Pedicabs (London) Bill [HL] - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:26 pm on 22 November 2023.

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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?