Commons Questions: Tourism Action Plan

Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Transport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, in reference to page 11 of the Tourism Action Plan, published in August 2016, whether deregulating an element of private hire vehicle licences will be carried out through primary legislation.

Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The deregulation of private hire vehicles licensing where transportation is an ancillary element of the service provided will require primary legislation.

Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Transport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, in reference to page 11 of the Tourism Action Plan, published in August 2016, what assessment his Department has made of the effect on consumer safety of deregulating an element of private hire vehicle licences for owners of hotels to collect visitors from ports of entry.

Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The Department for Transport is working with other departments including the Home Office and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to consider how common sense regulation can be introduce where transport is an ancillary element of the service provided. Consumer safety remains the primary concern.

Uber driver murdered wife

Jose Leonardo was found guilty of murder
Jose Leonardo was found guilty of murder

Jose Leonardo, 56, knifed mum-of-three Maria Mbombo, 52, multiple times then left her to die at their home

An Uber driver who knifed his wife to death after googling “the most painful place to stab someone” has been convicted of her murder .

Jose Leonardo, 56, stabbed Maria Mbombo, 52, multiple times at their home in Belsize Park, west London, in May.

The mum-of-three died at the scene, a trial at the Old Bailey heard.

Prosecutor John Price QC said there was no dispute that Leonardo killed her , but he has claimed it was manslaughter by “loss of control”.

The taxi driver was found guilty of one count of murder, but cleared of one charge of perverting the course of justice.

The couple met in Holland in 1988 and moved to north-west London in 1993.

At the time of her death, Ms Mbombo was working as a cleaner while the defendant was a driver for the internet-based company Uber.

Shortly before midnight on May 18, the couple’s 23-year-old son Carl dialled 999 in tears.

Paramedics arrived to find him trying to resuscitate his mother on the floor of a bedroom.

The victim, who was wearing a white top and black knickers, was covered in blood and had been dead for “some while”, Mr Price said.

She had been alone with the defendant until her children returned home shortly before the 999 call, the court heard.

Maria Mbombo was knifed to death

Earlier that afternoon, the defendant’s mobile phone was used to search Google for “can I survive stab in the eye” and “most painful place to stab someone”.

The defendant was in his flat with his dead or dying wife for an hour or so as his other son Jacques, 27, banged on the door and screamed to get in.

After slipping out, Leonardo tried to buy a bottle of beer in a nearby convenience store but was refused.

The shopkeeper noticed blood on his jacket and asked “what’s that?” and Leonardo allegedly replied: “Just call the police.”

Officers arrived to find Leonardo wearing a white vest drenched in blood and murmuring “my wife is dead”.

Mr Price told jurors: “For all his statements of grief to the police officers at the hospital, the defendant, who will have been with her in their home whilst she slowly died, did nothing to summon help.”

Leonardo will be sentenced to life imprisonment at the Old Bailey at 10am on Tuesday, with his minimum term to be determined.


Commons Questions

Taxis: Licensing

Department for Transport written question – answered on 7th November 2016.

Royston Smith Conservative, Southampton, Itchen

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what powers local authorities possess to effectively regulate private hire vehicles that operate outside of their primary licensing area.

Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Local licensing authorities in England and Wales have a duty to ensure that any person or organisation to whom they grant a PHV operator’s licence is ‘fit and proper’ to hold such a licence. The same duty is required when granting a PHV driver licence. Furthermore, once a licence has been issued, licensing authorities should have systems in place, including links with the police and other licensing authorities, to ensure that drivers and operators continue to be ‘fit and proper’.

All PHV bookings, including those received by a sub-contracting arrangement, must be fulfilled by licensed PHV operators using licensed drivers and vehicles, all of whom have met their local licensing standards. The original operator who takes the booking will retain responsibility for the journey, and both the original operator and the operator who fulfils the booking will be under a duty to keep records of the booking and the relevant enforcement authorities will be able to check those records.

The sharing of information between licensing authorities is encouraged and the licence issuing authority can investigate complaints against a driver regardless of where the driver was working at the time. Local licensing authorities are also able to delegate powers to each other to help deal with issues such as taxis operating as private hire vehicles outside their licence area. For example, in Merseyside five licensing authorities have agreed a concordat allowing each other to enforce against all the vehicles and drivers licensed by the five areas.


Uber driver ‘murdered his wife after Googling “what is the most painful place to stab someone”‘

Jose Leonardo repeatedly knifed 52 year-old Maria Mbombo in the body and arms, jurors heard

AN UBER driver murdered his wife after searching on Google for ‘the most painful place to stab someone’, a court heard today.

Jose Leonardo repeatedly knifed 52 year-old Maria Mbombo in the body and arms and left her to bleed to death at their family home in north London, jurors heard.

