through the Bill and think how it could best be framed.

Like many other noble Lords who have spoken, I have a number of concerns about these types of vehicles. The first is that of a tourist trap. There have been many stories of tourists being ripped off and charged unreasonable amounts which they were not told of before. London has a great reputation, which we should jealously guard, as a destination for tourists. When a tourist arrives and gets into a black taxi, they can be guaranteed the right service, from someone who has been vetted, in a vehicle that has been checked and with a driver who knows their way around—all those good things. They might think the same is true of somebody else plying for trade, but we know that that is not the case. I would hate for visitors to our great city to go away with a sour feeling because of what happened with these vehicles. It may sound like we are being spoil-sports—“it’s just a bit of fun”. In many cases, I am sure it is, but there is a serious aspect as well.

We have not talked about the number of these vehicles. I would be interested to know the current estimate. I recall reading in previous guidance notes that there are over 1,000, but I have no idea whether that is true. They are certainly parked in awkward places: I saw one parked right outside Buckingham Palace, with noise blaring. That is clearly wrong. Where they are parked, how they can be hired, who drives them and who operates them need to be regulated.

An important part of the Bill is regulation of the operator, as well as the driver, because that is where the sanction lies. It might be the solution to some of the points with which I agree that were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, and others, about delivery drivers using electric bicycles, cycling the wrong way down roads and so forth. I appreciate that I am speaking beyond the strict confines of the Bill for a moment, but I hope the House will humour me. I would like to know the degree to which the operator—the delivery company—is responsible for the actions of those who operate under its banner, even if they are independent contractors.

I also believe that there is a technological solution. A little while ago, this House considered and passed legislation on the use of drones. They are very small, lightweight, cheap, easily accessible flying machines that can cause havoc in the wrong hands, as we have seen. There are technological solutions that prevent them being used—I think geofencing is the right term—in inappropriate circumstances. We ought to look at whether, for example, a driver riding an electric cycle the wrong way up a one-way street will find that their vehicle does not work. This is something that we ought to consider.

So there is the tourist aspect, and the safety, insurance and fares sides of this, but I, as have other noble Lords, draw specific attention to the question of noise. It seems that almost all pedicabs have small but extremely powerful speakers blaring out music. When combined, they cause a significant nuisance. I would like the Minister to address noise specifically and whether there is a case for a more specific provision in the Bill. I appreciate that this is, in essence, an enabling provision but I would like to see—and if the Minister is reluctant, perhaps an amendment would be considered—the noise emission from these vehicles at least being controlled.

We should not turn back progress and resist the use of pedal power and electric cycles. I suspect that we will very quickly get into some difficult definitions on where a pedicab begins and ends, particularly if it has electric power. I am an electric bike owner myself. They are regulated in terms of power, speed and so forth, but many on the streets of London do not show lights and are clearly extremely powerful and capable of moving without pedal power. I suspect that some pedicabs are similar. I do not think that “electric” is mentioned in the definition, and I think that it should be.

Finally, this will come down to enforcement. We can pass the Bill, but the regulations will be brought forward by TfL, and the poor old police force will ultimately be the ones who must do something about this. As much clarity as we can give as possible would be useful. However, this Bill addresses a small, but important, matter.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Labour 5:26, 22 November 2023

My Lords, I, too, welcome the Minister to his new position, which I hope he very much enjoys. I also welcome my noble friend Lord Liddle to his position on the Front Bench. He may not be pleased that I said so, but it is remarkable that, 50 years ago, we stood on a platform for election to Oxford City Council on the basis of implementing a balanced transport policy which essentially took cars out of the Oxford city centre at great advantage to the environment—we were rather ahead of our time. I am not sure whether the Bill will have quite the same impact, but it is none the less welcome—as was the Minister’s succinct introduction, which we all very much enjoyed.

It is wonderful to see the Benches opposite so keen on regulation, I must say, but I am going to warn the House against overregulation. It is important that, in seeking to bring order to a pretty awful situation at the moment, we do not regulate pedicabs out of existence. There is a balance to be drawn. They are popular with many tourists; on the other hand, the Heart of London Business Alliance, which represents 600 businesses in central London, wishes to support this legislation. Its argument is that pedicabs put other people off coming to central London because of the aggression of some drivers. One must respect that.

I will raise five points with the Minister. First, I, too, would like to know why these provisions are not being extended to e-bikes. The noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, made a very powerful case. Obviously, we will explore that in Committee. At the very least, the Minister will find himself under pressure to respond with some statement of the government intent regarding e-bikes. As I understand it, Westminster City Council reckons that there are up to 2,000 dockless e-bikes for hire in the City of Westminster. It says that the problem of no regulations around their hire, operation or parking for disabled people leads to a situation where people with prams and other pedestrians can be forced to walk in the road or dodge an obstacle course. We need to hear what support will be given to Westminster and other local authorities to deal with some of those issues.

