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Government consults on “robust measures” in guidance for taxi, PHV licensing

The Department for Transport is to consult on draft statutory guidance proposing a range of “robust measures” to protect taxi and private hire vehicle customers, and in particular those who are vulnerable.

The guidelines would include enhanced safety standards that will be consistent across the country. New safety measures proposed include recommending councils ensure every driver undergoes enhanced criminal record and background checks.

The consultation, which can be viewed here, runs until 22 April 2019.

In a written statement Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport Nusrat Ghani said: “The taxi and PHV trade has experienced significant and rapid changes in recent years which have brought with them benefits but have exacerbated concerns over the existing structure of the industry and the environment in which it operates.

"In particular, many of these changes have highlighted inconsistencies in the licensing standards, and in the rigour with which these standards are applied by some licensing authorities.”

In addition to the statutory guidance consultation, the government has also published its response to the report of the Chair of the Task and Finish Group.

In September last year the group published a report calling, amongst other things, on the government to legislate for national minimum standards for taxi and PHV licensing and introduce a statutory definition of both ‘plying for hire’ and ‘pre-booked’ in order to maintain the two-tier system.

In her statement Ghani said the Government would “when time allows” bring forward legislation to introduce national minimum standards, “reinforcing the consistently high standards that the statutory guidance will bring to the sector”.

She added: “To ensure that drivers are under the same level of scrutiny when operating away from their licensing area we will legislate to enable enforcement and compliance checks to be conducted by any licensing officer against any vehicle regardless of where they have been licensed. Where drivers or vehicles fail to meet the national minimum standards, they will be able to take appropriate action to protect the public.

“Underpinning these measures will be the introduction of a national licensing database to assist the sharing of relevant information between licensing authorities and other bodies necessary to ensure that all those in the trade are ‘fit and proper’ and warrant the trust that is placed in them by the public. This database will build on the work of the Local Government Association and the National Anti-Fraud Network in establishing the National Register of Revocation and Refusals.”

As part of the national minimum standards, the DfT is to consider whether vehicles should be fitted with CCTV. These encrypted systems would mean footage could only be accessed if there was a crime reported, it said.

Responding to the DfT's announcement, Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Councils have long-called for existing outdated taxi laws to be updated and strengthened so we are very pleased that so many of our recommendations have been supported in this consultation.

“Proposals to improve safeguarding, establish national minimum standards and create national enforcement powers are essential to provide safer journeys for passengers and fairer business for drivers. The need for legislative reform to taxi laws which date back to the 19th century is now urgent.”

Cllr Blackburn added: “Councils have been doing what they can to strengthen licensing processes, such as signing up to the voluntary LGA-commissioned National Register of Revocations and Refusals. We are delighted that government recognises the value in mandating our initiatives and we look forward to working with government to develop them, including the issue of cross-border restrictions.

“However, given significant funding pressures on councils, government needs to ensure that licensing authorities can recover the costs of proportionate compliance and enforcement activity linked to these recommendations and other work, from driver and operator fees.”