Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Local Government Association Briefing

Westminster Hall debate: Private Hire Vehicles Regulation Reform
29 April 2014


  •   Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs) form an essential part of the transport network, particularly for older or disabled people who rely on taxis and PHVs as their main form of transport. It is therefore vital that regulation of taxis and PHVs continues to ensure that the drivers and vehicles to deliver this service are thoroughly checked to provide the best possible protection and care for passengers.

  •   The Government used the Deregulation Bill Committee Stage to bring forward new clauses on taxi and PHV regulation in advance of the publication of the Law Commission’s in-depth review of Taxi and PHV legislation. Doing so pre-empts the outcome of this more detailed review of all related legislation. As set out in our recent Rewiring Licensing1 proposals, the LGA believes that changes to regulations should be considered in the context of the legislation as a whole, rather than in piecemeal fashion.

  •   We are disappointed that the LGA was not made aware of these proposed clauses until they were brought before the Deregulation Bill Committee. The failure to discuss these proposals with councils in advance of the Parliamentary process significantly reduces the opportunity for councils to provide constructive input on the feasibility of the proposals and their potential impact.

  •   The three new Clauses introduced to the Deregulation Bill by the Government are detailed below along with the LGA’s position.


  •   We understand the rationale behind this proposal, which seeks to balance professional and reasonable personal usage of a car by PHV drivers and their families. However, we believe that it goes too far and undermines the fact that drivers of PHVs are in a responsible and privileged position and users of these vehicles therefore need to be assured that drivers are thoroughly checked. The LGA therefore believes that this clause is fundamentally flawed as drafted and should be withdrawn.

  •   The clause as it stands permits anyone to drive the licensed vehicle. Should anyone be able to drive a PHV, it would therefore be impossible to be assured that the person driving a vehicle is in fact the person who has been through the proper vetting process for licensed drivers.

  •   The reverse burden of proof in the Clause does not provide the necessary protection and assurances for passengers, as it relies on the vehicle being stopped once the passengers are in it. Unfortunately, licensing officers do not have the power to stop moving vehicles, meaning the opportunity for intervention is limited only to when the passenger is embarking or disembarking. We understand that the Law Commission work may contain a proposal to remedy this, but in the present circumstances councils' ability to maintain safety is seriously undermined if this clause were introduced as drafted.

      In principle, we believe the nomination to the council of a specific family member as alternate driver would achieve a more appropriate balance between the greater flexibility for families that the new clause aims to achieve with the need to reduce risk and provide assurances for passengers.

      If this clause is amended, it will need to consider a number of important areas of risk. For instance, the investigation and enforcement of traffic offences will be complicated as licensed drivers could claim that their nominated driver was responsible, thereby avoiding a review of their licence to operate as a PHV.

      Similarly, vehicles are clearly marked as licensed vehicles and, in many areas, it is not possible to remove these markings to distinguish between times when the vehicle is actively available for hire and when it is not. There is therefore a great risk that people will enter the marked vehicle in the belief that the driver has been through the proper vetting process for licensed drivers. This could be addressed through a strengthened enforcement system, but only limited action could be taken with the present system.

      Separately, insurance companies have advised us that many vehicles will not be covered for additional drivers, or for driving outside limited geographical areas, and that the costs may outweigh the benefits for many PHV drivers.


      We support this proposal as drafted, as it is consistent with existing legislation and in line with the principles of a ‘licence for life’ set out in the LGA’s Rewiring Licensing.

      It is important that councils are able to retain valid checks on drivers. The reformed Disclosure and Barring Scheme (DBS) now offers the opportunity for councils to be alerted to new convictions when they occur, but only if the individual driver voluntarily signs up to that service. If the driver does not sign up to that additional service, then it may be appropriate to retain more frequent licence renewals to ensure that drivers do not persist in driving after they have been convicted of a relevant offence.

      Although courts should already notify councils about any convictions affecting licences, many local courts have failed to ensure this notification system is effectively implemented. We urge government to work with local courts to ensure that this important check is properly implemented


    The LGA opposes this clause on the grounds that the necessary measures to protect the public are not in place. A member of the public may place a booking with a PHV firm for many reasons, including a positive previous experience or familiarity with a local firm. Sub-contracting across licensing areas would mean that the passenger would have no idea of the quality or, in some cases, the name of the company that arrive to deliver the service.

      There are also questions about who would retain responsibility in the event that the sub-contractor was unable to deliver the contract (for instance, in the event of a breakdown or puncture), as well as consumer protection issues surrounding the question of how a passenger can identify and complain to the correct licensing authority, which could be on the other side of the country. This is a serious concern, as the legislation currently limits enforcement to a designated officer of the licensing authority, leaving enforcement officers from other councils powerless to intervene even where a journey takes place in a different local area.

