Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Taxi Licences.

Wednesday, 29 November 1978

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 310 No. 2

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13.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  asked the Minister for the Environment the procedure to be adopted in Cork city for the allocation of taxi licences; when people should make application for such licences; where application forms can be obtained; when a decision will be made on the applications; if any conditions will be attached to the obtaining of an application form; and the closing date for such applications.

14.

Dr. Browne: Information on Noel C. Browne  Zoom on Noel C. Browne  asked the Minister for the Environment the present position in regard to the issue of new taxi licences.

Mr. J. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, I propose to take Questions Nos. 13 and 14 together.

Under regulations recently made by me it is the function of the local authority concerned to determine the number, if any, of new taxi licences which may be granted by the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána in the period from 1 November 1978 to 1 September 1979 and thereafter in any period of one year. The regulations also provide that an application by the owner of a vehicle for such a licence be made to the Commissioner in the period 1-14 November 1978 after which it is a function of the local authority to specify application periods. Applications must be made in the form and manner directed by the Commissioner, and may be obtained at the local Garda station.

[261] In the case of the Cork taximeter area, the Cork Corporation are the relevant local authority to determine the number of new licences and application periods.

Dr. FitzGerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  Might I ask the Minister to clarify the question of who decides to whom licences are issued? Is the Minister aware that in Limerick a year ago licences were issued in bulk to substantial businessmen who sold them for substantial sums of money to Ferenka workers who had lost their jobs and who were fooled into buying licences issued on such a scale that they were valueless? Would the Minister not agree that that was a serious abuse, and would he take steps to ensure that it never recurs?

Mr. J. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  The present changes arise from recommendations made by the Taxi Services Council which first met on 12 September 1978. Following a request from the Minister the council is to consider criteria which I might recommend to local authorities to help them in determining the number of new licences to be granted. For the information of the Deputy it is the members of those local authorities who will now decide the numbers to be granted.

Dr. FitzGerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  Who decides who gets them? That is the question I have asked. It has been asked twice and has not been answered, because in the case of Limerick whoever took the decisions took them in an abusive manner, and it constituted an abuse of power, to the financial benefit of certain individuals. Therefore what I want to know is in future who will have that power so we can be assured there will never again be such an abuse of power to the benefit of wealthy people and in exploitation of workers who have lost their jobs, as occurred in Limerick a year ago?

Mr. J. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  It will be a function of the local authorities to determine from time to time, by resolution, the number of new licences which the Garda Commissioner may grant up to 1 September [262] 1979 and thereafter in each succeeding period of 12 months. The local authority will determine when application for taxi licences may be made to the Garda Commissioner. But the regulations specifically name the period 1 to 14 November 1978 as the first period for application. If the number of valid applications for new licences exceeds the number fixed by the local authority successful applicants will be determined by lot by the Garda Commissioner.

Dr. FitzGerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  By lot; this would mean that——

Mr. P. Barry: Information on Peter Barry  Zoom on Peter Barry  Do I understand that these regulations came in for the first time this year?

Mr. J. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  Yes.

Mr. P. Barry: Information on Peter Barry  Zoom on Peter Barry  Therefore last year it was the responsibility of the Minister for the Environment to determine the number of licences issued in Limerick?

Mr. J. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  I have no information available here in relation to last year. I am dealing with the present situation.

Mr. P. Barry: Information on Peter Barry  Zoom on Peter Barry  Does the Minister agree that last year the decision on the number of licences to be issued in any part of Ireland was the responsibility of the Minister for the Environment?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  There is nothing in the question about last year's issue, incidentally.

Mr. P. Barry: Information on Peter Barry  Zoom on Peter Barry  The Minister brought it in himself. Last year it was the responsibility of the Minister for the Environment; is that correct?

Mr. J. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  The licences regulation was suspended last year for Dublin.

(Interruptions.)

Dr. FitzGerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  The Minister does not appear to know the first fact about them. What is the point in his answering questions if he has not got the facts? The facts are they were issued. Will he confirm [263] the fact that it was a Minister who issued them in this abusive way and enabled some people to make large sums of money——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  I would like to remind the Deputy that there is nothing in the question asking about last year's licences or who issued them. It is a separate question.

Dr. FitzGerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  Might I ask the Minister what steps will be taken under the new system to ensure that by wealthy people entering this race they will not through a lottery, get large rewards because a system of lottery, with no other control on entering, with no other control on who is entitled to be put into the lottery, could have a very similar effect to the abuses which took place in Limerick last year? Will the Minister answer us as to how he will ensure that the lottery system will not operate to produce similar abuses?

Mr. J. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  The position is that, arising from recommendations made by the Taxi Services Council which first met on 12 September 1978 the system I have outlined is being put into operation.

(Interruptions.)

Dr. FitzGerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  And there is no control over who can apply for a licence——

(Interruptions.)

Dr. FitzGerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  Is that still the case?

Mr. J. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  If the Deputy does not want to listen to me——

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  Has the Minister completed his study of the recommendations of what is known as the Hyland Report—that is, the National Prices Commission study of taxi and hackney services——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  That is a separate question.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  ——which review he said——

[264]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  We must move on to the next question; Question No. 15.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  I just want to finish the question. With respect, perhaps the Chair would do me the courtesy of listening to the complete question?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  The Chair will not be dictated to when he rules that a question is out of order.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  With great respect I just wanted the Chair to listen to the question. I want to ask the Minister if he has finished that review—which surely is non-contentious—and, secondly, if he would say whether or not he will make these taxi licences non-transferable because of the abuses that are taking place?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  These are separate questions; they are not relevant; they are not on the Order Paper——

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  It is relevant to the question—the present position in regard to the issue of new taxi licences.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  The Minister may not have the information; they are separate questions. The Deputy will not insist, please.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  Question No. 14 asks the present position in regard to the issue of new taxi licences. I am asking the Minister if he is agreeable to getting rid of the transferable nature of the licences.

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Mr. P. Lalor): Information on Patrick J. Lalor  Zoom on Patrick J. Lalor  Those are not new licences.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  Which is fundamentally the abuse that is taking place.

Mr. J. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  A person who transferred a licence within the period of two years prior to application will not be granted a new licence.

Mr. P. Barry: Information on Peter Barry  Zoom on Peter Barry  Prior to application?

[265]Mr. J. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  Yes.

Dr. FitzGerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  If somebody gets a licence for the first time—as the Minister has described—will he be able to transfer it or not, and make money on it as happened in the past? Could the Minister answer that question straight?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  The question on the Order Paper in relation to licences is to ask the Minister for the Environment the present position in regard to the issue of new taxi licences. There is nothing else on the Order Paper regarding taxi licences. If we were to allow every question relating to taxi licences we could be here all day. I am not permitting it.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): Might I ask the Minister if there are any conditions attached to the issue of new licences, such as the condi-tion that they are non-transferable? That is the information that is sought.

Mr. J. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  Not that I am aware of.

Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: Information on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Thomas J. Fitzpatrick  (Cavan-Monaghan): Would the Minister con-sider attaching a licence condition to new licences providing that they are non-transferable, as very often happens in the case of other licences that are issued?

Mr. J. O'Leary: Information on John O'Leary  Zoom on John O'Leary  I shall discuss this with the Taxi Services Council and see if it is feasible to do so.


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