Rules governing taxis and private hire vehicles need urgent and wholesale reform, say a cross-party group of MPs.
The problems posed by taxis and private hire vehicles (PHVs) operating outside of the district in which they are licensed – the phenomenon called 'cross-border hire' – cannot be solved without new legislation says the Commons Transport Select Committee in a report published today.
Launching the report, committee Chair Louise Ellman said,
"The rules for taxis date back to 1847 and still refer to horse-drawn carriages. The rules for PHVs were set down in 1976 and are now out-of-date due to the growth of mobile phones and the internet. The age of this legislation and the complexity of case law accumulated in this area makes the need to overhaul the law on these matters irresistible.
The Government wants to refer the matter to the Law Commission. We believe a more effective approach would be for the Government to work with the trade, local authorities and user groups to develop and bring forward new legislation within the lifetime of this parliament."
The following principles should underpin new legislation, says the committee:
- Listen to the views of users: particularly vulnerable groups such as the disabled who rely on taxis and PHVs.
- Keep it simple: Combine the legislation on taxis and PHVs in one Act. The distinction between taxi and PHV services could be maintained by providing for two types of vehicle licence under the same legislation.
- Keep it local: Licensing should remain a local function. Taxis and PHVs should however feature more prominently in local transport plans and Government should issue guidance to local authorities about how to ensure they do.
- Permit tighter restrictions on cross border hire: Make it possible for licensing authorities to impose a condition that requires private hire vehicles and drivers to operate principally from within their licensing district. Permit local authorities to issue fixed penalty notices to out-of-town drivers found to have worked/sought work for a specified period of time within a district where they do not hold a licence. Likewise, with due warning, make it easier for authorities to prosecute operators sending vehicles to work in areas for which they hold no licence.
- Increase the potential for local authorities to work together to create larger licensing districts.
- Develop national licensing standards on certain issues which relate to public safety, notably for CRB checks, the road-worthiness of vehicles, and the ability of drivers whose licenses have been revoked by one authority to seek a new license in a different area.