Leonardo admits killing his wife Maria Mbombo claiming he lost ‘control’

He then went to buy beer from a local shop while his two sons discovered their mother lying lifeless on the floor of the bedroom, it is claimed.

Leonardo, 56, admits killing his wife but claims he should be cleared of murder because he suffered from a ‘loss of control’, jurors were told.

But prosecutor John Price QC revealed Leonardo’s phone had been used to search Google a few hours before the murder.

One read ‘can I survive stab in the eye’ and the other was ‘most painful place to stab someone’, the Old Bailey heard.

Websites related to these search terms were accessed between 2.41pm and 2.46pm.

Half an hour later Leonardo accessed a Camden Council parking permit website.

Mrs Mbombo, who worked as a cleaner, is last known to have used her phone to speak to a friend at 3.52pm.

Both her and Leonardo’s phones stopped being active from around 5pm.

Mr Price said: “Maria Mbombo died in her home at her husband’s hand.

“He attacked her and stabbed her many times with a knife.

“Because of the wounds he inflicted upon her, she bled to death. He was alone with her in their home while that happened.

“The prosecution allege that this is a clear case of murder.”

The couple met in 1988 and move to the UK from the Netherlands in 1990 with their two sons Carl, now 23, and Jacque, 27.

On 18 May this year Jacque returned to the family flat at Chestnut House, Maitland Park Villas, Belsize Park, to find the lights out and the door locked from the inside.

He got no answer despite buzzing and kicking the door and shouting ‘Open the Door’.

Mr Price said Leonardo must have been inside with his dead or dying wife at the time.

Leonardo left the flat an hour later without speaking to his sons and both Jacque and Carl ran inside to find their mother lying on her back on the bedroom floor.

She was wearing a white top and black knickers, her face was purple and she was not breathing.

Paramedics were called at 11.55pm and arrived to find her cold to the touch with rigor mortis in the jaw.

“It was confirmed she was dead and indeed must have been dead for some time,” said Mr Price.

Leonardo, who had cuts to his wrist, was arrested near the Super Choice Convenience Store in Queens Crescent after midnight.

He told officers: “My wife is killed.”

Leonardo, of Maitland Park Villas, Belsize Park, denies murder and perverting the course of justice.

The trial continues.


Uber loses right to classify UK drivers as self-employed

Landmark employment tribunal ruling states firm must also pay drivers national living wage and holiday pay with huge implications for gig economy

Uber drivers are not self-employed and should be paid the “national living wage”, a UK employment court has ruled in a landmark case which could affect tens of thousands of workers in the gig economy.

The ride-hailing app could now be open to claims from all of its 40,000 drivers in the UK, who are currently not entitled to holiday pay, pensions or other workers’ rights. Uber immediately said it would appeal against the ruling.

Employment experts said other firms with large self-employed workforces could now face scrutiny of their working practices and the UK’s biggest union, Unite, announced it was setting up a new unit to pursue cases of bogus self-employment.

Research by Citizens Advice has suggested that as many as 460,000 people could be falsely classified as self-employed, costing up to £314m a year in lost tax and employer national insurance contributions. Four courier firms are already facing legal action from cyclists who want similar recognition as staff employees and the rights that go with that status, while delivery firm Hermes is under investigation by HM Revenue & Customs.

The Uber ruling could force a rethink of the gig economy business model, where companies use apps and the internet to match customers with workers. The firms do not employ the workers, but take commission from their earnings, and many have become huge global enterprises. Uber now operates around the world, with the company valued at more than £50bn.

The decision of the employment tribunal comes amid mounting concern within government about the growing trend towards self-employed workforces. The government has recently announced a six-month review of modern working practices and HMRC is setting up a new unit, the employment status and intermediaries team, to investigate firms.

MPs launched an inquiry last week into pay and working conditions in the UK which will look at the status and rights of agency and casual workers and the self-employed for the purposes of tax, benefits and employment law, and how to protect them.

Friday’s ruling by a London employment tribunal involves a case taken by two drivers, James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam, on behalf of a group 19 Uber workers who argued that they were employed by the San Francisco-based firm, rather than working for themselves.

At a hearing in July, Farrar told how he was put under “tremendous pressure” to work long hours and accept jobs and said that there were “repercussions” from the company if he cancelled a pickup. He said some months he earned as little as £5 an hour – far below the £7.20 that employers are obliged to pay workers aged over 25.

Uber argued that it was a technology firm not a transport business and that its drivers were independent self-employed contractors who could choose where and when they worked.

The judges were scathing about Uber’s arguments, however, accusing the firm of “resorting in its documentation to fictions, twisted language and even brand new terminology” and even quoting Hamlet to suggest that the group’s UK boss was protesting too much about its position.

