HL Deb 14 October 1991 vol 531 cc939-40

2.42 p.m.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have to control minicabs in London.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, the Government are aware of anxiety expressed about the operation of minicabs within the capital and have set up a working party to make recommendations on the framework needed to ensure the safety of users of minicabs and taxis in London. I hope it will be able to report in April 1992. As part of its work, it will consider whether a licensing regime for minicabs is now required in London.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Is he aware that legislation to introduce the licensing of minicabs in London passed through all its stages in this House? However, it was later rejected in the other place. Since then, in December 1990 the black taxi operators produced a document which states: It also recognises that the mechanism which currently exists for licensing London taxi drivers would be totally inadequate to consummate the partnership"— that is, the partnership between minicabs and black cabs. Such a partnership is necessary to give safety and protection to people throughout all parts of London including the parts where black taxis are unable to provide a service.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I recognise, as my noble friend says, that there is a change of attitude of some substance by the black cabs towards the operation of minicabs. Black cab operators are represented on the working party to which I referred in my original Answer. I hope that they will contribute towards making recommendations as to the framework needed to ensure that users of both taxis and minicabs in London can travel in reasonable safety.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth

My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of the Suzie Lamplugh Trust which commissioned the inquiry into minicabs in London. Is the Minister aware that the figures which emerged from that were deeply disturbing? Will he ensure that following the welcome establishment of the working party, the Government will take immediate and urgent action to put right the situation?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I agree that the Suzie Lamplugh Trust report led to the establishment of the working party and it is represented on it. I hope that it will make a contribution to what is evidently regarded as a problem. I hope that when the answers come from that report, it will be possible, where necessary, to legislate.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, given that outside London minicabs and private hire vehicles are inspected, regulated, licensed and controlled by the local authorities in the interests of their citizens, can we not hope and expect that London citizens should enjoy the same protection as is enjoyed currently by those living outside London?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, thanks to the noble Baroness, citizens outside London will be better off than they were previously as a result of the Road Traffic Act which has just been passed. The situation in London is and always has been different as regards minicabs. We must await the results of the working party's report.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, does the noble Lord recall that this matter arose during the passage of legislation in the past 12 months? The Government then resisted suggestions that, as my noble friend said, what applies outside London should apply to London. As regards the establishment of the working party, is the Minister aware that the Transport and General Workers' Union taxi cab section has drawn up a blueprint for this provision to apply to London? Will he contact the union and secure a copy of those guidelines?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, the noble Lord will be pleased to know that that union is represented on the working party.