'.℄(1) In this section℄
"licence" means a licence under section 6 of the Metropolitan Public Carriage Act 1869 (taxi licences) or under section 8 of that Act (taxi driver licences); and
"licensing authority" means the person empowered to grant a licence.
(2) Where the licensing authority has refused to grant, or has suspended or revoked, a licence the applicant for, or (as the case may be) holder of. the licence may, before the expiry of the prescribed period℄
(3) Any call for a reconsideration under subsection (2) above must be made to the licensing authority in writing.
(4) On any reconsideration under this section the person calling for the decision to be reconsidered shall be entitled to be heard either in person or by his representative.
(5) If the person calling for a decision to be reconsidered under this secton is dissatisfied with the decision of the licensing authority on reconsideration, he may. before the expiry of the prescribed period, appeal to a magistrates' court for the petty sessions area in which he resides.
(6) On any appeal to it under this section, a magistrates' court may make such order as it thinks fit; and any order which it makes shall be binding on the licensing authority.
(7) Where a person holds a licence which is in force when he applies for a new licence in substitution for it, the existing licence shall continue in force until the application for the new licence, or any appeal under this section in relation to that application, is disposed of.
(8) For the purposes of subsection (7) above, where the licensing authority refuses to grant the new licence the application shall not be treated as disposed of℄
(9) Where the licensing authority suspends or revokes a licence, or confirms a decision to do so, he may, if the holder of the licence so requests, direct that his decision shall not have effect until the expiry of the prescribed period.— [Mr. Michael Spicer.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.The new clause gives a right of appeal against the taxi licensing decisions of the assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police. The London taxi trade has wanted that for a long time and I feel sure that on this matter at least the House will agree that it is unjust that any authority should have the power to deny or remove the livelihood of a cab driver without there being a right of appeal. Elsewhere in England, Wales and Scotland there is a right of appeal against the decisions of taxi licensing authorities. The assistant commissioner has said that he would welcome the establishment of a right of appeal against his decisions, as it would remove from him the burden of having the final say on whether a cab driver should be allowed to continue to make a living. The House will see that the appeal procedure proposed in the new clause is similar to the one that exists for decisions by the traffic commissioner on PSV drivers' licences. There will be a period following a decision by the assistant commissioner during which an appeal may be made. The aggrieved party may require the assistant commissioner to reconsider his decision and will have the right to be heard personally. Alternatively, or if he remains dissatisfied with the decision or reconsideration, he may appeal to a magistrates court. The decision of the court shall be binding on the assistant commissioner. Where a case involves the revocation or suspension of an existing licence, the assistant commissioner may, if the holder requests it, direct that his decision will not have effect until the expiry of the appeal period or, if an appeal is made, until it has been disposed of. Although we shall be reviewing all the Victorian, somewhat complex and certainly archaic taxi legislation, the new clause removes a genuine grievance which, I am sure the House will agree, should be corrected now.
This is a sensible provision, not least because so much of the Bill which affects taxis is neither sensible nor properly thought out. It has been an anomaly for a long time that the taxi trade in London has not had a right of appeal, and I accept what the Minister says about the protection that this provision will provide.I assume that the trade has had detailed consultation with the Minister and that it is satisfied with the provision. After all, there are so many changes in the Bill that it is helpful to be able to welcome one of them that is a positive improvement rather than a retrograde step. For example, let me draw attention to an article in the Evening Advertiser on Thursday 11 April which should be of interest to the Secretary of State. It says:
It goes on to say:"Cab war is in store".
One wonders whether they have consulted the Secretary of State and whether they had a better reception than those people who were talking about losing their only buses into Cirencester early in the morning. The article goes on:"A taxi war is brewing in Cirencester, with warnings of trouble and chaos from cab drivers. The row is over the taxi spaces in the market place. Three owner-drivers have operated from the rank for the last 15 years as the Cirencester Taxi Rank Association."
The reality of much of the Bill that refers to taxis is that there will be precisely that kind of punch-up. It is only rough justice that it should be happening in the constituency of the Secretary of State who is responsible for the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman is responsible for the thought, if there is any, behind it and for a mad commitment to the opposite of transport planning, which, in his case, seems to represent transport chaos. He is responsible for the absolute shambles that will occur not just in the taxi trade but also in the bus trade if the Bill becomes law. Cab war in Cirencester will be followed by bus war, followed by general chaos. I hope that the Under-Secretary will not misunderstand me when I tell him that I hope that his information about taxi legislation is more accurate than his information about the Blackpool trams. Having said that, we happily welcome any provision that will give an appeal procedure to taxi drivers, who, in any event, will be badly affected."The three drivers are furious because they had to buy into the Association when they joined. Denis Gill said: 'It cost us £1,000 when we came here. The telephone and sign were all paid for by the Association.' Fellow cabby Mike Goddard said: 'This letter from the council means that anyone can just come here and operate as a taxi. Its going to be chaos. You could get up to 18 motors fighting for the two spaces.' The Market Place drivers have already had one confrontation with drivers from Cirencester radio cabs who produced the council's letter and then parked on the rank."
I gather that the new clause deals with a right of appeal for taxi drivers in London and has nothing to do with Cirencester. This provision is long overdue. When I came to the House in 1978 I began campaigning for London taxi drivers to have a right of appeal against the revoking of licences.There can be few instances in our legislation —indeed, in our very constitution—where people do not have a right of appeal. This measure rectifies an anomaly that has been in existence for perhaps 300 years, going back well before the Carriage Acts of last century.
Did the hon. Gentleman intend in due course to declare his interest in the taxi trade? Although we are in agreement on this issue, he will appreciate that, as a general rule, hon. Members should know when those among us are speaking for particular groups of people.
If I need to declare an interest in the taxi trade, I do so, although I have said repeatedly in the House when challenged by Opposition Members on the same point that I have no financial arrangement with, or receive any inducement from, the licensed taxi trade. I assure the hon. Lady that if I did have such an advantage, I should have declared it in the proper quarter.I congratulate the Minister on correcting an anomaly that has existed for far too long. It is greatly welcomed by the London taxi trade. The new clause has been introduced after full consultation with representatives of that trade, for which I thank my right hon. Friend. This legislation will bring the licensed taxi trade into line with the position as it should be in a democratic society.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Bendall) for his kind remarks and, unusually, I thank the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) for her comment about this being a sensible provision. She went on to spoil it by quoting something in connection with Cirencester, an area which has nothing to do with the assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police. The hon. Lady accused me of being inaccurate. She put before the House one of the most inaccurate pieces of geography imaginable. However, I suspect that we are in agreement on this issue.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.