The second issue is enforcement. I agree with noble Lords on this. The noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, slightly worried me—I am a cyclist and, as he will know, this House is not very sympathetic to cyclists—but I agree with him about the behaviour of some cyclists. It strikes me that there is a real issue of enforcement. It is a good principle that, if you are not certain about whether enforcement can take place, you should be very wary of passing legislation. That used to be Conservative thinking as well, did it not? Something is really rather odd here.

The third issue is proportionate regulation. Cycling UK thinks that you do not see pedicabs in other local authority areas because they tend to be regulated as hackney carriages. In essence, it is impossible to have a viable business operating under that situation. We do not have a statement from Transport for London about how it will operate these provisions. One way or another, we need to have some sort of assurance that its aim is not to regulate pedicabs out of business completely. Clause 1 leaves entirely to the discretion of Transport for London what regulations it draws up and who it can consult on them. I am not sure that is absolutely right. Again, we should explore this in Committee.

My final point concerns the abuse of cycle lanes by pedicabs. They can be an absolute menace and nightmare. Can the Minister assure me that there is an ability to ensure that pedicabs are not allowed to use cycle lanes?

Photo of Lord Moylan Lord Moylan Chair, Built Environment Committee, Chair, Built Environment Committee 5:31, 22 November 2023

My Lords, I welcome my noble friend to the Front Bench but also extend my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, on joining the Front Bench opposite. Noble Lords, with their customary acuity, have picked up a whole range of details embedded in this Bill that the casual reader might not have noticed, and I am sure there will be many things for us to explore in Committee. I do not propose to follow that very detailed path in my few remarks. I am slightly more interested in the fact that a sort of ideological split has grown across the House between those who think pedicabs are an absolute nuisance and those, largely sitting next to each other on the Benches opposite, who wish them to be cared for tenderly and looked after and are anxious that they might be subject to excessive regulation. The former position was extremely well expressed by my noble friend Lady Stowell of Beeston and backed up by some fiery and clear remarks from my noble friend Lord Blencathra.

I thought I would share a little personal history in this regard. I have to admit that, on that ideological divide, I sit very firmly in the camp of those who would like to see pedicabs crushed, removed, never seen again, never thought of in the first place, and de-introduced from our urban streets. It was that thought that led me to being an obstacle to the progression of this Bill some time ago, when I was deputy chairman of Transport for London. When they appeared, Transport for London said, “They’re a menace; we must regulate them”. Indeed, the Mayor of London at that time was quite keen on the idea that we should promote a Bill in Parliament to regulate pedicabs. I expressed some caution. I said that the problem with regulating something is that you approve it. You cannot use the law to create a regulatory framework for something and then have the regulator use that framework to crush it and make it impossible, because that is an abuse of what Parliament has expressed a view on—that something should be allowed but subject to regulation. Therefore, I said that the best thing to do was hope that they just go away, because they are so absolutely appalling and cannot possibly attract genuine custom, so they will fail.

My analysis was obviously completely wrong and my approach has failed. So it is that, reluctantly, I come to the view that we might as well accept that this menace and pest is with us for a long time, so I support, belatedly, a Bill that I hoped we would never have to see introduced.

That is my answer, in a sense, to the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, who is worried that TfL is going to use these powers to prevent pedicabs plying their trade. I do not think that can happen, and it would be challengeable in the courts if it imposed conditions that were irrelevant or onerous, because that is not what we are empowering it to do. It cannot set excessive fees because they are specified in Clause 2(4) as being

“set at a level that enables the recovery of any costs incurred by Transport for London by virtue of the regulations”.

There is no power for TfL to set fees that exceed that level, so I do not think that a very likely possibility.

As far as enforcement is concerned, reference was made to the police but there is no policing involvement in the enforcement of these measures. There is a lengthy clause on enforcement—Clause 3—and it is absolutely clear that the powers to enforce are being conferred upon Transport for London, not the Metropolitan Police. In fact, the history of cab regulation is, of course, the history of the transfer of the powers to regulate taxis from the Metropolitan Police to Transport for London as part of the Greater London Authority devolution settlement. The police have been out of taxi regulation enforcement for quite a long time and as far as the powers in this Bill are concerned, they are not being brought back. It is a different matter if a crime is committed by a taxi driver, of course, but the breach of the regulations created here is an enforceable matter not for the Metropolitan Police but for Transport for London.

Transport for London is really rather good at this— I am rather pro-TfL, partly given my previous experience of it. It is good at regulating taxicabs generally, and clearly, to some extent taxi-regulation powers have been cut and pasted into this Bill. I think TfL will probably do this job quite well, although it will be difficult if the drivers it is dealing with turn out to be fly-by-night characters—unlike most taxi drivers, who are solid, sensible people—who are very difficult to catch up with afterwards.

