That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Taxi Regulation Act 2013 and the Road Traffic Act 1961 to make provision for the regulation, by the National Transport Authority, of rickshaws in cities, counties and municipal districts and to provide for related matters.
I am introducing this Bill to address a lacuna in our legislation. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport has failed to commence on an amendment that was passed by this House in December 2017. The Minister has repeatedly promised to introduce regulations but he has failed to do so. He has failed to keep many of his promises. He is all talk and no action. Rickshaws operate in most European cities in a regulated environment. They can, and do, play a positive role in transporting passengers short distances in an environmentally efficient manner. Unfortunately, there have been many reports of illegal activity like drug-dealing being facilitated by rickshaw operators. We can thank RTÉ's "Prime Time" for uncovering and exposing many of these practices.
None of the drivers is vetted; there is no registering or licensing of vehicles; there is no test of the roadworthiness of vehicles; there is no regulation of the fares they charge; and there are no set standards for services. For all of these reasons, as legislators we can no longer sit on our hands. Currently, no agency or public body has the authority to regulate rickshaws. The National Transport Authority, NTA, which regulates small public services vehicles like taxis and hackneys, cannot regulate rickshaws because existing legislation defines a "public service vehicle" as "a mechanically propelled vehicle". Similarly, Dublin City Council and the other councils do not believe they have the authority to regulate or license rickshaws because they are not always pedal-powered vehicles. This presents considerable issues as we seek to ensure the rickshaw industry operates fairly and with integrity.
The Bill seeks to give the NTA statutory powers to bring about regulations in respect of rickshaws. It proposes to create a new category of public service vehicle, to be known as the "public service rickshaw", which will cover all rickshaws, including mechanically powered rickshaws, manual rickshaws, cycle rickshaws and battery-powered rickshaws. This will clear up the current legal lacuna. The legislation will make the NTA the authorised body for regulating rickshaws throughout the country. This amending Bill will also oblige the NTA to make certain regulations in respect of rickshaws. For example, they will have to be licensed, drivers will have to go through a vetting process involving background checks, vehicles will have to be inspected for roadworthiness, fares will have to be regulated and a standard set of services will have to be adhered to. I commend the Bill to the House.