Uber driver licence standards should be made national, say MPs

A group of more than two dozen cross-party MPs have called on the government to introduce new rules controlling the licensing of drivers for Uber and other minicab services with new national standards.

Labour’s Wes Streeting and Jess Philips, and Green Party leader Caroline Lucas are among the 25 MPs to sign a letter to transport secretary Chris Grayling urging a new definition for cross-border hiring, along with taxi companies Gett and MyTaxi, the LTDA taxi union and the company making London’s newest electric black cabs.

Currently drivers can gain a licence in one area and work in another, something they claim is putting passengers at risk. Data from Transport for London (TfL) identified 177 drivers licensed in London registered to postcodes in Sheffield earlier this year, while drivers in Southend who had their licence revoked were found to be using ones gained from TfL.

Now the MPs, part of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on taxis, wants national standards for drivers to be introduced which would bring and end to the practice.

“The current system where a driver can lose a licence in one part of the country and simply get one by tapping up another council is playing fast and loose with passenger safety,” said Streeting. “The safety of passengers should be the cornerstone of licensing. That’s why we’re calling for a statutory definition on cross border hiring which will effectively stamp out this dangerous practice, alongside national minimum standards so when a passenger gets into a vehicle- wherever they are – they know they are safe.”

The call comes as Uber fights for permission to operate in London. TfL said it would not renew its licence due to safety concerns. Uber’s appeal against the decision is due to be heard next year while it continues talks with the regulator.

Uber has previously said that it would welcome a national register as a first step in “a more joined up approach” and has introduced new processes for keeping tabs on local licencing decisions. “An increase in app-based taxi and PHV services coupled with out of date legislation has contributed to a rise in cross-border hiring,” said MyTaxi general manager Andy Batty. “MyTaxi, is calling on government to legislate for a legal definition of cross-border hiring, which will give both passengers and regulators certainty of the standards of drivers in their area.”

The government has indicated that it’s considering new rules. “I think the system is being gamed,” said transport minister John Hayes over the summer, adding that it “can’t be right” that local rules can be undermined by more permissive neighbouring regimes. “I want greater consistency in the way licenses are issued,” he said.