I have a couple of questions before I sit down, though these can be explored in Committee. First, I worry what we will do if this does not work, and if, because of the inherently fly-by-night character of the people doing it, and the nastiness, garishness and ugliness of their dreadful vehicles, it turns out that they continue to be nasty, garish, ugly, noisy and a blight upon our streets. Will we be happy with the fact that we have simply regulated them so that they have insurance, for example, or should the Government be promising to review the operation of the legislation in the fullness of time?

My second question concerns one of those details that has not yet been picked up, even though I am speaking late in the debate. I am a bit baffled by Clause 6, which seems to introduce an unnecessarily elaborate process for the making of regulations. I am willing to stand corrected, but my understanding is that currently, taxi regulations made under the Metropolitan Public Carriage Act 1869 by the board of TfL come into effect immediately and directly. TfL has the power to make and amend the regulations using its normal board processes. Here, what is being proposed, for no reason that has been explained except that it is thought appropriate by the Government, is that the power be made by a statutory instrument.

As I understand it—again, I am open to correction—a statutory instrument has to be laid by a Minister before Parliament, and the Minister may choose not to lay a statutory instrument if asked to do so. In effect, the decision whether a regulation should be imposed will now be taken by the Minister, rather than by Transport for London, to whom we are purportedly transferring these powers. What is the purpose of that, and why would any Minister—I say this with the genuine intention of offering good advice to my noble friend on the Front Bench—want to be involved in this? Surely the whole point of this is to leave it to Transport for London and not have it constantly coming back to your desk, meaning that you are pestered by people to make regulations that may or may not be the same as those recommended to you?

So generally, I welcome the Bill, but not the fact that we are going to have these pedicabs now for at least a century or two while we work out the regulations. I also have a few questions about why the Government feel they cannot just let go.

Photo of Lord Borwick Lord Borwick Conservative 5:40, 22 November 2023

My Lords, I, too, welcome my noble friend to his new post. He has a task to follow our excellent and long-suffering noble friend Lady Vere.

I first declare my interests as a London taxi proprietor, owner of a plated London taxi and occasional employer of licensed London taxi drivers. I drive my London taxi to the House of Lords car park and once overhead one of our great policemen saying to another, “Well at least one Lord’s got a proper job”. In the past, I have been a manufacturer, dealer and financier of London taxis, so I have quite a comprehensive list of London taxi interests, and I thoroughly support this simple Bill to enable TfL to control pedicabs. There are an awful lot of other things wrong on the streets of London, such as electric scooters abandoned on street corners, but I am not sure that there will be room in the Long Title of the Bill to put the solutions in.

To grant Transport for London the power to sort out this small, but dodgy, market for pedicabs seems eminently sensible, even though instinctively I do not like giving more powers to government, but why has it taken so long for this Bill to be introduced? My honourable friend in another place, Nickie Aiken, who is standing at the Bar, introduced a Private Member’s Bill in 2020, three years ago. Can the Minister explain why it has taken so long for the Bill to appear as a government Bill?

More importantly, this Bill is an enabling Bill, enabling TfL to bring forward regulations. When something is planned for the future, I like to identify the criterion of failure. What would make us agree that this Bill has been a success and a worthy subject for our deep consideration? Does my noble friend agree that, after three years of thought in his department, a further year is all that is needed to draft and promulgate the regulations?

Photo of Lord Strathcarron Lord Strathcarron Conservative 5:42, 22 November 2023

My Lords, the subject of noise pollution is not addressed in the Bill as it stands. Rather than repeat the excellent points made by my noble friends Lady Stowell and Lord Goschen, I just point out that pedicabs are equipped with only the tinniest of tannoys that blare out indecipherable musical content, which is a real irritant to residents, passers-by and, I would have thought, passengers. When they are lined up together competing for business, one just hears a cacophony of meaningless decibels. Clause 2(6) would seem to be an ideal place to address this issue, and I suggest that the noise be limited to 72 decibels, heading for 68 decibels in 2026, which applies to all other road vehicles.

Photo of The Bishop of St Albans The Bishop of St Albans Convenor of the Lords Spiritual 5:43, 22 November 2023

My Lords, I pray for the indulgence of the House to speak very briefly in the gap. I apologise that I just missed the deadline to get my name down. Speaking so late, I find that many of the points have been made very eloquently so I have been putting lines through various paragraphs. I will be very succinct. I need to declare my interests because I want to refer to some of the Church Commissioners’ properties in London and the reports that have come from tenants and also to my role as a vice-president of the LGA.

We welcome this Bill. We think it needs a fair bit of work, and there are a number of issues that need to be resolved. I agree that for many people pedicabs are a cause for fun, not least for tourists, but the Church Commissioners, being one of the local landlords in London, have received many complaints from local people affected by unregulated pedicabs. We have listed some of them: playing loud music at night; causing local traffic congestion; charging extortionate prices; blocking pavements; sometimes blocking cycle lanes, which is a real problem and causes real danger to cyclists who are going to and from work; and, not least, their lack of insurance, so many passengers and other users are left without protection.

