I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 244, 246 and 248 of 3 March 2004 which states:
The Government approved the implementation on a phased basis of the recommendations of the taxi hardship panel. The independent three person panel was established to report, in general terms, on the nature and extent of extreme personal financial hardship that may have been experienced by taxi licence holders arising from loss of income as a direct result of the liberalisation of the taxi licensing regime. The panel recommended the establishment of a scheme to provide payments to taxi licence holders who fall into one of six categories that it assessed as having suffered extreme personal financial hardship arising from taxi liberalisation.
I am aware of the report of the EU Committee on Petitions and their fact finding mission to Ireland on the effects of taxi liberalisation. As I have explained previously in the House and to the committee, based on legal precedent there can be no legal duty on the State to compensate taxi licence holders for open market licence values that may have existed prior to liberalisation. The position remains unchanged and I have no proposals to reopen either the terms of the taxi hardship panel report or the Government's decision on it.
The process of implementing the panel's recommendations through the taxi hardship payments scheme is well under way with Area Development Management Limited administering and managing it. Payments to qualifying persons commenced in December 2003.
With regard to the third recommendation of the EU Committee report concerning regulation and standards, the Taxi Regulation Act 2003, enacted in July 2003, provides a legislative basis for the establishment of the commission for taxi regulation. A commissioner must also 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. A further recruitment competition is being progressed with an enhanced salary and the closing date for receipt of applications is 4 March 2004.
The taxi commission will be an independent public body. Its principal function will be the development and maintenance of a new regulatory framework for the control and operation of small public service vehicles and their drivers. It will pursue a range of objectives that will be focused on the promotion of quality oriented services by all small public service vehicle operators and drivers. This will be based primarily on the deployment of new qualitative standards, to be applied to the licensing and ongoing operation of small public service vehicles and their drivers, that will be focused on the enhancement of customer services.