Deregulation Bil

Written evidence submitted by Ipswich Borough Council (DB 23)

Taxi and Private Hire Licensing

Proposal 1 – To allow PHV Operators licensed in England (outside London) and Wales to sub-contract bookings to an operator licensed in a different district. London PHV operators are allowed to sub-contract to an operator licensed outside London so it would be a case of establishing a more level playing field.

Comments: This proposal is supported provided an audit trail between Operators is maintained.

Proposal 2 – To allow private hire vehicles licensed by a local authority outside London to be driven by a person (e.g. a family member) who does not hold a PHV driver licence, when the vehicle is not being used for private hire work i.e. when it is "off-duty".

Comments: Whilst understanding the reasons for wishing to introduce this measure, it is believed that it would be detrimental to the licensing regime and will seriously undermine public safety.

As the process for obtaining a PHV driver’s licence involves having a DBS check, passing knowledge tests, driving tests, BTEC qualification (varies for each Local Authority) and medicals, relaxing the regulations as to who can drive these vehicles could lead to more people opting out of the licensing regime due to the time/cost of obtaining a licence or simply because they are not fit and proper to hold a licence by virtue of criminal convictions/motoring convictions/no driving licence/medical conditions. This could lead to a large number of journeys being carried out by unlicensed drivers.

It will be virtually impossible to carry out enforcement against illegal use of licensed vehicles and will open up the possibility for an unscrupulous and unlicensed person to pick up passengers in a licensed vehicle. It will also be almost impossible for the Council to identify and prosecute illegal pick-ups and associated insurance offences.

It is strongly suggested that the significant public safety implications arising from this proposal should outweigh any other considerations.

Proposal 3 – that taxi and PHV driver licences should be issued for a standard period of three years (and PHV operator licences five years) and licences should only be granted for shorter periods in the circumstances of an individual case.

Comments: There are no perceived public safety implications arising from issuing PH Operator licences for five years.

However, whilst understanding that a three year licence for drivers would reduce the burden on licensees, there are public safety implications arising from this proposal.

At Ipswich, licences are issued for one year and each application is reviewed upon application for renewal to ensure they remain fit and proper to continue to hold a licence. If licences were granted for 3 years, any unsuitable person would remain licensed for longer.

At renewal time we pick up on changes of address/telephone numbers/email addresses/medical conditions/convictions/motoring offences etc that have not been notified to us as per Conditions of Licence/byelaws. This is particularly relevant for those drivers who require an annual medical examination.

Ipswich carries out electronic driving licence checks with the DVLA and as a result of this a licensed driver was found to have had his DVLA driving licence revoked. If there were three year licences, a person could be transporting the public in a licensed vehicle without insurance (no DVLA driving licence) for much longer.

If three year licences are to be introduced, Local Authorities must retain the ability to carry out an annual check to ensure the person remains fit and proper to continue to hold a licence.

General Comment

The taxi and private hire industry is the only public transport operating 24/7. Taxi and private hire drivers transport the most vulnerable members of society (the elderly, school children, the disabled, drunk lone females etc), therefore it is vital that the licensing regime retains the core principle of ensuring the safety of the public and that this principle outweighs any other consideration in policy/law formation.

It is hoped these comments are helpful to the Committee.

March 2014

Prepared 25th March 2014