HL Deb 10 November 1992 vol 540 cc86-7

2.52 p.m.

Lord Underhill asked Her Majesty's Government:

When their decision on the report of the working party on the safety of users of taxis and minicabs in London will be announced; and whether they will publish a White Paper on the matter or introduce primary legislation at an early date.

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, my honourable friend the Minister for Transport in London is studying the working party report carefully and meeting interested parties with a view to reaching a conclusion which is in the public interest and fair to both taxi and minicab trades. He hopes to make an announcement by the end of the year. It is unlikely to take the form of a White Paper. If primary legislation is required, it will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time is available.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount for that Answer. However, does he appreciate, as revealed in our debate on 21st October, that there is considerable concern about the matter and a demand for action? Have the Government accepted the principle that there should be some form of regulation? If so, how will they determine not only a timetable but also how any regulations will be introduced? Further, have the Government considered the suggestion of the CBI that a working party should be set up to work out an exact timetable and how regulations should be achieved?

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, the Government accept that something should be done. As I said in my original Answer, my honourable friend the Minister for Transport in London is meeting interested parties and taking all views into consideration, including those expressed by your Lordships. He intends to announce his proposals by the end of the year; I should not like to pre-empt them.

Lord Finsberg

My Lords, as one who piloted through the other place the first Bill to control minicabs and who acted as adviser to the London cab trade for 10 years, I should like to ask my noble friend whether he accepts that all informed opinion in London, tired of the length of time that cab legislation takes to go through both Houses whatever the government in power, wants a one-tier board and the raising, not lowering, of standards?

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, there are advantages and disadvantages to all the main proposals to regulate minicabs and taxicabs in London. The Government do not wish to do anything that would attack the licensed cab trade in any way.

Lord Clark of Kempston

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that it is quite unfair that the ordinary taxicab is subject to so many regulations whereas the minicab is not? Is it not high time that regulations were synonymous?

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, the licensed taxi driver has to pass the "knowledge" examination and, indeed, drive a suitable vehicle. Those regulations put a burden on the licensed taxi driver and enable him to be in a different position from the minicab driver. If there is to be a change in that situation, it will be announced by my honourable friend.