Law Commission Consultation : Taxi licensing reform.

The Law Commission has published its consultation on taxi and private hire licensing. The proposals if implemented in full could lead to a radical change in the taxi business and would seriously effect many black cab owners and the value of their cabs if the restriction on the number of licenses is removed. Many cab owners have paid thousands of pounds for their plates. There value could, if there is no restriction on the number of black cabs fall dramatically. Limousines, motorcycle taxis and bicycle rickshaws could be subjected to the same safety and driver training requirements as taxis.

The Commission’s stated aim in its Taxi licensing reform is;

  • “to clarify and simplify the existing law on taxis and private hire vehicles and to promote more consistency in bottom-line safety standards across England and Wales, including better provision for disabled passengers”. Another key aim is identified as “to deregulate aspects not linked to protecting public safety in order to encourage more competitive services”.

The main changes proposed are;

  • National minimum safety standards for both taxis and private hire vehicles.
  • Changes to standard setting: additional local standards, above the national standards, would continue to apply to taxis (for example, topographical knowledge and vehicle requirements). However, for private hire vehicles, only the national standards would apply and there would be no scope for additional local standards.
  • Private hire services to able to operate on a national basis. Private hire operators would no longer be restricted to accepting only on a particular locality, nor to using drivers licensed by the same licensing authority. Sub- contracting would be allowed, as is in London.
  • London would be regulated in the same way as the rest of England and Wales.
  • Licensing authorities could no longer limit the number of taxi licences.
  • More enforcement powers for licensing officers against out of borough vehicles and drivers.
  • Disability awareness training for drivers.
  • A statutory definition of “plying for hire”
  • Allowing leisure use of taxis and private hire vehicles.
  • Bringing more vehicles within the licensing system.
  • Clearer exclusions for volunteers and other services where transport is not the main service provided, such as childminders.
  • Powers for government to issue binding statutory guidance to create greater consistency in how taxi and private hire legislation is applied.

The Law Commission estimated that the national standards would replace more than 340 sets of local regulations.

The commission considers their reforms will reduce the burden on business because once licensed a private hire firm could work freely across the country, without geographical or licensing restrictions.

Its thought if the recommendations are accepted they will be implemented by 2014.

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