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Pedicabs (London) Bill

Volume 703: debated on Friday 19 November 2021

Second Reading

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I am aware that time is of the essence, so I will make this as quick as possible. The reason I am bringing the Bill to the House again is that pedicabs remain the only form of public transport on the streets of London that is unregulated. Black cabs and private hire vehicles such as Ubers are all under very stringent regulation and have licences through Transport for London. Under some legal anomaly, pedicabs remain unlicensable and unregulated by TfL, and I think that is wrong and must be addressed.

I welcome the fact that the Government have supported my Bill, and I hope we can get it through today, because women’s safety is at risk. We should be under no doubt that as it stands, pedicab drivers and their vehicles are not checked. They go through no checks on the security of the drivers and the vehicles go through no form of MOT. That is unsafe for women and for passengers. There is also no fare regulation, which affects tourists in particular. They enjoy using pedicabs, and why would they not? They can be an exciting offer for central London in particular. A tourist couple reported getting into a pedicab in Leicester Square, going 0.8 miles to Stratton Street and being charged £380. An Uber fare for the same trip would cost £7—54 times more was charged by the pedicab driver. Until they are regulated, we will not stop this dreadful practice.

The police and councils such as Lambeth Council and Westminster City Council have supported my Bill, as have the Mayor of London and the deputy Mayor of London for transport. It is important to mention that some enforcement is available under antisocial behaviour legislation, but I can tell the House from speaking to council officers and councillors that there is nothing they can do to stop drivers or prevent them from going about their business. They can ask them to stop their noise and playing ghetto blasters, but they cannot take them off the streets. The police and Westminster Council, under current legislation and current regulations, cannot police drivers for having no insurance, no training or unsafe vehicles.

Having a licensing regime, as suggested by my Bill, would bring in the ability for TfL to provide licences where drivers have to prove that they are safe and their vehicles are safe. If a council worker, official, city inspector or a police inspector comes along, they can check their licence and ensure that they are safe. If they are not, the licence can be taken away and, importantly, the vehicle can be taken away and impounded. That is key to why I want to bring in this Bill—at the moment, those actions are not possible. A city inspector from Westminster City Council can present an enforcement notice, but without any proof of who that person is, that person will not turn up at the magistrates court and will not be held to account by anybody. Under the licensed and regulated scheme that I am suggesting, that would happen.

It is important to note that we are talking about a minority of rogue drivers. The London Pedicab Operators Association supports what I am trying to do. It has told me that it is

“in concord with the universal view that pedicabs must be fairly and appropriately regulated—fast!”

The guys who are part of the association do their own checks. They organise their own insurance, but they are under absolutely no obligation to do so, and that is why I want to bring in this Bill to ensure that there are proper safeguards for them and a level playing field. Black cab drivers have to do that, and they will be parked up at traffic lights next to a pedicab driver who may have passengers. The passengers in the black cab know that they have safeguards; the passengers in the pedicab have no safeguards.

The noise and disruption that my constituents are having to live through is getting worse. Since lockdown, it has got worse. I have had 4,000 representations made to me about this one issue. People living in Soho and Covent Garden are particularly suffering from this dreadful antisocial behaviour and rogue type of pedicab driver. Let us not forget that the majority of people who live in Soho and Covent Garden are in social housing. They do not have the choice to move; they are there because they have the privilege of a social housing home, but that means that they cannot move. People who have a private home can sell up or not have to rent any more, but let us remember people in social housing.

Let me give the House an example from Covent Garden last weekend. A city inspector from Westminster City Council told me:

“At approximately 21.10…two city inspectors attended the area…there were 25 Pedicabs all parked up on Drury Lane…City inspectors spent the next 45 minutes moving Pedicabs along, as they were blocking road traffic”.

The inspectors had no real enforcement powers but to move the pedicabs on; they could take the drivers’ names and addresses, but they could not prove whether they were real. There was no further action that these guys could take.

Pedicabs have no regard for disabled people, either, or for people trying to cross the road with guide dogs or in wheelchairs. This is a real, real issue: I have been told by numerous people about the noise that rogue pedicab drivers make. I emphasise that there are many who are part of the London Pedicabs Operators Association who are good, but there is an element who are not. I quote from an email from a constituent who spoke to a pedicab driver:

“He said ‘There’s nothing the police can do about it. This nuisance is permitted as the operators are able to use a bylaw related to the power of their machines.’”

That means that the operators know that pedicabs are currently not regulated. This is not only about noise and sheer antisocial behaviour, but about safety and fair regulation. That is why I ask all hon. Members present to support the Bill.

That is the crux of the matter: a pedicab driver does not need a driving licence and does not need insurance. Under my Bill, that would change. They would have to have insurance, have a driving licence and prove that they have been properly trained. At the moment, they can ignore the highway code—believe me, I have example after example of pedicab drivers ignoring it.

I emphasise that the Bill is not about banning pedicabs. I firmly believe that pedicabs, properly regulated and licensed, can provide an offer to tourists in central London as they do in other European nations. In London, they are not regulated; in every other part of England, councils have the powers to regulate and license them. I wonder whether that is why we do not see them in other cities. I was in Manchester recently, and I do not recall seeing a pedicab. I would have thought that a city such as Manchester would want pedicabs, but because they can be regulated and licensed, many of the rogue elements choose not to operate, because they know that they will be held to account.

Does the Minister agree that it is so important to give my pedicabs Bill a Second Reading today so that we can keep our passengers and tourists safe, keep other road users safe and ensure that the west end and central London remain a vibrant place? I hope that all hon. Members will support the Bill today.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken) for promoting the Bill and for her extensive campaign to bring it before the House, as she has done on a number of occasions. This is an extremely important matter.

Pedicabs are currently unregulated in London. They are the only form of public transport that is unregulated, despite having been on the capital’s streets for approximately 30 years. Transport for London estimates the number of these cabs on the streets of London to be about 400, but other estimates go up to about 1,400. The Government fully support the Bill.

I had understood from talking to my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken) earlier that I was going to have a chance to contribute to this debate, because I objected to her Bill in the last Session, on the basis that it looked as though—

The Deputy Speaker interrupted the business (Standing Order No. 11(2)).

Bill to be read a Second time on Friday 3 December.