Written evidence from Christopher
R Wildman (TPH 51)|
1. Legislation covering Taxis and Private Hire
(PH) vehicles is very out of date. The underpinning legislation
is contained the Act of 1847.
2. Key areas have been covered in successive
updating and, whilst this has resulted in multiple subsequent
Legislation, Statutory Instruments and Court Decisions, the result
is far from satisfactory. Within the circa 300 pieces of Legislation
there is much that is ambiguous. This leads to a reliance on Court
Cases. It may be that the time has come to sweep all away and
introduce new primary legislation to regulate the two, and possibly
four trades that now co-exist.
3. The key areas that the 1847 Act could not
have covered, nor indeed foreseen are;
Internal Combustion engine.
Radio Transceiver (short Range).
Whilst the list above is not exhaustive, it can easily
be seen that an Act of Parliament, written in the age of the "Horse"
and prior to "Made Up" roads becoming the norm, is simply
out of touch with England and Wales in the 21st Century.
4. As well as the nuts and bolts of the trade,
there has also been a major change of the demographic of the Taxi
or PH user. In the 19th and 20th Centuries, until the 1970's the
Taxi and PH travelling public were most likely to be from the
more affluent stratum of society. No doubt some use was made of
the services by the lower orders, but this was only on a very
occasional basis. In the world of today, the demographic has totally
reversed. The passenger is far more likely to come from the General
Population, indeed the richer members of society are now the occasional
5. As society has changed, either by steady evolution
or by sudden change brought about by legislation, the Taxi and
PH trades have evolved and when necessary changed to accommodate
the situation. Whatever is done at this juncture this forward
progression will not stop.
6. The primary reason for the Transport Committee
requesting input is in regard to "Cross Border" hiring.
I would suggest that this, whilst a problem, is far from the most
important area that needs clarification and remedy. Cross Border
Hiring has come about because Parliament has delegated Licensing
of the two trades to Local Authorities (LA). This has had the
effect of pitting area against area. If one LA allows different
vehicles from the nearby neighbouring areas, and if as a result
Tariffs are cheaper, or vehicles of a better quality or design
are available, then cross border hiring will happen. In the free
market economy, in which we rightly pride ourselves, large operators
of Taxi and PH fleets will aggressively advertise. The independent
operators and drivers service a relatively small client base and
tend to remain within their LA areas (though obviously longer
journeys are undertaken on an opportunity basis).
7. The most important reasons for legislative
reform should be;
national standard for Taxis (combined with requirements of the
National standard for PH vehicles.
and b should be covered by a National body, e.g. VOSA.
Authorities must retain the responsibility for drivers' standards
(training, testing, driving and criminality checks).
and enforcement should remain the domain of LA's.
fees should be determined nationally.
to enable the LA licensing function should be paid from the central
fund accrued from d. above.
numbers of both trades should be sensibly controlled, whilst rural
areas are underprovided for with Taxi and PH services, suburban
and urban areas often end up massively overprovided.
not subjecting the passengers to any risk, the checking of drivers
for criminal histories needs to be rationalized.
whole of England and Wales must be covered by all future legislation
(Plymouth with the 1975 Act in force, is currently not covered
by the important adjustments made to the 1976 Act). This should
also include London, though perhaps instead of direct LA supervision,
consideration is given to retaining the Public Carriage Office
which should then assume all the functions normally delegated
must be given to increasing the weight of the "guidelines"
as produced by the Department for Transport.
road transport, such as long distance transfer vehicles (Airport/Port
transfer), legitimate long term Chauffeur contracts, novelty vehicles
(stretched limos', converted fire engines etc.), full time wedding
and funeral vehicles all need a proper rationale within prospective
cars - Hotels, Pubs, Clubs and Car Hire Firms amongst others are
not currently properly legislated for.
Hospital Patient services are not voluntary, money is paid whilst
carrying passengers and even when empty - sometimes this is costing
far more than a Taxi or PH.
and PH are used for transporting the disabled, the Aged and schoolchildren
on LA contracts. Sometimes an LA will refuse to use local Taxi
and PH provision because of burdens placed on conditions of license
of the same LA's licensing department. This needs to be adjusted.
made to vehicle license conditions at the local level can and
do force the early redundancy of vehicles. Properly maintained
vehicles should be allowed to remain in force for longer.
Drivers are governed by bylaws, PH drivers by conditions. As conditions
can be changed, virtually on a whim, PH drivers should be moved
to governance by bylaw.
"public transport", Taxis in all areas should have free
access to all transport hubs, Airports, Ports, Bus Stations and
Railway Stations. Only local licensed Taxis should be able to
ply for hire at these venues.
