Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
For those of you who don’t understand the words in the title, its Latin, it roughly translates as ‘who’s watching the watchmen’, quite apt in the context of this article, even though I probably say so myself.
The licensed taxi trade has always prided itself on its professionalism – the professionalism has invariably come from the driver. It’s not the vehicle, as was hilariously once claimed by one vehicle manufacturer, it’s the person behind the wheel who 99.9% of the time takes the passenger to their destination without incident.
The legitimate trade cringe with embarrassment and anger when stories emerge in the press of ‘taxi rapes’ and ‘taxi drivers’ being involved in the sickening sex rings that seem to be emerging in various cities across the UK.
The legitimate trade are aware that such stories damage the reputation it has tried so hard to obtain. The trade need to work closely with bodies such as the Suzy Lamplugh Trust and other charities to ensure that authorities are clearly aware of the problems that are present and to show the wider public of our very real concerns.
However, the majority of stories are not ‘taxi’ stories at all, they involve the private hire (minicab) trade – yet for reasons of lazy journalism, ignorance and provocation, the press in almost all areas choose to report incidents using the word ‘taxi’ as a catch all.
Whilst the press are culpable, also culpable are authorities. Numerous local authorities choose to issue joint hackney carriage / private hire licenses, some decide the phrase ‘private hire taxi’ is a suitable one. They then allow minicab firms to use the word ‘taxi’ in not only their business names but also on vehicle signage – they then wonder why the public seem confused and have few qualms about getting into a vehicle that is illegally plying for hire.
I suppose they have a right to be confused, we recently appear to have had licenses issued on the say so of a politician as opposed to the ‘rigorous process’ many authorities claim to have in place.
The same type of ignorance was clearly demonstrated within the House of Lords during a recent debate on the proposed changes to the private hire aspects of the deregulation bill – some members appeared to have very little clue what they were talking about – getting confused between taxi and private hire with remarkable regularity.
Whilst members of the upper house appear confused about the difference between taxi and minicab, they also seemingly had few qualms about pointing the finger towards the Suzy Lamplugh trust in respect of London’s minicab laws.
Viscount Ridley being particularly scathing, pointing out and suggesting a relatively new charitable trust back in 1998 should have known about each and every working of a business they couldn’t be expected to completely understand – and a court case from Cumbria that changed provincial private hire law months before the presumably already drafted London PH act came into being. A cheap shot at a charity – I wonder what his encore was, strangulation of a kitten perhaps?
The shot was almost as cheap as the same chap getting it completely wrong in respect of PHV’s being unable to pick up outside of area, then wheeling out the wheelchair bound to underline his point.
If these are the people making law, little wonder the country appears to be in decline, naturally, it’s not a decline they feel – not too many daughters of peers get raped in illegal minicabs do they?
It doesn’t seem to have occurred to any politician that when the changes happen a private hire driver when working away from their district of license will be immune from local licensing authorities checking credentials. Naturally, if this is the case then nobody will actually know who is driving the vehicle – personally that scares the hell out of me.
It doesn’t seem to have dawned upon politicians that regulations are put in place for the safety of the public, not for the annoyance of minicab operators.
Like many others, I have very little faith in the ‘certificate of good conduct’ system employed by some local authorities. Some countries are inherently corrupt – and before you start shouting at me, I suggest you read up on corruption by transparency international http://www.transparency.org/cpi2013/results .
The NTA long campaigned for enhanced background checks on drivers – these background checks are only of true benefit if a person has resided in this country for a decent period of time, and even then, as we are all aware, some scumbags slip through the net.
However, something needs to be done. Licensed drivers have been implicated, arrested and imprisoned in places like Rochdale, Rotherham, London, Bristol & Oxford. Without doubt, people are entering the licensed industry with a single purpose.
I recall a case in Bournemouth where the local taxi association contacted and actually ran up a dossier of incidents on one particular driver – these reports went upon deaf ears – the driver was eventually caught and jailed. However, questions need asked and answers need to be given, indeed, P45’s should be handed out.
Questions need asked as to how the Department for transport came up with the idea of clauses 10, 11 & 12 entering the deregulation bill. Whilst clause 10 was dropped it still remains the case that unlicensed people can drive minicab ‘for non work purposes’ in the nations capital. Furthermore, there are inherent dangers with the two remaining clauses.
Badly briefed MP’s don’t appear to be fully aware of the very real danger the so called ‘Mother of Parliaments’ are about to unleash upon the country.
To hear a government minister tell the House that “People who are in this trade are not wealthy people” does tend to spring the question will the changes make anyone any wealthier. The answer to that is of course yes, it will make all those who leech off the licensed industries infinitely wealthier.
I’ll continue this article in the near future..