The Church CommissionersHyde Park Estate stretches from Oxford Street to Paddington so, as a local landowner, we have an interest in ensuring that central London remains a welcome and safe area. It is therefore very encouraging to see the powers that the Bill would provide by enabling Transport for London to regulate pedicabs, ensuring they are properly licensed and that there are enforceable standards which operators, drivers and vehicles must adhere to.

In passing, I have to say that I was fascinated by the spirited speech of the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, and look forward to the amendments for e-scooters and e-bikes that we will be debating in Committee and later on. Meanwhile, we would want to support the Bill in its passage through your Lordships’ House.

Photo of Lord Leigh of Hurley Lord Leigh of Hurley Chair, Finance Bill Sub-Committee, Chair, Finance Bill Sub-Committee 5:45, 22 November 2023

My Lords, I too wish to speak in the gap. I am quite sure that I put my name down for this debate, but it seems to have disappeared. I have a horrible feeling that I am expected to be in another debate tomorrow which I had not expected to speak in.

I want to very much welcome this Bill. I do not think I have any declarations of conflicts of interest, other than that I have lived and worked in Westminster for over 35 and am a patron of the Westminster North Conservative Association. I welcome my noble friend the Minister and his shadow to the Front Bench. This Bill might be called a somewhat soft entry, but I also take this opportunity to congratulate my noble friend Lady Vere on her new appointment after a very successful stint at transport.

I have also had the pleasure of spending quite some time talking to the most admirable MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, my honourable friend Nickie Aiken, who has been the driving force behind the Bill and has an amazing track record of turning London into a better city for all its citizens. It is very disappointing that her Private Member’s Bill was stopped by one MP, who selectively blocks such Bills in a manner which really should not be allowed, in my opinion.

I note that my noble friend Lord Blencathra picked up what he detected was the disdain of His Majesty the King for having to introduce this Bill, early on in his Speech. What does he expect from a person who arrives here on a trailer adapted to provide carriage for no more than one or two persons on a paid-for basis? However, it is a shame that it has taken 13 years since Mark Field’s first attempt to deal with this issue and that the objections made killed earlier Bills.

Tourists should have every reason to assume that a city as sophisticated as London would not allow pedicabs on its streets to take on passengers without proper protection for them, as it does for buses, taxis and other such transport. Like the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, I have been in one once—never again, I assure your Lordships. I regularly cycle around the streets of Westminster and feel perfectly safe, but I really did not feel safe when I was in a pedicab. They are very low to the ground and of flimsy construction, and the cyclist clearly does not respect any traffic rules. As a Conservative, I respect entrepreneurs who get up and start off a service that is in demand. The cyclists make a living by working hard—and they certainly work hard, pedalling away—but this must be within reasonable guidelines.

My main concerns with the Bill are that so much power and leeway is given to Transport for London specifically to make the regulations. Transport for London, under the current Mayor, is not a popular organisation for many Londoners. As I say, I am a cyclist, but I am not happy with some of the ridiculous cycle lanes it imposes on London or some of the bizarre decisions it makes on traffic-light regulation. Then of course there is the unfortunate ULEZ and the false information that has been provided.

I would rather see, at the very least, some guidelines to TfL to ensure that it undertakes a proper job. The Bill talks about what TfL may do but not what it must do. Why is that? Can we have an assurance from my noble friend the Minister that it will be the driver who is licensed, not just the vehicle? Otherwise, how will the fines and penalties referred to in the Bill be enforced and, hopefully, collected?

At the moment, the Bill allows leeway for TfL to license just the pedicab, not the cyclist. Like the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, I am concerned that there seems to be no mention in this Bill specifically about curtailing the noise that pedicabs make, which I understand is a main source of complaint from the public. Can we have an assurance that that will be addressed directly?

Finally, some Members of your Lordships’ House may think that this is just a summer problem, but last night, at about 10 o’clock, in my never-ceasing research which I undertake before I stand before your Lordships in this Chamber, I passed the Winter Wonderland and counted some 40 pedicabs touting for business. This is a whole-year-round issue, and I am very pleased to see it being addressed now.

Photo of Baroness Randerson Baroness Randerson Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport) 5:49, 22 November 2023

My Lords, I am very pleased to see the noble Lord in his new position of Minister, and I welcome him there, as well as the noble Lord, Lord Liddle. As someone who has been speaking for transport for years myself, it is good to have different people on the Front Benches to debate with.

Obviously, I welcome this Bill. My Liberal Democrat colleague Caroline Pidgeon, the chair of the Greater London Authority Transport Committee, has campaigned for TfL to have these powers for many years, as indeed have noble Lords and Members of the other place. However, I am slightly mystified as to why, having ignored the problem for so long, this has now popped up as the Department for Transport’s top priority in a very slim list of transport legislation. It featured in the King’s Speech, where pedicabs were described as a scourge. Yes, they are a problem, and a serious problem to a smallish number of people in London, but hardly a scourge. I am with the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, in how he describes the Bill.

