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Vehicles: Private Hire

Volume 717: debated on Thursday 4 February 2010

Statement

My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Transport (Mr Sadiq Khan) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

The exemption from private hire vehicle (PHV) licensing for vehicles working on long-term contracts was repealed in 2008 by virtue of the Road Safety Act 2006. A similar change was made to the PHV legislation in London. The Government decided to repeal the exemption at short notice during the passage of the Bill, which meant that a formal consultation exercise was not possible.

The department undertook to review the impact of the repeal of the PHV contract exemption and today has published the report. The report has been published on the department’s website and a copy has been placed in the Libraries of the House. In compiling their report, the consultants asked a range of stakeholders, including licensing authorities, conventional PHV operators, operators of services where there were doubts about their position in relation to PHV law and consumers, about their views and their experiences since the repeal of the contract exemption. It is apparent from the report that the impact of the repeal has been mixed; it has brought within the licensing regime many thousands of operators and drivers who had previously been working under the exemption, which is a desirable outcome in terms of enhancing safety. However, it has also generated questions about the position of a number of operators who would not regard themselves as conventional private hire but who carry passengers in a car as part of their wider jobs and who do not know whether they must be licensed.

The report concludes that licensing authorities and operators would like to see a more robust message from central government about the extent to which a range of operators at the margins of the definition of “private hire vehicle” do, or do not, fall to be licensed as PHVs.

The department recognises that although Parliament has delegated responsibility for the licensing function to individual local authorities, there is a role for the department in terms of offering guidance with the objective of achieving a degree of uniformity of approach throughout the country. Accordingly, the department will undertake to revise the guidance note which it produced in November 2007 in such a way as to offer a more robust view about which categories of operators should be licensed.

The review also showed that the other main taxi provision contained in the Road Safety Act 2006—allowing licensing authorities to suspend or revoke a driver’s licence with immediate effect in certain circumstances, rather than allowing them to continue working pending appeal—has been welcomed by licensing authorities as a useful additional tool in undertaking their licensing responsibilities.