2 Principles to underpin new legislation|
16. In this chapter we set out the three broad principles
which we think should underpin new legislation on taxis and PHVs.
Listen to users
17. We were struck during our inquiry by how difficult
it is to find out what users of taxis and PHVs want from these
services or whether they have been inconvenienced by the cross-border
issues raised by some witnesses. We received little evidence from
the consumer perspective. Although the National Association of
Taxi Users (NATU) gave oral evidence, and argued that users were
"confused" by the distinction between taxis and PHVs,
it is a new organisation which has yet to build up a substantial
18. The absence of a consumer voice in the debate
about taxi and PHV legislation puts an additional onus on the
Government to ensure that users' interests are reflected in decisions
about reform. We recommend that, in developing proposals for
changing the legislation applying to taxis and PHVs, the Government
should commission authoritative research into consumers' opinions.
Particular attention should be paid to the views of vulnerable
groups, such as disabled people, who are often most reliant on
taxis and PHVs.
Keep it simple
19. Various views were expressed about whether or
not it was still sensible to maintain separate legal regimes for
taxis and PHVs. In
our view, there remains a clear distinction between the two types
of service but we see little reason for them to be the subject
of separate Acts, particularly given that many firms operate both
taxis and PHVs in their fleets. We recommend that Town Police
Clauses Act 1847 and the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions)
Act 1976 should be replaced by a single Act or legislative reform
order, covering both taxis and PHVs. The distinction between
taxi and PHV services could be maintained by providing for two
types of vehicle licence under the Act. The separate legislation
for PHVs in London and Plymouth should be maintained only if there
are specific local justifications for doing so.
Keep it local
LOCAL TRANSPORT PLANS
20. The Minister told us that taxis and PHVs had
a role to play in local transport plans, citing the importance
of assisting people complete journeys from rail stations to their
destinations in order to encourage a shift away from car usage.
There was widespread agreement with this view.
Philip Soderquest of Northumberland Council described taxis and
PHVs as "a huge part of the local transport infrastructure"
in the county. However,
Damien Edwards of Liverpool City Council commented that taxis
and PHVs had historically been the "poor relations"
in transport planning and John Austin of NATU said "we found
a number of LTPs which regard taxis and private hire as part of
the public transport system and to be planned and taken account
of accordingly: others do not".
21. Although some local transport plans include taxis
and PHVs, others do not.
The Department's guidance on local transport plans makes no mentions
of taxis or PHVs, save to suggest that local firms should be consulted
when such plans are drawn up.
The guidance provided on the licensing of taxis and PHVs goes
no further than to suggest some issues relating to these services
which local transport plans could contain.
We recommend that the Government provide clearer guidance to
local authorities on how taxis and PHVs should be included in
local transport plans.
22. An issue we explored in some detail was the rationale
for differences in licensing standards between local authorities,
given suggestions that this contributed to cross-border hire problems.
David Wilson called for national standards for drivers and vehicles
which would "in effect, be a national licence". He said
"we have national licences for everything else. If you drive
an HGV, you don't obtain a licence from your local council. You
obtain it from the DVLA and you can drive an HGV anywhere in this
most witnesses preferred to retain licensing as a local function.
For example, Myles Bebbington, the licensing manager for South
Cambridgeshire District Council, argued that there were valid
reasons for differences between vehicle licensing conditions in
urban and rural areas because of the different types of driving
undertaken by cars in those areas.
The Minister said he did not think differences in standards between
local authorities were likely to be problematic and that removing
functions from local authorities "would go against the grain
of the Government's general drift".
23. There are strong arguments in favour of national
standards in relation to issues which directly relate to public
safety, such as the level of CRB check drivers require, the roadworthiness
of vehicles and drivers whose licences have been revoked being
licensed shortly afterwards by a different district.
We recommend that new legislation in this area should provide
for this. There are no good arguments for local variations in
these areas and, in our view, taxi and PHV passengers ought to
be confident that wherever they travel their safety is protected
to the same degree. However, some aspects of licensing, such as
whether or not drivers should be subject to a knowledge test and
what form such a test might take, are essentially local matters
which depend on the nature of the district.
We agree with the Minister that the licensing of taxis and PHVs
should remain a local function, not least because of the likely
cost and complexity of instituting a national system.
24. Some local authorities raised with us difficulties
in enforcing standards in relation to drivers or vehicles licensed
by other districts.
Councillor Cec Tallack, the leader of Milton Keynes Council, said
it was "inequitable" for Milton Keynes residents to
pay for enforcement activity against out-of-town cars whose drivers
and operators paid licensing fees to another authority.