8. The imminent imposition of Wheelchair Accessible
Vehicles (WAV) provision levels as a result of the Equality Act,
whilst laudable, is going to cause real problems in rural areas.
There is every chance that the current under provision will actually
be exacerbated, it may be that the conditions imposed prevent
new applications to become Taxi drivers. Why would a new entrant
to the trade in these areas want a vehicle that by its very design
is expensive to buy, to run and to maintain? Indeed new entrants
may find the costs incurred to be so prohibitive that they do
not stay in the trade at all. In fairly short order this could
lead to a dearth of experience in some LA areas. On the other
hand, 100% provision in suburban and urban areas is not unreasonable.
The disabled in most rural areas would be able to access WAV services
by telephoning the nearest "Town" operator.
9. The biggest problem caused by cross border
hiring is the inability of the LA issuing licenses to properly
supervise the condition of vehicles. This is compounded by the
inability of the LA in which the hiring occurs to have any procedure
to check "visiting" Taxi or PH vehicles or drivers.
A National "Standard" is therefore required to address
these issues. Perhaps the DfT should come up with regulations
for the vehicles and should then be responsible for all vehicle
checks, mandatory at set periods and, perhaps more importantly
at random times, including "spotchecks" and these could
be delegated to LA enforcement Officers.
10. The actual licensing of vehicles and drivers
are a Local and not a National requirement and should definitely
11. The requirements of LA's for vehicles vary enormously.
Some require an MoT exemption certificate, some only require an
MoT to license a vehicle for example. In some areas a Taxi or
PH vehicle, being under three years old requires no test at all.
The exemption certificate is generally a far stricter test of
a vehicle, proprietors need to present a far higher quality of
vehicle maintenance to achieve "fitness". But even with
this level of test, standards vary, not only between LA areas
but also within the area itself at different testing stations.
12. Taxi and PH drivers also need to be regulated.
It is a fact that occasionally a driver misbehaves, sometimes
with violence or sexual intent. Plainly this is not acceptable
and barriers to those with existing histories must be firm. Currently
whilst the LA is aware of any past convictions, the Licensing
Panel is able to disregard these and licence individuals if they
think fit. That is not as great a concern as it may first appear,
people do change and so LA Licensing Committees should retain
this power. Drivers that do "misbehave" are subjected
to the LAs' "Quasi Judicial" Licensing Committee. The
options open to these Councillors is very limited. They can revoke
permission to drive, they may suspend, and they may refuse to
renew a license. These powers can be seen as punishments, if a
driver is suspended for a set period of time for example, should
the public at large consider that the driver is "not fit
and proper" only for that period? The powers of these committees
should be considered, the suspension should be clearly seen as
a punishment. Perhaps it should be considered levying a fine in
preference to suspension. Monies from fines should then be used
to support the regulation of the trades. In the event that further
evidence came to light on an offence that reduced the severity
or proved innocence, fines could be returned or reduced. The checks
on histories of drivers are also a problem. Some LA licensing
departments get a CRB, then a different department in the same
authority may want an enhanced CRB. If this turns up something
that should preclude someone from being in the trade, one department
can't inform the other. Therefore a standard level of check should
cover all members of the trade, this should obviously be at the
highest levels of investigation. In any case of doubt the Licensing
Panel should decide if an applicant is "fit and proper".
One CRB should cover all aspects of being a Taxi driver and the
ridiculous position of multiple CRB checks should be stopped.
13. Despite the move by the Office of Fair Trading
to restrict the numbers of Taxis it should not be seen as necessarily
detrimental to correct provision. The problems suffered in Eire
are good indication of what happens when Taxi provision is no
longer numerically restricted. In the urban and suburban areas,
the over provision of Taxis (and PH) leads to generally lower
vehicle standards. Forcing the introduction of WAV vehicles into
rural areas will not greatly assist the disabled but may actually
cause less general Taxi provision. Areas restricting numbers currently
require a survey to be undertaken at three year intervals. This
at face value is a good idea, but it would be far more sensible
at five year intervals and the survey should be an integral part
of the Local Transport Plan. Taxi provision must become part of
the quinquennial transport review and must be properly seen as
important as busses in the public transport setup. Whilst they
are not "public transport", it is equally important
to include PH in these plans. This would allow proprietors to
plan and finance new vehicles in a steady or at least known prospective
14. In the Road Safety Act 2006 provision was made
to protect the public from potentially dangerous Taxi and PH drivers.
