This is a Private Member’s Bill sponsored by Peter Gibson, who is the MP for Darlington. The Bill aims to improve the safety of taxi passengers. It is designed to prevent situations where a driver has his license revoked due to wrongdoing and obtains one from another authority to continue working.
How will this affect the private-hire industry?
Gibson MP is working to draw attention to an issue that has been present in the private-hire industry for decades.
Every license refusal, revocation and suspension will have to be recorded in a central database
It will make it compulsory for local licensing authorities to record refusals to give licences, revocations, and suspensions. These will have to be stored on a database, and other licensing authorities would have to consult when making licensing decisions about the same driver.
The bill will make the ‘National Register of Taxi and Private Hire Licence Revocations and Refusals’ (NR3) a part of statutory law. It was commissioned by the Local Government Association, introduced in July 2018 and is already used by many licensing authorities voluntarily.
Local authorities will be able to report wrongdoing to the taxi driver’s licensing authority.
The bill will also allow local authority enforcement teams to report instances of wrongdoing by taxi drivers to the authority that the offender is licensed by. The licensing authority must then respond to the report.
Dave Lawrie, a Director at the National Private Hire Taxi Association (NPHTA), reported a conversation with Peter Gibson MP about the Bill. He said that ‘cross-border working came up, where we discussed that whilst this is a hot topic, and something that does need to be addressed at parliamentary level; it is impossible to address everything in one go, as it would lose its momentum and focus. – so the aim was to address it in bite-sized chunks.’
The Bill coming into law presents a shift for local authorities registering problem drivers (or ex-drivers) as a matter of choice, to it becoming legally required. Most importantly, this will create it as a standard practice in the industry. This gives the private-hire industry another layer of protection against those who aren’t fit for the job.
Without all local authorities taking an active part in the database, or with the database being a voluntary service, it wasn’t much use. Many believe that the result of local authorities not having a centralised place to see revoked or rejected licenses is that people danced between local authorities in order to get a license when they had lost theirs somewhere else.
The end of cross-border wrongdoings?
For many outside the industry, the perils of ‘cross-border hiring’ sound like overblown bickering between neighbours.
The Aylesbury Vale Council v Call a Cab case of 2013 was one of the most high-profile legal battles in which this was an issue. In short, ‘Call a Cab’ were convicted of five offences of operating in an area where they were not licensed. They were convicted and received fines totalling £22,500.
The practice of private-hire drivers using licenses from different areas is more attractive when this could mean avoiding an area where they cannot be licensed. During the court of bringing in the Safeguarding and Road Safety Bill, the judge made the following statement:
‘Of the 15,000 private hire licences issued by City of Wolverhampton Council in 2019, many were for drivers spread across the United Kingdom, including at least one as far away as Perth, which is quite some taxi drive.’
Wolverhampton Council handed out a record 15,000 private hire licences in 2019, raking in nearly £3.7 million in fees.
So, it is easy to see why local authorities could potentially be tempted to turn a blind eye to previous wrongdoing in other councils. It is important that the UK Government mandate the flow of data to ensure that all authorities throughout the United kingdom have access to the best possible information.