However, I know from my noble friend Lord Storey, who is unfortunately not able to be here today, that for those people living near those spots where the cabs ply their trade, they are a real irritant—largely because of the noise. There are apparently between 200 and 900 pedicabs, so they are not a problem in every area, even throughout London. However, I do not want to underestimate the risks and problems that they present—the safety risks from their construction and from the wild way in which they are sometimes driven, as well as the nuisance of their blocking pavements and the noise. Then there is the ridiculous amount that the drivers sometimes charge tourists, which in itself gives London a very bad reputation. All these things can easily be dealt with via taxi-style regulations.

I go back to my point. Why is this Bill being given a top slot, when there are so many other transport Bills that are desperately needed? Many other noble Lords have referred to this question. Last year’s Queen’s Speech promised us an omnibus transport Bill to create Great British Railways and deal with new technological developments. That was abandoned, but our railway system remains in desperate and urgent need of a complete overhaul and reform, and there is an equally urgent need for regulation of electric scooters. The Government have given a whole new meaning to the phrase “trial schemes”, by extending those trial schemes year after year simply because they do not have a plan for the future. Tens of thousands of privately owned electric scooters are operated in a way that is totally illegal and causes accidents—I shall not repeat the statistics—across the country. The proliferation of dockless e-bikes for hire is also a problem, which many people refer to me as in urgent need of reform.

I am pleased that the Government are planning ahead with the Automated Vehicles Bill, and I acknowledge the need to regulate pedicabs, but I am mystified that this is a top priority. Cabinet Office guidance is very clear that parliamentary time available for legislation is “extremely limited” and that:

“In devising a legislative programme to reflect the Government’s priorities and seeking to resolve handling issues, the PBL”— the Parliamentary Business and Legislation Committee—

“aims to ensure that time is used as efficiently as possible”.

What we could have done with is a Bill dealing with both pedicabs and electric scooters and electric bikes.

This Bill, as it stands, is a bit of a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It is a simple legal anomaly that has given much smaller local authorities outside London the power to license pedicabs but has denied that power to Transport for London. I ask the Minister: could this not have been done by a much more modest amendment to existing legislation?

Most of this short Bill is very straightforward and modelled on existing taxi licensing legislation. However, I have a couple of questions for the Minister. I was surprised to read Clause 2(2), which effectively states that nobody who has not been legally accepted as an immigrant or given leave to remain in this country can operate a pedicab. Well, of course. This is a surprising subsection because people who do not have official, regularised immigration status or leave to remain are not allowed to do work of any kind. This subsection, by its inclusion, suggests that maybe there are some jobs that are open to illegal immigrants, which is obviously not what the Government mean. Is this just a political statement or is there a solid legal reason why this is included?

My second question relates to the importance of careful selection of the sites for pedicab ranks. The clustering of pedicabs waiting for hire is an aspect that disturbs residents considerably. Will the Minister perhaps encourage Transport for London to give us a briefing on how it plans to choose sites for pedicab ranks, so that we might get some picture of how it will apply these rules? I also have a suggestion: it would be very useful to have a pedicab route across Hammersmith Bridge. The closure of that bridge has been of such disruption to people living in the area, and pedicabs would be a brilliant way of getting across the bridge.

Finally, the plan, as set out in Clause 6, is that the power to make pedicab regulations should be granted via statutory instrument. Here, I refer to the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, with whom I agreed on this issue. This is at odds with taxi regulations, which were granted to Transport for London in the Greater London Authority Act 1999. Surely, in practice, once they have been properly brought into the system, the rules on pedicabs will be a simple subset of taxi rules. It will risk confusion and delay to have two different systems. There will be delay as they wait for parliamentary time for an SI when required.

The smallest local authorities outside London have successfully regulated taxis for many decades. I assume that some of them have rules on pedicabs as well, because they have that power. I realise that the Government like to pursue a bit of an assault on devolution in London, and on the Mayor of London in particular, but this latest chipping away at devolution is simply not sensible.

This brings me back to my first point: if we have no time for proper, modern transport legislation on serious, modern transport issues, why are the Government keen to keep the power to deal with pedicabs in London?

Photo of Lord Liddle Lord Liddle Shadow Spokesperson (Transport) 6:00, 22 November 2023

My Lords, I also welcome the promotion of the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Gower, to a ministerial position at the Department for Transport. He has spent his whole life in public service in one way or another: in the police force, then as a Member of the Welsh Assembly, as an MP and now in this House. My hobby is history and particularly labour history. One of the most remarkable things about the noble Lord, if I might say so, is that in the whole of the Gower constituency’s existence—it was created by the Third Reform Act 1884—it has only once been represented by a Conservative, I think. It was represented continuously by a radical Liberal, then a Lib-Lab, then Labour from 1885 until 2015, when he won it by 27 votes. That situation has not lasted, but at least we now have the benefit of his wisdom in this House.