Section 52 very sensibly gave the power to LA's to immediately
suspend suspect drivers. Unfortunately the travelling public in
Plymouth are uniquely not offered this protection as the Act only
amended the 1976 Miscellaneous Provisions Act, Plymouth alone
has the City of Plymouth Act 1975. This anomaly should be addressed
with alacrity. Abuse of the power conferred by Section 52 has
occurred, this too needs to be prevented. The power must never
be allowed to be used as a punishment. Further this power must
be retained by the Licensing Committee and it must not be delegated
to Council Officers. A right of appeal to Magistrates must be
available, even if the driver remains suspended until the appeal
is heard. Any new legislation must cover the entire Nation, if
the Capital is to continue to be seen as a special and separate
area, London legislation should closely follow the National position.
15. It is accepted that Hearses, Funeral, and Wedding
Cars are different from Taxi and PH operations, whilst safety
checks are required, the need to licence these vehicles is not
required as long as they are not used for any other purposes.
16. Novelty vehicles, including stretched limousines,
should be licensed as private hire vehicles with all that licensing
17. Long distance "transfer" vehicles,
often providing services to and from Ports, Airports and the like,
must be licensed.
18. Currently whilst Hackney drivers find themselves
governed by bylaws, PH drivers are ruled by conditions. It would
be better if PH drivers too were brought under bylaws. This would
give Courts the power to impose sanctions if a bylaw was broken.
It would also protect PH drivers from being subjected to sudden
changes of conditions.
19. In the Disabled Discrimination Act 1995, it was
envisaged that all transport hubs would allow free and open access.
This was never enacted and the Equality Act of 2010 does not have
such a provision. As legitimate public transport, Taxis should
have this free access. PH also, when booked, should be allowed
to collect or deposit their customers at these venues.
20. Currently the situation exists that no LA
are required to provide Hackney Ranks. In both number regulated
and unregulated areas there is generally an under-provision of
ranks. Consideration should be given to provision for rank space
for at least 40% of the locally licensed Taxis. These ranks should
be sited in positions that are amenable to the trade and the travelling
21. In the days of the horse, journeys were sensibly
limited to 12 miles in large conurbations such as London. Smaller
Cities and Towns found it more practical to limit journeys to
the boundaries of the LA area. This was not a consideration for
the "Cabby" but for the horse. The internal combustion
engine does not require this facilitation. Requests for destinations
by passengers should be entertained at meter rates of a larger
maximum, even if this involves leaving the LA jurisdiction. It
may however need to be charged at a slightly higher rate to cover
the fact that a return journey is required before further work
can be undertaken. It would not be onerous to have metered journey's
that exceed a set distance (50 Miles) to charge at a higher per
mile rate thereafter.
22. Illegal plying for hire is often undertaken by
private hire drivers, either by they themselves "calling
in a job" or encouraging the prospective passenger to do
so via mobile phone. This could be partly prevented by a strict
imposition of a minimum call in period (perhaps five minutes)
before the job can be undertaken. Acceptance of the job could
be instantaneous to enable the PH vehicle to be dispatched to
the collection point, picking up of the passenger could not take
place until the booking office passes confirmation that the call
in period has expired.
23. It is for LA's to apply local tariffs but one
LA area at least, Taxi Meters are not compulsory. Legislation
should be considered to make meters compulsory. Consideration
should be given to making these meters Calendar controlled (to
facilitate bank holiday increases, night tariffs etc) and possibly
in the longer term to print receipts.
24. Along with booking details, radio transmissions
should be retained by PH operators to confirm bookings. Computer
technology makes this possible and is not onerous or costly.
25. Along with booking details, datahead transmissions
should be retained by PH operators to confirm bookings. Computer
technology makes this possible and is not onerous or costly.
26. Satellite navigation is a useful tool for any
Taxi or PH driver. It could also be useful for tracking the correct
use of trade vehicles. Routes can now be checked by passengers
or the Authorities. Satellite navigation is not however, a substitute
for genuine "knowledge" and to this end a full topographical
test remains a vital (if not the most vital) part of any qualification
for entry to the trade.
27. As legitimate public transport, Taxi's (and possibly
PH though not public transport) should have access to all "Bus
Lanes" irrespective of area. Anyone caught licensing a vehicle
for strictly personal use, to gain access to bus lanes should
face an immediate and mandatory driving ban. Private hire operators
facilitating this abuse should be fined and operator's licences
should be revoked.
28. Police should be reminded that "Bilking"
is a criminal and an arrestable offence. Perhaps this could be
reinforced in any prospective legislation.
29. The provision of, and the funding for, CCTV in
Taxis and PH vehicles varies from one area to another. As a result
of the high number of murdered Taxi and PH drivers, imposition
of these systems must be considered at the National level. It
should be remembered that the systems can and do protect the travelling
public as well as the drivers.