I propose to take Questions Nos. 188 and 193 together.
The Taxi Regulation Act 2003 was enacted in July 2003 to provide a legislative basis for the establishment of a Commission for Taxi Regulation and an Advisory Council to the Commission for Taxi Regulation. Section 14 of the Act requires that the Commissioner for Taxi Regulation must be selected by open recruitment competition held by the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commission.
Following a competition for the post of Taxi Commissioner in 2003, the Civil Service and Local Appointments Commission was unable to recommend a candidate for appointment. Arrangements are currently being made to hold a further recruitment competition on the basis of an enhanced salary for the position. I understand that the post will be advertised in the national newspapers in the near future.
With regard to the Advisory Council to the Commission for Taxi Regulation, I have made an order under the Taxi Regulation Act 2003 to provide for the establishment of the council with effect from 4 November 2003. I understand that the council has met on two occasions to date and a further meeting is planned later this month.
On the question of accessible taxis, the position is that the Government is committed in An Agreed Programme for Government to continue the process of making taxis wheelchair accessible. However, a number of complex issues concerning implementation of this accessible taxi policy have yet to be decided. These include improvements to the existing wheelchair accessible taxi specification to accommodate the greatest possible range of people, issues surrounding urban-rural needs and the cost of suitable vehicles. These issues will be addressed by the Commission for Taxi Regulation, when established, as part of the development of new small public service vehicle standards.
The Taxi Regulation Act 2003 specifically provides that an objective of the Commission for Taxi Regulation is to promote access to small public service vehicles by persons with disabilities. In this regard, the commission will be tasked with the determination of the future policy in relation to accessible taxis. It is envisaged that this will necessitate specific discussions with both disability and taxi representative groups. The commission will also determine the manner and time frame for the implementation of the standards for accessible taxi services.
Pending the establishment of the commission, I have indicated to the advisory council that I would be interested in its advice on a range of issues relating to quality enhancement and standards for small public service vehicles and their drivers, including vehicle standards and accessibility for persons with mobility and sensory difficulties.