Pedicabs (London) Bill [HL] - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:11 pm on 22 November 2023.

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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.