He also drew attention to difficulties caused by differing practices
in the licensing of drivers who had infringed the law: he argued
that Milton Keynes Council took a tougher line than its neighbouring
was disputed by one such authority, South Northamptonshire, which
also said that its officials had been carrying out enforcement
activity in Milton Keynes since 2005.
We were also told of other arrangements whereby local authorities
could engage in enforcement activity in neighbouring districts
or in relation to out-of-town cars, such as a joint initiative
involving Merseyside councils.
25. If our proposal for national standards in relation
to matters directly relating to public safety is accepted, there
should be no difficulty in local authorities carrying out enforcement
activity against cars and drivers irrespective of where they are
licensed. Precisely how enforcement activity is organised is a
matter for local authorities but we acknowledge that the current
requirement for ring fencing income from licensing may constrain
innovative practices, such as contributing to enforcement activity
in a different district. We recommend that any legal barriers
to co-operation between local authorities and innovation in organising
and funding enforcement activity in relation to taxis and PHVs
should be reviewed as part of the process of legislative reform.
26. Offences relating to taxis and PHVs, such as
plying for hire, must be dealt with in court. Prosecutions are
not numerous. Liverpool City Council undertook 18 prosecutions
for plying for hire by PHVs in 2009 and 40 in 2010.
Northumbria Police said that it had evidence of just three such
prosecutions in north east England during this time.
Some witnesses suggested that fixed penalty notices could be used
for dealing more efficiently with taxi and PHV offences.
We are sympathetic to the argument that offences relating to taxis
and PHVs, such as plying for hire, should be dealt with by fixed
penalty notices rather than court action and we recommend that
the Government should move in this direction when it comes to
reform the legislation in this area.
27. It was suggested that one solution to cross-border
hire disputes would be to licence vehicles to operate over a larger
This approach has been adopted in London, where taxis and PHVs
are licensed by Transport for London to operate across the entire
Greater London region. Brian Whitehead of the RMT argued that
this had simply moved cross-border disputes out to the borders
of Greater London.
Paul Brent of the National Taxi Association suggested that with
larger districts taxis and PHVs would flock to the most profitable
areas, such as city centres, leaving other parts of the district
bereft of cars.
28. Kris Beuret of NATU said "one of the problems
at the moment is that so much taxi thinking is done at the district
level and most transport planning [is] at the next tier up. So
you often find complete disregard of taxis as the essential cement
... of the public transport system".
This is a sensible assessment which points to the desirability
of aligning licensing districts with local transport planning
areas. In general terms, it might be preferable for taxis and
PHVs to be licensed to operate across all of the boroughs of a
conurbation rather than to be constrained by borough boundaries
which are often somewhat artificial. However, in other areas the
status quo may be optimal. This is properly a matter for
local authorities and different arrangements will suit different
areas. We recommend that new legislation should permit existing
licensing districts to be combined where local authorities decide
it is best to do so.
39 Qq 166-68, 173, Ev 62 and see www.taxiuser.com. Back
Foe example see Qq 101-2, 136-37 and Ev w7 paragraph 8. Back
For example Qq114-16 and 196. Back
Qq115, 196. Back
The local transport plans for Merseyside and West Yorkshire, for
example, cover taxis and PHVs in some detail. Back
Guidance on Local Transport Plans, DfT, July 2009. Back
Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing: Best Practice Guidance,
DfT, March 2010, paragraphs 96-97. Back
See paragraph 8. Back
Q69. And see Qq168-71 (NATU and TravelWatch NorthWest). Back
For example Qq 75, 155 and Ev w21 paragraph 9 and 33 paragraph
14. But also see Ev w34 paragraph 5(iii). Back
Ev 49. Back
For example Qq 72-73, 152, Ev 52 paragraph 4.3, Ev w8-9 paragraphs
21-28, 15 paragraphs 3 and 8, 23 paragraph 1.4, 37 paragraph 10,
64 paragraphs 3.4 and 5.1 and 73 paragraphs 7 and 10. Back
For example, Q98. Back
For example, see Ev w32, paragraph 6. Back
Ev 79-80 3(b)-(c). Back
Ev w84-86. Back
Ev 57, paragraph 14. Back
Ev 57. Also see evidence from Merseyside Police, Ev w89. Back
Ev w89. Back
See Ev w8 paragraph 19, 23 paragraph 1.5, 66 paragraph 53 and
81; but also Qq 73 and 209. Back
For example, Q171 and Ev 55 paragraphs 9 and 13. Back
Qq142, 144. Back
Qq147-48. Also see Qq 11, 113, 124. Back