Thursday, 6 May 2021

Questions (32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37)

Paul McAuliffe

Question:

32. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Transport the status of his efforts to reform of the Taxi Advisory Committee. [23462/21]

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Paul McAuliffe

Question:

33. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Transport the status of the membership of the Taxi Advisory Committee; and the organisations they represent. [23463/21]

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Paul McAuliffe

Question:

34. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Transport his views on whether taxi drivers are fairly represented on the Taxi Advisory Committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23464/21]

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Paul McAuliffe

Question:

35. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Transport the remit of the Taxi Advisory Committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23465/21]

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Paul McAuliffe

Question:

36. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Transport the number of times the Taxi Advisory Committee has met in the past two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23466/21]

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Paul McAuliffe

Question:

37. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Transport the process for appointment to the Taxi Advisory Committee; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23467/21]

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Written answers (Question to Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 32, 33, 34, 35, 36 and 37 together.

I would like to thank the Deputy for the opportunity to clarify the role of the Advisory Committee on Small Public Service Vehicles (SPSVs), sometimes known as the Taxi Advisory Committee.

The Committee was established under the Taxi Regulation Act 2013 to provide both the Minister and the NTA with advice in relation to small public service vehicles and their drivers. Neither the NTA nor the Minister are bound by any advice provided. To ensure that the Committee can provide an informed view on relevant policy and regulatory matters, its composition is prescribed by legislation to ensure that it represents a broad range of interests, and insofar as is practicable, ensures an equitable gender balance between men and women, and equitable representation from both urban and rural areas.

Drivers are an important part of the Committee’s membership, and four positions on the Committee are reserved for members who can represent driver interests. All four of these positions are filled by licenced SPSV drivers from across the country and I am satisfied that this ensures the Committee’s advice is informed by the perspective of drivers. The Committee also features dispatch operators, representatives of disabled passengers and older passengers, and members from the tourist industry, local government and from An Garda Síochána. I am of the view that one of the strengths of the Committee is this broad and diverse representation. The perspective of passengers is of particular importance in considering SPSV policy issues.

As mentioned, the role of the Advisory Committee is to provide advice to the Minister and the NTA on matters relating to the small public service vehicle sector. It is not a lobby group. As such, the agenda of this forum is not dictated solely by the concerns of driver representatives and meetings of the Advisory Committee do not replace the normal interactions that occur between taxi driver representative groups and the industry’s statutory regulator, the NTA. As Minister for Transport, I will continue to meet from time to time with representative groups as I would meet with any lobby group or interest group, and officials in my Department will continue to listen to their perspective. However, the focus of my engagement will continue to be the Advisory Committee given its statutory role. I have met with the Committee twice as Minister for Transport and I would hope to meet with the Committee again at least one more time this year.

Although the legislation prescribes the composition of the Advisory Committee, it does not provide for a specific method for filling vacancies on the Committee and, accordingly, the approach taken over the years has varied. The unpaid nature of positions on the Committee has posed a challenge in recruiting suitable candidates through open competition.

Last September I met with representatives of four taxi representative groups and invited them to put forward candidates to fill driver vacancies on the Committee. These groups, after lengthy consideration, advised the NTA in March that they would not take up these positions. As a result, officials in my Department and the NTA engaged with stakeholder groups to identify suitable candidates for the remaining vacancies with reference to the gender and regional balance requirements of the legislation. In appointing these candidates, I left open one vacancy on the Committee for the time being. I have done so because, although I respect the decision of the four taxi representative groups not to participate in the Committee, I nevertheless hope that they reconsider their position in time.

The current membership of the Committee is as follows:

Name

Cornelius O’Donohoe (Chairperson)

Fiona Brady

Ann Campbell

Joan Carthy (Irish Wheelchair Association)

James Cawley

Shajedul Chowdhury

Francis Doheny

Noel Ebbs

Kevin Finn

Peter Fleming (Beaufort Centre)

Mary Henchy (Local Authorities)

John Murphy

Supt Thomas Murphy (An Garda Síochána)

James O’Brien

Martin Plummer

Michelle Reid

Al Ryan

Question No. 33 answered with Question No. 32.
Question No. 34 answered with Question No. 32.
Question No. 35 answered with Question No. 32.
Question No. 36 answered with Question No. 32.
Question No. 37 answered with Question No. 32.