Taxi deregulation decision 'seemed unreasonable'
Saturday, January 13, 2001 - Irish Times
The decision to deregulate the taxi industry seemed unreasonable to many people, a former chairman of the Fair Trades Commission has told the High Court.
Mr Myles O'Reilly, a competition law consultant and former FTC chairman, told Mr Justice Carney there seemed to have been no basis for the deregulation decision taken by the Minister of State for the Environment and Local Government, Mr Robert Molloy.
Giving evidence on behalf of members of the National Taxi Drivers' Union, who are challenging the decision to deregulate the taxi industry, Mr O'Reilly said he was not saying the Minister had no right to make the decision but there did not seem to have been any logical basis for it. The Minister did not appear to have had any advice or report before him.
If Mr Molloy had looked at the situation in other countries where deregulation had been tried, he would have found that it had not been the panacea for the problem, Mr O'Reilly said.
He accepted there had been great pressure on the Minister to act following a High Court decision last October which had rejected another licensing scheme introduced a year ago.
As an alternative to deregulation, Mr Molloy could have introduced legislation to allow him to set a maximum number of licences or he could have said that 1,000 more taxi licences would be issued. An impartial and scientific survey would also be required to measure the need for more licences.
Mr Thomas Gorman, general secretary of the NTDU, claimed they had agreed to be bound by recommendations of the Dublin Taxi Forum set up by the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, in 1997 which recommended a four-year plan to increase the number of taxis in the Dublin area.
Between 1978 and 1990, no licences were issued in Dublin because it was the consensus of the taxi profession that there was no need for new licences and there were sufficient taxis if utilised properly, Mr Gorman said. If there was a two-driver operation, each taxi was capable of a 24-hour service, he added. The profession accepted there were problems on Friday and Saturday nights and had written to the authorities in 1993/94 recommending an increase in public transport.
Mr John Weafer, a principal officer with the Department of the Environment, has told the court in an affidavit the 1997 forum was established to "address" recommendations. He was surprised the taxi drivers were contending they were advised that, in some sense, the recommendations of that report were binding.
The hearing continues on Monday.