Ministers are failing to keep up with rapid change in the taxi industry
Labour MP Wes Streeting calls upon the Government to take ‘long overdue’ action to regulate the taxi industry.
The black Hackney carriage is one of the great icons of our capital city, the Knowledge of London produces the most qualified taxi drivers in the world, and the licensed taxi trade is a mainstay of public transport systems in towns and cities across the UK. Our challenge now is to make sure that the trade enjoys a bright future, as well as a proud history.
That’s why today a cross-party group of MPs is publishing the report of a six month inquiry into future of the UK taxi trade. The All Party Parliamentary Group for Taxis spoke to taxi drivers and their representatives, representatives of the private hire trade, tech companies, trades unions, passenger groups and regulators and have set out eleven key recommendations for government and local authorities with aim of putting fair competition and passenger safety at the heart of our taxi and private hire industry.
We were disturbed by some of the evidence we received about the extent to which the ‘patchwork quilt’ of local licensing laws and the lack of consistent safety standards across the country are putting passengers’ safety at risk. In some cases, robust licensing conditions introduced to protect local communities are being flouted by private hire drivers and operators who are using loopholes in the law to register their vehicles with local authorities that have weaker licensing conditions in order to evade more stringent conditions in the communities they work in. This practice, known as ‘cross border hiring’, is happening across the country – most alarmingly in Rotherham, where the Council introduced some of the toughest licensing laws in the country in the wake of the child sexual exploitation scandal.
In London, where the number of private hire vehicles has exploded to over 120,000, the resulting congestion is contributing to the toxic air that is causing the avoidable deaths of over 9,000 Londoners, but the Mayor of London lacks the power that Transport for London, and licensing authorities in other major cities, need to cap the number of private hire vehicles on the streets of our capital. This excess supply is also causing a significant fall in the pay and conditions of both taxi and private hire drivers, with little real benefit to passengers who are often finding themselves sat in traffic jams.
The taxi and private hire industry is undergoing rapid change. Taxi drivers are embracing new platforms like Gett and Mytaxi and accepting card payments and are committed to getting behind the wheel of the new generation of carbon-neutral electric capable taxis to play their part in improving air quality. But is clear that government and regulators aren’t keeping up.
That’s why we’re calling on ministers to introduce a clear set of minimum standards for all licensing authorities, close the loophole in the law that allows cab drivers to flout local licensing laws through ‘cross border hiring’ and give the Mayor of London the power that he needs to tackle congestion in our capital city by capping the number of private hire vehicles on our streets.
Passengers should be able to take a taxi or minicab anywhere in the country, safe in the knowledge that their driver is properly licensed, insured and trained. That’s why ministers and regulators must now take action, which is long overdue.
Wes Streeting is the Labour MP for Ilford North and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Taxis
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