We work across government to ensure that safeguarding practice is as safe as it can be in the taxi and private hire sector. The issue has been discussed at an inter-ministerial group chaired by the Home Secretary. The Government have committed to legislate for national minimum standards, which will include making it a legal requirement that licensees undertake safeguarding awareness training. However, I encourage all licensing authorities to act now and use their existing powers to protect passengers.
My hon. Friend touches on an important piece of work that is being carried out across a number of Departments, including the Home Office and the Department for Education, and in local government. In the Department for Transport, we are looking to obtain the powers to create a national minimum standard, which will be quite high, and a national database, and to increase enforcement powers for traffic commissioners. Put together, all those things will ensure that the quality of service and safety for people when they enter a private hire vehicle is the same up and down the country.
We have known for a while that the Secretary of State does not run the railways, and yesterday he told the Transport Committee that
“we don’t really do buses”,
but the chair of the Government’s own task and finish group on taxi and private hire vehicle licensing told us in March that he was “truly frightened” about the risk to the public under the current regulations. Thankfully, it seems that even the Secretary of State is not trying to dodge responsibility for legislating to protect passengers, but when will a Bill on taxi and private hire licensing be laid before Parliament?
The Chair of the Select Committee knows that I am just as passionate as she is about this issue within this part of my brief. I was hoping that we could start to legislate before the summer, and I now hope that I can crack on with it in the autumn. We have to remember that licensing sits with local licensing authorities. We are trying to put together a national database and to ensure that all the information is in one place, so that those who want to fish around to get a licence cannot do so. We are also increasing the traffic commissioners’ powers. All that work is in the pipeline, and I look forward to getting it done just as much as the hon. Lady does.