Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Taxi Services.

Seán Ryan

Ceist:

12 Mr. Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment if he will outline the actions he intends to take to modernise and improve the provision of taxi services.

Brendan McGahon

Ceist:

79 Mr. McGahon asked the Minister for the Environment when the review of the national taxi service will be completed, and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 12 and 79 together. I received last week the final report of the committee which carried out a review of the law applying to the operation of small public service vehicles. The report is a detailed one, containing recommendations on a wide range of issues, and it will take some time to give full consideration to all of these and to reach conclusions on them. I hope, however, to make early decisions on a number of priority issues and I will be arranging also to have the report printed and published.

Is the Minister aware that there is a chaotic situation at present in terms of the number of taxis in certain areas and the lack of them in others, review of which depends on this report being completed? Could the Minister give more detail of an early version of the report, with the main findings being announced in the full report at a later date? There is great urgency in this area in that in some cases applications for plates have been in for months, perhaps more than a year, and no progress can be made because the Minister has stopped consideration of applications in this area.

I do not accept that the situation is chaotic but there are problems which have to be faced up to. I hope not only to publish the report but to make interim decisions very soon.

I would draw the Minister's attention to what he said in reply to a question about devolving power to local authorities. In this case the Minister took away from the local authority their role in deciding on taxi services. May I ask the Minister if it is his intention to consult the local authorities in the Dublin area before final decisions are made on the report?

It will be my intention to have the widest possible consultations not only with local authorities but with other interested groups before final decisions are taken on the implementation of the main body of the report. However, that will not prevent me from taking some immediate and more urgent decisions which could not allow for lengthy consideration and negotiation.

When will they be made?

As soon as possible.

One of the aspects of the service relates to the quality of the cars. Would the Minister consider a system of exempting public service vehicles from the duty to which cars are subject, as a means of enabling the provision of newer types of vehicles of a particular standard and size?

There is certainly room for continuing to improve the quality and range of the service. I should very much like to reach the kind of situation to which Deputy De Rossa refers, but the question of any reduction or elimination of customs impositions or taxes is a matter for the Department of Finance. With regard to helping the mentally handicapped or the physically disabled, I would be extremely anxious that some consideration of that kind might be included in the provision of facilities. I am anxious to explore that possibility but I cannot give a final commitment. It is not a matter for which I have full responsibility.

The Minister said he would give his full attention to the priority issues in the report. Will he outline his view of what the priorities are?

I received this report a week ago and I am in the process of considering the major issues. They revolve around the regulations for the taxi and hackney service and how these are interlinked in terms of future developments in many of our cities. There are other questions regarding the quality of the service and wider considerations, such as an expectation of an increase in fares. Primarily we must make sure that some of the major problems affecting the service, such as a moratorium, are dealt with as quickly as possible.

Will the Minister give special consideration to the rural service known as the hackney service which is a temporary rather than a full-time operation? The cost of plates, etc., would be far too high if considered on the same basis as the Dublin taxi service.

One of the distinctive features in this area is the wide range of differences throughout the country as a whole. For that reason it will take some time to work out the final details as to how the service should develop for the future. I will take account of the considerations the Deputy has expressed.