The government has reduced the criminal record barriers for people wanting to work as cabbies, according to the final version of its taxi sector bill whose revision was completed by a standing committee of the Legislative Assembly (AL) Tuesday.
For instance, the bill no longer states that conviction for a terrorism-related crime is a barrier to work as a taxi driver.
Lawmaker-cum-lawyer Vong Hin Fai, who heads the legislature’s Third Standing Committee, told reporters yesterday that all the members of the committee agreed with the government’s final proposal to remove terrorism- and drug-related crimes from the various criminal convictions initially listed in the bill that bar people from working as a taxi driver.
Vong briefed the media after a closed-door meeting of his committee which finished reviewing a government-initiated bill regulating the city’s taxi sector yesterday, the outline of which was passed during a plenary session in April last year.
Vong said that the bill’s previous list of criminal record barriers for cabbies was “too heavy”, adding that members of the committee during the bill’s review underlined the importance of social rehabilitation for ex-convicts.
Since the passage of the bill’s outline, the committee had held numerous meetings to review the bill article-by-article, with some of them having been attended by government officials.
Following the completion of the review by the committee yesterday, the bill will be submitted to another plenary session for its final article-by-article vote.
The bill proposes a significant increase in the fines for various taxi violations, such as for refusing to pick up passengers and overcharging them.
In the first draft of the taxi bill, the government initially proposed that a person would be barred from working as a taxi driver if he or she has a criminal record for certain crimes such as homicide, assault, sex-related offences, terrorism-related offences and drug-related offences.
Vong said that the government submitted its revised version of the taxi sector bill to his committee last Monday.
According to the revised version of the bill, concerning this matter, the government has removed terrorism-related and drug-related crimes from the list of criminal convictions barring a person from working as a taxi driver. Instead, the government has added convictions for robbery and extortion to the list.
Vong noted that one of the major “good” changes in the bill is that the government has decided that a video recorder will have to be installed in every taxi.
In the first draft of the taxi bill, the government initially proposed that only an audio recorder would have had to be installed in every taxi. The government said that the audio recorder aimed to facilitate investigations by the authorities if arguments occur between a cabbie and his or her passenger(s).
According to the final version of the bill, taxis will have to be equipped with both audio and video equipment. Vong also said that the bill now states that a single company can have up to 300 taxi operating licences. The bill’s previous version had limited the number to 250. Vong said the number of 300 was “more reasonable”.
Macau currently has around 1,600 licensed taxis.
Future taxi licences will only be granted to companies. In the past, licences were also given to individuals.