My Lords, the Department for Transport is considering options for how best to regulate e-scooters and crack down on their illegal use. New measures being considered will be designed to create a much clearer, fit-for-purpose and fully enforceable regime for e-scooters and other micro-mobility devices. This will include robust technical standards and new rules for private and rental e-scooters.
My Lords, e-scooters have become a menace and the Government are being too slow either to ban or, as we have heard, regulate them. They are dangerous in design, using up valuable rare metals in battery manufacture, and cause growing numbers of accidents among riders, pedestrians and the disabled, and arising from scooter-induced fires. The defence of the present situation is focused on the relatively small number of regulated trial rentals, not the hundreds of thousands in private ownership with very limited legal use. Can my noble friend the Minister advise the House what early action she proposes to remedy this situation? We need to try harder.
The policy is still under development and I am grateful to my noble friend for highlighting her concerns for our consideration as we develop it going forward. It is very important that we develop a safe, proportionate and flexible regulatory regime. To do that, we need the data from the various trials which are going ahead, the future of transport regulatory call for evidence, ongoing conversations with stakeholders and more research. I reassure my noble friend that we are making progress. I recognise that there is more to be done.
Yes, I can explain that. It is illegal to use a private e-scooter on all public land. It is certainly illegal to use one on the pavement or the road. Trials have been set up around the country to develop evidence for future regulatory reform, and, within those trial areas, it is allowable to ride an e-scooter on a road or cycle path. We are working very closely with the police on enforcement; for example, the National Police Chiefs’ Council is developing a national strategy for tackling the illegal use of e-scooters. My officials are working very closely with it on that.
My Lords, there is a growing problem with e-scooters being ridden in Northern Ireland illegally and erratically. They are permitted to be driven only on private land. A freedom of information request from the Belfast Telegraph revealed that the PSNI does not hold statistics on the number of fines or cautions issued. However, there is a perception that few, if any, offenders have been prosecuted. Does the Minister agree that addressing this potentially lethal threat to personal safety should be more of a priority for police forces across the United Kingdom, including in Northern Ireland?
The noble Lord is most likely right that the PSNI does not hold data. Indeed, it is the case that police forces in England do not currently hold data relating specifically to offences by riders of e-scooters because they fall under the category of motor vehicles, and that data is therefore within that. At the moment the Home Office has no plans to introduce a requirement for forces to collect information, but, as the noble Lord set out, it is absolutely key that local police forces develop good action plans for enforcement, following the guidance that will be coming out from the National Police Chiefs’ Council.
My Lords, last year, there were 931 casualties of e-scooter accidents— 200 of those were non-riders—and there were three fatalities, yet there is absolutely no reference to e-scooters in the new Highway Code. Does this make the Government derelict in their duty to protect both riders and those who inadvertently cross their path? Does the Minister realise that, by tarrying so long on this, the Government are not leading but lagging behind the rest of the world?
I am not sure I agree that the Government are “tarrying so long”. It is really important that we get the correct balance between the enormous benefits that e-scooters can bring and safety on our roads. The noble Baroness is right to highlight some very serious safety concerns that have arisen. We are gathering the data, and we appreciate data that is coming into the department from all sorts of places and that we can subsequently analyse. But, as I said, e-scooters are not currently allowed on the roads, except in trial areas. It could become impossible to get a good legislative framework together, so, for the time being, within the trials, the e-scooter riders must comply with the rules, obviously, and take part in the training offered.
My Lords, this matter is now urgent. What deadline has the Minister set her department for producing a report? We cannot go on with uninsured riders, very often moving around drugs and so on, or otherwise just knocking down pedestrians. Can we have a deadline, please?
My department is currently considering how best to capture and publish the information that we are gathering from the trials. We hope to make progress on potential new primary powers. I cannot give my noble friend a deadline, but suffice it to say, at this stage, that we have a large team working on all the different elements to enable us to bring forward a legislative framework.
My Lords, having witnessed the increased use of e-scooters in London recently, I am irrevocably drawn to the conclusion that this is a catastrophe waiting to happen. I have witnessed almost every rule of the road being breached, including reckless and careless driving, excessive speed, lights being jumped, riding on footpaths and use without lights. Can the Minister advise the House of the number of e-scooter accidents and prosecutions that have taken place in London since e-scooters have been legalised and why was the opportunity missed to offer advice and guidance in the redraft of the Highway Code?
I might swerve the Highway Code question because I think I have gone as far as I can in the answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, but I will slightly push back on what the noble Lord is saying because it is a bit concerning. A number of people have bought these scooters and obviously we want them in due course to be able to ride them safely. We will not be able to do that for all e-scooters or, indeed, for all riders but it is clear to me that people see them as an attractive alternative mode of transport. The key here is to legislate accordingly and that is what we are very much focused on. The noble Lord asked about safety stats. I can say that for the year to June 2021, the Metropolitan Police recorded 496 incidents of injury with e-scooters versus 25,666 where it was any vehicle.
The Minister mentioned earlier that she could not give any data for police enforcement of offences. But, as my noble friend Lady Randerson said, Department for Transport statistics for the year to June 2021, collected from police forces, show that there were nearly 900 accidents, with three people killed and 253 seriously injured. If her department can get accident statistics from the police, why can it not get statistics on enforcement and offences? Is it because her department is not encouraging the police to do any enforcement?
My Lords, first, well over a million private scooters are estimated to have been purchased. Will my noble friend comment on the fiction that they are being ridden only on private land? Secondly, does she think that at point of sale, when purchases are being made, there is clarity and unambiguity that e-scooters are illegal except in trial areas or on private land rather than the reality of the chaos and catastrophe they are causing up and down the country?
The department is acutely aware of the issue of the number of private e-scooters that are potentially being ridden on public land at this moment. That is why working as quickly as possible to develop a legislative framework, which will be set out in primary legislation, in order for them to be ridden legally. However, we are also reassured that the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 stipulate that traders must give sufficient information to consumers; they must not mislead. Ministers from my department have written to retailers many times and the last written reminder of their obligations was in December 2021.