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No taxi legislation review planned says Northern Ireland’s Minister for Infrastructure

There is no taxi legislation review planned says Northern Ireland’s Minister for Infrastructure.

In a recent parliamentary session, Mark Durkan of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) raised a pertinent question about the current state of taxi legislation in Northern Ireland. Durkan inquired whether the Minister for Infrastructure, John O'Dowd of Sinn Féin, deemed the existing regulations effective and suitable, and if there were any intentions to review them.

O'Dowd responded by acknowledging the challenges within the taxi sector, noting they stem not from the legislation itself but from broader economic factors. He cited shifts in consumer behaviour post-COVID, reduced spending power due to the cost-of-living crisis, and new employment opportunities affecting taxi drivers. O'Dowd stated that, currently, his department's resources and personnel constraints prevent a review of the legislation, but he emphasised his commitment to supporting the taxi industry through effective measures.

Durkan countered by highlighting that former Minister Chris Hazzard, also of Sinn Féin, had previously suggested a review, deeming the legislation outdated even before the pandemic. Durkan questioned if the laws, considered outdated in 2016, were not even more so now.

O'Dowd responded by urging a forward-looking approach, emphasising the need to address current realities rather than past commitments. He pointed to significant changes since 2016, such as the economic impact of COVID and new job opportunities, and argued for practical support for the taxi industry. O'Dowd also mentioned his proactive step of writing to the Department for Transport in England, requesting them to halt the proposed VAT increases on taxi fares and operators, which he believes would have a devastating impact on the industry.

The exchange highlights an ongoing debate on whether Northern Ireland’s taxi legislation meets the needs of a post-pandemic economy. While no immediate review is planned, the dialogue does highlight the importance of responsive and effective support for the taxi sector amid evolving challenges.

John O'Dowd said: “Taxi legislation and the challenges that face our taxi industry have been raised with me many times. My view is that the main challenge that faces our taxi industry is not the current taxi legislation but the different economic factors that have come into play as people's habits have changed since COVID, their spending limits have been reduced as a result of the cost-of-living crisis and different employment opportunities have arisen for those who normally drive taxis.

“There is a range of issues. To date, I have not committed to reviewing taxi legislation, as resources and personnel in my Department will not allow me to do so. I have to prioritise other matters. I am committed to working alongside the taxi industry and taxi drivers to do what I can, but if I am going to do something, I want to make sure that it will be an effective response to their needs.”


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