I also thank people who have welcomed me back to this Front Bench after a 10-year absence. I am supporting my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe, who cannot be here today for personal reasons and apologises for that, but I am greatly looking forward to doing transport. I am a railwayman’s son from Carlisle, so I was brought up in transport. I was a councillor in Oxford, where I think my noble friend Lord Hunt and I would now be described as warriors against motorists, I am afraid, but I think we did a lot to improve the quality of life in central Oxford.

Labour supports the Bill and the Opposition Front Bench will be constructive in its approach to it. I do not see it as a party-political matter but as closing a legal loophole that has been allowed to exist for far too long. In fact, when I looked at the Lords briefing note, it told us that a complaint about this was first made by the London Assembly in 2005. Boris Johnson, when he was Mayor of London, pointed out that this was a legal anomaly in 2012, as did the Law Commission in 2014. No wonder we fail as a country when we cannot manage to get things sorted in some quicker timeframe than this. There has been a cross-party desire to have it sorted: Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, and Adam Hug, the new leader of Westminster Council, along with the distinguished Conservatives whom people have mentioned, have wanted action on this matter. For a long time, it seemed that the Government offered general support but without any promise of action. Now we have action and, although it is too late for many people who have been ripped off, we welcome it none the less.

This has been a very interesting Second Reading. A thought has been going through my mind. I discussed the Bill with the lady who organises the timetables and she said, “Oh, I think we will probably get through this in an afternoon”. Having listened to this debate, I am not sure whether Committee will be got through in an afternoon. It seems to me that noble Lords have raised a lot of points that will need to be explored in Committee.

There is the philosophical point about what we are trying to do through regulation. Are we trying to stop pedicabs altogether or to regulate them so that the rogue operators disappear from the scene? I have some sympathy with my noble friend Lord Berkeley’s argument that we do not want to stifle innovation and competition in this world. At the same time, the passion with which the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, spoke on the subject would clearly convince anyone that this is a gap in regulation that must be dealt with. We have to get the balance right, for all the reasons that many noble Lords have mentioned.

The noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, talked about one of the most powerful reasons—the damage to the reputation of London as a good place for tourism. You cannot have these instances of people being charged £500 for a 500-yard journey written about in foreign newspapers and described on foreign TV without it having a damaging effect. Of course, it will be magnified in any overseas media reporting and made into something that is regarded as a common problem. For that reason alone, we must act.

Noble Lords asked about the framework of the legislation. My view is that it ought essentially to be devolved. Our role is to set the right framework; we can debate the parameters within which TfL should work, but it is fundamentally for Sadiq Khan and TfL to draw up the precise legislation. I have some sympathy with the argument made by the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, about the potential for delay and confusion if the rules come in the form of a statutory instrument which a Minister has to approve. What happens if the Minister, the mayor and TfL are not in the same place? We could have years of further delay. I do not have a settled view, but the role of the ministry must be looked at in Committee.

Noble Lords have made a considerable agenda of points that have impressed me. What the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, said about issues of definition must be thought about. The noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, spoke about e-scooters and e-bikes; we must try to press through this legislation for action in this related area. I think there would be widespread support for that in this House. The points made by the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, show the benefit of having people with real professional expertise in this House. When we are looking at the criteria that TfL will have to consider, we should debate whether we want to include his points about insurance, how you identify the cabs, fines being treated as a business expense and whether drivers should have some training in the knowledge.

Also, how is the whole thing going to be enforced, and does TfL have the resources to enforce it properly? Those are crucial questions. It is not just about fares; it is about a wider set of issues as well.

I will make one final point, which noble Lords may think a political one; none the less, it has to be made. This Government have chosen to legislate on pedicabs when there is a huge need for regulatory reform in transport, which they are ducking. We need legislation for buses in the provinces, so that local government can work effectively with bus operators to provide proper networks of services. As for the railways, they are in a terrible mess. In the four years following Covid, public spending on the railways—noble Lords opposite should be interested in this point—has gone up from some £4 billion to £13 billion. However, we are not going to get any change in that situation without the regulatory reform—the establishment of Great British Rail—that the Government promised. Now, all they are doing is producing legislation without actually legislating. This is a very bad situation.

In conclusion, we support the pedicabs Bill, although there are lots of issues we will have to discuss in Committee. However, on the wider agenda of transport reform, the King’s Speech has been a great disappointment.

Photo of Lord Davies of Gower Lord Davies of Gower Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 6:11, 22 November 2023

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their thoughtful contributions. I will attempt to respond to as many questions and concerns as I can, and where I am not able to do so, I undertake to follow up with a detailed letter.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, spoke about the definition of a pedicab. Clause 1(2) defines pedicabs as power-assisted pedal cycles

“in combination with a trailer … carrying … passengers and … made available with a driver for hire or reward”.

