Written Answers. - Taxi Regulations.

Joe Higgins

Question:

126 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport if the report of the taxi hardship panel is to be reviewed or scrapped, following criticism by both the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and the European Parliament's Committee on Petitions. [17247/03]

Joe Higgins

Question:

127 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Minister for Transport if he has plans to implement the three recommendations in relation to taxis made in the report of the European Parliament's Committee on Petitions following its fact-finding mission here on 3 and 4 April 2003. [17248/03]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 126 and 127 together.

The Government has approved the implementation on a phased basis of the recommendations of the taxi hardship panel which was the independent three person panel established to report in general terms on the nature and extent of extreme personal financial hardship that may have been experienced by individual taxi licence holders arising from loss of income as a direct result of the liberalisation of the taxi market.
I am aware of the recent report of the EU Committee on Petitions in relation to their fact-finding mission to Ireland in connection with the effects of taxi liberalisation. I met with the delegation from the committee on 4 April 2003 and outlined the background to taxi liberalisation and the establishment of the independent three person taxi hardship panel to them. I also explained that based on legal precedent there can be no legal duty on the State to compensate taxi licence holders in relation to open market licence values that may have existed prior to liberalisation. This position remains unchanged and I have no proposals for any payments beyond the recommendations of the panel report.
The design and administration of a scheme to implement the recommendations of the taxi hardship panel and the arrangements to facilitate the making of payments to eligible persons is being progressed as quickly as possible so as to ensure that applications are dealt with on a confidential and objective basis. Every effort is being made to put in place a structure to facilitate the commencement of payments on the basis of the panel recommendations as soon as possible.
With regard to the recommendation of the EU petitions committee in relation to the establishment of the proposed Commission for Taxi Regulation, the necessary legislation to support the establishment of the commission has been prepared as a matter of urgency in my Department and, in this regard, the Taxi Regulation Bill 2003 was published yesterday. I hope that the Bill will complete its passage through the Oireachtas during the current session. The appointment of a commissioner for taxi regulation is also being progressed independently.