      The above issues are further complicated by the failure of the clause to specify the number of times that sub-contracting could take place. In theory, the booking could be passed on 5 or 6 times, leaving the passenger with virtually no understanding of who was providing the service, or how to trace the correct route for redress or complaint if something goes wrong.

      We understand that the Law Commission proposals for reform may address this issue, enabling this clause to be brought forward again as part of any wider necessary reform. We strongly believe that work on cross-border sub-contracting should wait until the Law Commission has reported. 

Monday, 28 April 2014


Clerk of the Transport Committee, ​​​By Email then post
House of Commons,
7 Millbank,
London ​
20th December 2010
Dear Sir or Madam,
The LPHCA is delighted that The Transport Committee is to hold an inquiry into issues relating to the licensing of Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles.
1. Background -  The LPHCA & Steve Wright MBE
i. The Licensed Private Hire Car Association (LPHCA) was established in 1989 with a specific mandate to get Private Hire Vehicles (Minicabs and Chauffeurs) licensed in London.  We independently vet and visit 160 Private Hire Operator Members annually, who engage by agency or directly employ 15,000 drivers, using a similar number of vehicles.
ii. The LPHCA’s successful campaign alongside Diana Lamplugh OBE of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, led to Sir George Young’s Private Members Bill becoming the Private Hire Vehicles (London) 1998 Act (98 Act).
iii. Steve Wright gave evidence to the Transport Select Committee in 1994 and worked closely with Sir George Young and Minister Glenda Jackson CBE on the structure and implementation of the 98 Act.  Since Royal Ascent of the Act, work has continued with the Department for Transport (DfT), Transport for London (TfL), the Greater London Authority (GLA), the Home Office, the Police, the Mayor of London, many Transport Ministers, their key staff and officials, as well as Local Authorities and their Enforcement Officer’s Organisations.
iv. The LPHCA has responded to most DfT, TfL, GLA, Industry and Government consultations / inquiries in the last 20 years and gave input on the ‘Regulation of Licensed Taxi and PHV Services in the UK Market Study’ (November 2003) by the ‘Office of Fair Trading’ (OFT).
v. Steve Wright has also served on GoSkills Stakeholder Boards or their Industry Groups since inception giving advice on standards and industry qualifications and he is now the London Mayor’s representative on the Transport for London Board covering Private Hire.
2. Cross-Border Hire problems?
i. The LPHCA notes the terms of reference of the inquiry and in particular ‘cross-border hire problems caused by private hire vehicles picking up passengers on a large scale outside of the area in which they are licensed’.
ii. In our view the so called ‘problems’ are a symptom of the regulation and chaos that emanates from inconsistent, outdated, protectionist interests and poor enforcement, that is ‘no longer fit for purpose’ in modern times in much of the country.
iii. Much Taxi & Private Hire regulation, its management and enforcement, particularly outside of London is poor.  In London the Taxi (Hackney Carriage) regulations have stood the test of time to deliver the highest standard of ‘Flag Down or Hailed Taxis’ in the world.
iv. More recently the 1998 London Act has delivered a phenomenal increase in standards and regulated service for Private Hire in the capital, with modern fleets of vehicles driven by a diverse ethnicity of drivers, reflecting London’s ‘multi-cultural society’.
v. There is currently a TfL London Private Hire Consultation running and when it concludes it will hopefully add to the benefits that the 98 Act has delivered to date.
vi. Current regulations do not embrace the massive changes brought about by technological progress.  The Internet for example does not support ‘invisible borders’, ‘barriers to fair trade’ and ‘restrictive practices’, just the opposite it actually provides liberation of choice, logistical efficiencies and far better access to providers bringing better supply for the travelling public.
3. Inconsistency
i. A primary cause of ‘problems’ in Taxi & Private Hire is the inconsistency applied via regulations and enforcement across the country.
ii. Devolving powers ‘locally’ has caused inconsistent regulations and unnecessary bureaucracy that has often proven to be flawed and there has been a ‘lack of government interest in changes’.
iii. Whilst there has been ‘DfT Best Practice Guidance’, the lack of mandatory ‘Hard and Fast’ rules and regulations nationally, has spawned inconsistent standards, which we believe has in some cases ‘undermined the safety of the travelling public’.
iv. The inconsistency of regulations has led to the courts needing to interpret the intention of regulations, some of which senior judges implied have little or no logic.  This has impacted negatively on the industry at great cost and stress, with all manner of rulings, decisions and uncertainty the outcome.
4. Outdated
i. Many local rules and regulations are in fact draconian and ‘out of kilter’ with modern day requirements for service provision, competition, safety and environmental considerations.
ii. London has shown that a larger body or Metropolitan Authority (like the GLA via TfL) is far better placed to regulate Taxi & Private Hire, than smaller Local Authorities whose other policies can sometimes get in the way of appropriate modern regulations and requirements.