In bringing the Bill before the House, we have tested the definition and are confident that it addresses the legal anomaly whereby these vehicles are currently unregulated in London. To answer the point raised by my noble friend Lord Blencathra and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, the Bill as drafted is clear on what would fall in scope. For example, it would cover a power-assisted pedal cycle available for hire with a driver, carrying one or two passengers in a trailer. It would not capture a parent riding a pedal cycle with a trailer attached to carry their children.

My noble friend Lady Anelay of St Johns talked about hire or reward. The Bill captures pedicab services made available with a driver for hire or reward. It does not include a definition of reward, as the intention is the plain meaning of the word. As I understand it, the Bill is intended to cover pedicabs plying for hire or reward, but we will write to clarify the point, as indeed I will regarding the trailer issue.

The lack of existing regulation means that the number of pedicabs operating in London is unknown. Westminster City Council estimates that there are between 200 and 250, while TfL’s estimate ranges from 400 up to a peak of 900, with pedicab numbers varying according to the season—further evidence of the sector’s reliance on tourism. Pedicabs appear to operate predominantly in some of London’s busiest places: Covent Garden, Soho and the West End, attracting tourists and leisure visitors but operating without licensing and appropriate oversight. While the industry is relatively small in comparison to the taxi and private hire vehicle industries, the Government have consistently been made aware of the disproportionate impact pedicabs have on safety and traffic-related issues on London’s roads.

On enforcement activities, in the absence of regulatory powers there have been attempts to rely on enforcement powers such as noise nuisance legislation and electric pedal cycle regulations. Westminster City Council and the Metropolitan Police have had some success in recent years, using powers contained under the Control of Pollution Act 1974. This action has targeted the use of loudspeakers after 9 pm and before 8 am, and as of August 2023 this action has resulted in some £30,000-worth of fines being issued since November 2021. Between November 2021 and December 2022, 68 pedicab drivers had their details taken so that they could be prosecuted for playing loud music after 9 pm. An additional 27 drivers were issued with written warnings for their behaviour. While there has been some success in tackling noise nuisance, this has proven most effective when conducted in partnership with the Metropolitan Police. There has been less success in removing pedicabs from high footfall areas, stopping dangerous driving and preventing highway obstruction.

The noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, talked about the limitations of current enforcement. Existing powers have proven to be very limited in tackling the anti-social nuisance and unsafe behaviour of certain pedicab operators and drivers. These powers do not allow the police to issue dispersal orders to pedicab drivers. This results in pedicabs being moved on for highway obstruction, only to return to the same spot after patrolling police have moved on. The Metropolitan Police have used electrically assisted pedal cycle regulations to seize pedicabs from London’s roads. This action has been targeted at the common occurrence of non-compliant electric motors being fitted to pedicabs. However, the success of this has been limited when pedicab operators and drivers have appealed, as it requires the police to use motor vehicle legislation against pedicabs.

A number of noble Lords talked about regulation. The Bill confers powers on TfL to make regulations for the purpose of regulating pedicabs in London, and it provides the framework; Clauses 2, 3 and 4 set out the parameters to which TfL may design a regulatory regime. It will be for TfL to determine what is the most appropriate in terms. TfL will, however, need to conduct a consultation on its proposal, which will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny via the negative resolution procedure. We have asked TfL to develop policy notes to indicate its early policy thinking; however, as mentioned, its final proposals will be subject to consultation.

My noble friends Lady Stowell, Lord Leigh of Hurley and Lord Goschen, and the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, talked about licensing of pedicabs, drivers and operators. Clause 2(1) allows Transport for London to make provision for the licensing of pedicabs, their drivers and operators. This includes provision relating to the conditions of licences; the duration, renewal, variation, suspension or revocation of licences; and the display or production of licences. The Bill gives Transport for London discretion to determine what is most appropriate in terms of licensing pedicab drivers, operators and their vehicles. However, TfL will need to conduct a consultation on its proposals, which, as I said, will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny.

I will write to the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, with the information he requested concerning data. On noble Lords’ questions about insurance, again, this is a matter for Transport for London.

Quite a few noble Lords are understandably worried about noise, and we are aware of the concerns about noise nuisance caused by certain pedicab drivers. This has been a focus of the enforcement activity undertaken by Westminster City Council and the Metropolitan Police in recent years. There has been some success here, using provisions contained in the Control of Pollution Act 1974.

