Pedicabs (London) Bill [HL] - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:14 pm on 22 November 2023.

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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.