iii. The 2003 OFT ‘UK Market Study’ scratched at the surface of such problems without providing any tangible outcomes and actions going forward.
5. Protectionist interests
i. It is complete irony that the Transport Committee in particular is interested in ‘cross-border hire problems caused by private hire vehicles picking up passengers on a large scale outside of the area in which they are licensed’.
ii. In London, Sir George Young and Minister Glenda Jackson rejected bringing into place outdated practices like ‘invisible borders / territorial domains’ etc., as was being advocated by ‘Commercially Self Interested’ parties (including some elements of the Licensed Taxi Trade) prior to the 98 Act.  They also recognized that one Metropolitan Authority rather than around 35 Local Authorities would be best placed to avoid the ‘cross border parochial licensing practices’ that went on outside London.
iii. In particular the ‘no sub-contracting clauses’ of some previous Acts were removed from the early ‘Draft Regulations’ of the 98 Act after lobbying by the LPHCA and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, who exposed the flaws in safety and service provision, that such outdated protectionism gave.
iv. In a modern Britain there should be no ‘invisible borders’ or ‘barriers to free trade’, as protectionism and outdated thinking belongs to yesterday.   In London for environmental and safety reasons ‘Licensed Operators’ in Private Hire are not constrained by ‘quotas and artificial operating borders’, etc., and rightly can pick up and drop anywhere with a previously made booking.
v. The ‘horse and carriages’ world is long gone and we now have ‘modern technological capabilities’ that ensures that the nearest vehicle can and should be provided when possible for service, safety and environmental considerations.  The ‘not on my patch’ regulations should be overhauled and ideally scrapped as soon as possible.
vi. The system where licenses and the right to operate are still traded for cash via ‘plate sales’ is an outdated, archaic practice.  Taxi & Private Hire regulations are in the main at least 40 years out of date, except in London, where Licensed Private Hire has a modern, much more ‘fit for purpose’ set of regulations with the older Taxi regulations still working.
6. Enforcement
i. The inconsistency of regulations, leads to poor supply, which in turn compromises safety. This is compounded by inconsistency of enforcement, which alongside poor supply enables serious illegal activity and crime to prevail.
ii. Charlotte Atkins (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport) in 2003 said:
“We will crack down on touts who threaten the entire industry nationwide.  All police forces - and not just the Met in London – are encouraged to focus on the problem to give it the priority it deserves”.
iii. Sadly ‘Illegal activity’ has grown since this statement was made and lack of enforcement, particularly outside London (where the multiplicity of rules and out of date regulations exist) has meant that demand is sometimes not being met.  This we believe has created the opportunities for illegal activity to prevail and grow.
7. CRB & Medical Requirements
i. The LPHCA has for a long time had concerns with the Criminal Record Checking process and we have reported to the ‘Criminal Records Bureau, Vetting & Barring, Protection of Vulnerable Adults and the Protection of Children Act in relation to Private Hire Vehicles Inquiry’ currently being undertaken by the Home Office.
ii. The LPHCA has similarly had issues with the medical requirements under ‘DVLA Group 2’ where perfectly appropriate drivers have been lost to the trade, whilst older drivers with the same minor medical issues work with exemptions in the form of ‘grandfather rights’.
iii. Some DVLA Group 2 issues have been resolved (diabetics) but others remain (like monocular vision and treated epilepsy) and it would be good for the Transport Committee to review the appropriateness of the standards for Taxis and PHV drivers.
8. The Need for change
i. Taxi and Private Hire regulations outside London are in many cases not ‘fit for purpose’, and certainly not applicable for today’s needs.  This applies technologically, environmentally and in the best interests of the travelling public, not least for reasons of safety and service provision.
ii. Much of the regulation was written before the mobile phone, satellite tracking, the PC and the Internet were invented.  It is time government stopped ignoring the need for change by saying that ‘Licensing is a matter for Local Authorities’.  The public deserve better in the 21st Century.
Summary Overleaf
The LPHCA has outlined here some of the reasons why The Transport Committee must look at the issues relating to the licensing of Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles.
Unfortunately the timing of the review alongside the Home Office CRB review, a Major Industry Consultation in London by TfL and other live consultations has made this a rather condensed response.
LPHCA Members based outside London all seek radical changes in regulations that are ‘fit for purpose’ in today’s world.  The Institute for Licensing, the National Association of Licensing and Enforcement Officers are amongst many who have also called for changes.
As Chairman of the LPHCA I would be delighted to brief Transport Committee Members individually or collectively and I would be honoured to once again be called to give evidence to assist your efforts and understanding of our industry, the regulatory problems and issues.
Yours sincerely

Steve Wright MBE
Chairman LPHCA

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