Clause 2(6) provides Transport for London with the ability to make provision relating to matters such as safety requirements and driver conduct. Clause 2(9) allows Transport for London to impose requirements on pedicab drivers and operators. Again, it will be for Transport for London to determine what is most appropriate, following consultation. Regulations brought forward by Transport for London will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, talked about the use of cycle lanes. The Bill allows Transport for London to make regulations concerning pedicab operations in London. Clause 2 permits Transport for London to make regulations that prohibit drivers from using pedicabs in specified places. Again, it will be left to Transport for London’s discretion to determine what pedicabs regulations look like, within the parameters set by the Bill.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans talked about the blocking of cycle lanes. We are aware of concerns about that and about pavement parking and obstruction in relation to existing pedicab operations; it has been an issue that stakeholders have consistently raised with the department. Clause 2 sets out Transport for London’s powers relating to where, when and how many pedicabs may operate in certain places, at certain times and in specified circumstances. Again, it will be for Transport for London to determine what is most appropriate.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, talked about parking. Clause 2 sets out Transport for London’s powers relating to where, when and how many pedicabs may operate in certain places, at certain times and in specified circumstances. It will be for Transport for London to determine what is most appropriate, taking into account the needs of pedicab drivers, passengers and other road users. Transport for London will be required to conduct a consultation on its proposals.

My noble friend Lady Stowell of Beeston talked about the possible requirements for background checks for drivers or operators. Clause 2 provides that any pedicab regulations that make provision about the licensing of pedicab drivers or operators must include provision corresponding to that made by the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 in relation to immigration status. That will ensure right-to-work checks are in place for pedicab drivers and disqualify people from being licensed as a pedicab driver, subject to their immigration status.

Clause 2(6)(a) allows Transport for London to set the eligibility requirements for pedicab drivers or operators. Again, this will be for TfL to determine, subject to a consultation. TfL will be able to request a basic DBS check for pedicab drivers; that would show unspent convictions and conditional cautions. TfL’s desire is for pedicab drivers to be subject to enhanced DBS checks, as per taxi and private hire vehicle drivers.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, mentioned the immigration status clause, which provides that any pedicab regulation that makes provision about the licensing of pedicab drivers or operators must, as I said earlier, include provision corresponding to that made by the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998. This ensures that there is consistency between these industries. Further, we expect that many pedicab drivers are likely to be self-employed, and Clause 2 will ensure that Transport for London can carry out right-to-work checks.

On the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, about the briefing on sites for pedicabs, we will pass the request to Transport for London for any consultation.

My noble friend Lord Moylan and a number of other noble Lords talked about the enforcement of regulations. Clause 3 sets out the options available to Transport for London in enforcing pedicab regulations. A level of discretion has been granted to TfL to determine how it will enforce regulations following consultation and engagement. The Bill itself is enabling and does not create any criminal offences or penalties. Clause 8 sets out that the Bill will come into force two months after the day it is passed. It will be for TfL to bring forward regulations once it has conducted a consultation, and to enforce these regulations once parliamentary approval is secured. Under Clause 3, Transport for London will have the ability to immobilise, seize, retain or dispose of pedicabs, if they are used in contravention to the regulations made by Transport for London.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, talked about regulating pedicabs out of business. The Bill gives Transport for London the ability to regulate London’s pedicabs so that journeys and vehicles can be safer, anti-social and nuisance behaviour can be tackled, and traffic-related issues can be addressed. There is absolutely no wish to regulate them out of business. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Moylan might be disappointed at that, but properly regulated pedicabs can offer a safe and environmentally-friendly mode of transportation in London. We know that they are popular with tourists, leisure and night-time economy visitors to the capital. The industry has a role to play in contributing to London’s economic success. We do not intend to drive hard-working and honest pedicab drivers and operators out of business. However, we intend to tackle the common issues caused by unscrupulous actors, and this is what the Bill will achieve. I absolutely agree with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, about having a balance here.

The benefits are clear. A regulated industry will improve public safety; passengers will know pedicabs are licensed and other road users can be confident they are roadworthy. Further, the Bill will help address some of the common issues that pedicabs give rise to, such as highways obstruction and anti-social behaviour.

Clause 6 sets out that pedicab regulations will be subject to the negative resolution procedure. We consider this an appropriate level of parliamentary scrutiny. It goes beyond London cab orders, which can be made by TfL without any parliamentary oversight. Further, Transport for London will be required to conduct a consultation under Clause 1(3) before it can bring forward any regulations.

To conclude, this legislation will ensure that London’s pedicab industry can be regulated for the first time. In turn, this will address the current legal anomaly and bring the industry in line with London’s taxi and private hire vehicle industries. The scope of this legislation is narrow and focused solely on addressing the situation in London. It will confer powers on TfL to bring forward regulations, equipping it with the tools it needs to tackle anti-social, unsafe and nuisance behaviour perpetrated by certain pedicab operators and drivers.

Parallel to addressing these issues, the Bill will help make pedicabs safer for passengers, pedestrians and other road users, providing assurance that these vehicles are roadworthy, properly insured and operating to clear standards. The introduction of fare controls will put an end to stories of passengers being ripped off, and, further, the ability to effectively enforce the regime will ensure that it has bite.

We recognise the importance of parliamentary scrutiny, and the Bill ensures this by requiring any regulations to be laid before Parliament. Prior to reaching that stage, Transport for London will have to conduct a consultation on its proposals, which will ensure that these are appropriate, fair and considered. I commend the Bill to the House.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Grand Committee.