The petition of residents of Charnwood Borough,
Declares that the taxi drivers in Charnwood Borough Council seek an end to the practice of cross border contracting; further that taxi drivers in the area believe that this practice has affected the industry in a negative manner; further that cross border contracting poses a risk to public safety, takes work away from local drivers, is a crime that is difficult to prosecute and is the reason for a decline in the standard of service that the public expects.
The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to review their policies relating to cross border contracting.
And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Nicky Morgan, Official Report, 29 January 2018; Vol. 635, c. 646.]
Observations from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Ms Nusrat Ghani):
Legislation allows all taxis and private hire vehicles (PHVs) to undertake pre-booked journeys outside the area in which they are licensed, and PHV operators to sub-contract bookings to PHV operators based in other licensing areas. These measures have enabled the taxi and PHV trade to work more flexibly to meet the needs of passengers, increasing the availability of licensed operators, drivers and vehicles and mitigate the risk of passengers being turned away when a booking cannot be directly fulfilled.
Where local operators cannot meet demand, I believe that the sub-contracting of bookings, both within and across licensing borders, is preferable to the risk of the public resorting to the use of illegal, unlicensed, uninsured and unvetted drivers and vehicles.
Local licensing authorities in England and Wales have a duty to ensure that any person to whom they grant a taxi or PHV driver’s licence is a fit and proper person to hold such a licence. Although the term ‘fit and proper’ is not defined in legislation, all licensing authorities require an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (criminal record) check.
Licensing authorities remain responsible for ensuring that all drivers it licenses remain fit and proper throughout the period of the licence. Any complaints about a driver can be investigated by the authority that issued the licence, regardless of where the driver was working at the time. Licensing authorities are also able to work together to ensure that enforcement action is taken against all vehicles and drivers licensed regardless of which authority licensed them.
The Government attach the utmost priority to passenger safety in the licensed taxi and PHV trade. My Department will consult on statutory guidance enabled under the Policing and Crime Act 2017. This guidance will contain robust standards that I expect all licensing authorities to adopt; these will ensure all passengers, particularly children and vulnerable adults, are protected when using taxi and PHV services. Also, we will be consulting on revised best practice guidance which will include recommendations to licensing authorities to assist them in setting appropriate standards to enable the provision of services the public demand.
At a Westminster Hall Debate on the ‘Regulation of working conditions in the private hire industry’, the former Minister for Transport, the right hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. John Hayes), announced his intention to set up a working group to consider how PHV and taxi licensing authorities use their powers, and produce focused recommendations for action. The Task and Finish Working Group is considering the regulation of the trade as one of its key areas for discussion. I look forward to receiving the group’s findings soon.