Taxis and private hire vehicles: the road to reform - Transport Committee Contents


Written evidence from the National Association of Licensing & Enforcement Officers (NALEO) (TPH 34)

1.    The National Association of Licensing and Enforcement Officers is made up of persons who are employed in positions relating to the enforcement of legislation designed to protect the local population from unfair/unacceptable business practices and criminal offences. The original core was developed around Taxi & Private Hire Licensing & Enforcement and the Association (originally NATPHLEO) has now progressed into an "all licensing", 550+ membership base which currently includes licensing officers in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Eire and the Channel Isles. This submission is made on behalf of those members and indicates those matters which currently give rise to concerns amongst members.

2.    NALEO is aware that the Committee is concerned about vehicles licensed in one area being used in another licensing district. There are three separate scenarios to this situation.

  (a)  Firstly there is an illegal plying for hire and a concurrent "No Insurance" offence when a vehicle, licensed in another area or wholly unlicensed acts as a hackney carriage in another district by standing or plying for hire in a street.

  (b)  Secondly there is the situation whereby a licensed Private Hire Operator in area A despatches vehicles and drivers also licensed by area A to undertake or complete journeys within a neighbouring district B.

  (c)  Thirdly there is the "Berwick" or "Stockton" situation where Council A licenses a vehicle to "stand or ply within its' district" and the vehicle is then used as a private hire vehicle wholly within a remote district B and as the Stockton case decided without the local regulators being able to effectively protect the public by checking the fitness of the vehicles and drivers.

3.    In relation to scenario (a) NALEO suggests that licensing officers should be considered for "accredited person" status and the ability to issue fixed penalty notices for the "No Insurance" offence in the same way that police officers now can. The plying/standing for hire should remain a strict liability offence and should also be considered for the introduction of a fixed penalty option in lieu of full prosecution.

4.    In relation to scenario (b), on Merseyside, four of the five areas have jointly authorised each other's officers as agents of the neighbouring areas. We all examine each other's vehicles on occasion and if found unfit have the ability to suspend the vehicle licence to protect the public. This has worked well in practice over many years and has now been taken up in many other areas as well. Some members do not believe that these bookings should be legally allowed but there parent authorities have not prosecuted due to the perceived effect of s75 (1)(a) of the Act of 1976. NALEO recommends that, regardless of any other consideration that, in common with a Police Officer, a Licensing Officer's functions should extend to any vehicle licensed by another authority as they already do to an unlicensed vehicle/driver.

5.    In relation to scenario (c) members cannot accept that a vehicle licensed, ostensibly to ply for hire in Stockton for example should, without risk of inspection, be able to be wholly used in South Cambridgeshire as a private hire vehicle outside the control of South Cambridgeshire Council. The same S75(1)(a) of the 1976 Act states "Nothing in this part of this Act shall apply…. If a vehicle is not made available for hire within the district". These vehicles are made available for hire. Therefore NALEO again recommends that any legislative change should remedy the effects of the decision in the Stockton case that "Home Authority" officers have no power to inspect these vehicles.

6.    NALEO's recommendation is, arising from paragraphs 2-5, that legislative change is required urgently but that the solution to the three problems may not necessarily be the same and that all three scenarios need to be effectively considered in any new enactment.

7.    The Town Police Clauses Acts 1847-1889 and the Local Government (Misc Provisions) Act of 1976 are in many places contradictory and NALEO's remaining submissions are designed to highlight areas of concern which are in addition to the concerns outlined above and which, in our view, are no less worthy of legislative change.

8.    Within this legislation there are currently five types of licence. There are many restrictions and procedural differences which do not appear to have a valid cause or raison d'etre and which are in NALEO's view long overdue for change. Some of these are outlined below.

9.    A Hackney Carriage Proprietor, a Private Hire Driver, Proprietor and Operator can all have conditions imposed on the issue of their licences which require them to inform the Licensing Authority should they be convicted of offences, move address, or becomes medically unfit whilst licensed. A Hackney Carriage Driver cannot have such a condition imposed because he/she is only governable by Byelaws [Wathan v Neath & Port Talbot BC]. NALEO recommends that this unsafe situation merits consideration of removing condition and Byelaw making powers, replacing all with nationally consulted upon regulations made under Statutory Instrument.

10.  Almost all Taxi/Private Hire Licensing Authorities require an enhanced CRB Disclosure for drivers as these Authorities believe that no driver can know when his/her next fare will be a vulnerable adult or vulnerable child. Councillors have determined that this is the best way to safeguard such local constituents. Should an applicant have relevant matters disclosed then there are processes in place to ensure hearings compliant with natural justice take place but any Authority expected to protect the public needs all the information in front of it so as to ensure a fair decision for all. NALEO recommends that the Transport Committee requests Parliament to enshrine this view within any legislative changes.

11.  NALEO has for a number of years worked constructively with many Trade Unions and Associations via the Meeting of Minds Discussion Group in an effort to make suggestions for minor changes in the definitions section of the 1976 Act which would remove some of the more obvious conflicts between the Acts of 1847-1889 and the 1976 Act. The product of these discussions has been shared with the Buses and Taxis Division of the DfT. NALEO recommends that the Committee direct the DfT to produce the document to the Committee with the aim of better understanding the "ground level" concerns of those working within the Hackney & Private Hire trades and within the Licensing & Enforcement functions alike.

12.  One of the most obvious inconsistencies is that a radio system taking bookings for licensed private hire vehicles needs a Private Hire Operator's Licence under Section 55 of the 1976 Act. That licence requires that booking records are kept and made available to Police Officers and Licensing Authority Officers alike. A similar radio system only using hackney carriages does not need an Operator's licence. NALEO recommends that any legislative change addresses this matter positively.

13.  NALEO accepts the fact that Police forces countrywide are under financial pressure and that very few forces have a large traffic section capable of routinely inspecting the increasing numbers of licensed vehicles and drivers. The fitness of vehicles in particular is now effectively down to overstretched licensing sections. NALEO recommends that consideration should be given to the full range of construction & use penalty tickets being made available to suitably trained and accredited officers. Many Authorities prosecute for tyre offences but have to do so via the courts at higher costs to the defendant and greater "off district" time for the Authorities.

NALEO as an Association is committed to partnership working with its' client group and their representatives. The views expressed in this submission are intended to facilitate consultation and effective resolution of many long-standing inconsistencies within this area of legislation rather than to impose any one perspective or viewpoint.

December 2010



 
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Prepared 19 July 2011