“The notion that Uber in London is a mosaic of 30,000 small businesses linked by a common ‘platform’ is to our minds faintly ridiculous,” the judges said. “Drivers do not and cannot negotiate with passengers … They are offered and accept trips strictly on Uber’s terms.”

Nigel Mackay from the employment team at law firm Leigh Day, which represented the drivers, said: “We are pleased that the employment tribunal has agreed with our arguments that drivers are entitled to the most basic workers’ rights, including to be paid the [national living wage] and to receive paid holiday, which were previously denied to them.

“This is a ground-breaking decision. It will impact not just on the thousands of Uber drivers working in this country, but on all workers in the so-called gig economy whose employers wrongly classify them as self-employed and deny them the rights to which they are entitled.”

The GMB union, which took up the case for the drivers, said that it was a “monumental victory” which would have an impact on thousands of workers in other industries “where bogus self-employment is rife”.

Maria Ludkin, GMB’s legal director, said: “Uber drivers and thousands of others caught in the bogus self-employment trap will now enjoy the same rights as employees. This outcome will be good for passengers, too. Properly rewarded drivers are the same side of the coin as drivers who are properly licensed and driving well-maintained and insured vehicles.”

Farrar said he was thrilled with the “emphatic” ruling. He said his industry had seen the deterioration in workers’ rights since Uber entered the market. “We’ve brought that to a halt,” he said.

Employment experts said that other firms with large self-employed workforces could now face similar action. “This judgment is likely to have massive implications, as we see an increasing number of start-up businesses effectively adopting Uber’s model,” said Tim Goodwin of law firm Winckworth Sherwood. “The effect of this judgment is that those kinds of business may owe a lot more to their workers, such as paid holiday and minimum wage, than they had bargained for.”
The ruling should be regarded as “ a salutary lesson by businesses who try to arbitrarily ‘classify’ workers as contractors to avoid affording them their full rights as workers,” Goodwin said.

The GMB’s Ludkin said employers should be “on notice” that it was reviewing similar contracts. “This is old-fashioned exploitation under new-fangled jargon, but the law will force you to pay GMB members what they are rightfully due,” she said.

There were calls for more clarity over employment status, with Citizens Advice pointing out that many people were locked out of employment tribunals by fees of up to £1,200.

“The fact it takes an employment tribunal to decide whether these drivers are self-employed shows that proving employment status is an extremely complicated and costly process,” said its chief executive, Gillian Guy. “For many people struggling at the sharp end of insecure work, such as in false self-employment, taking such a case is simply not an option.”

The ruling is not the end of the process for Uber. The firm will take the case to the employment appeal tribunal, and following its decision there could be further hearings in the court of appeal and then the supreme court. Any payments due to drivers will not be calculated until that process is over.

Other drivers with the firm will not automatically receive payouts but, if the firm accepts the ruling, it will have to change its contracts to avoid more cases being taken by drivers. Lawyers say that its terms and conditions are similar for all of its UK employees.

Jo Bertram, the regional general manager of Uber in the UK, said many of the firm’s drivers did not want to be classified as workers: “Tens of thousands of people in London drive with Uber precisely because they want to be self-employed and their own boss.

“The overwhelming majority of drivers who use the Uber app want to keep the freedom and flexibility of being able to drive when and where they want.”

Uber in numbers

40,000 The number of Uber drivers in the UK

£5 The hourly wage received in some months by one of the drivers who took the case.

$62.5bn Uber’s valuation based on its last round of funding.

Seven The years that Uber has been in operation.

460,000 The number of people who could be falsely classified as self-employed in the UK

£314m The yearly estimated cost in lost tax and employer national insurance contributions from falsely classified employees, according to Citizens Advice


Uber driver races the rising tide, and the tide wins

For some reason, people keep thinking they can outsmart Mother Nature, and Mother Nature always wins.

Take this uber driver, who either thought the tide would not rise for him or that his car would turn into a raft, Transformers-style.

Unfortunately, it didn’t end well – as this drone footage shows.

The driver was caught out at Holy Island, off the north east coast, while travelling back from Lindisfarne.

One of his passengers, a Buddhist monk, waves to the drone while the car is stopped on the only part of the bridge that wasn’t submerged.

Mark Bradshaw, from Seaton Burn, Tyne and Wear, posted the video on his YouTube channel.

He said: ‘I went out to Holy Island with a friend to take footage of the castle.

‘We saw the vehicle coming over from the island side. It was very brave of him and I decided to film him.

‘I was in the military for 24 years and I’ve seen lots of things but nothing as ridiculous as that.

‘One of the passengers got out and walked up and down, pondering what their next move was.

‘I guess they just had to wait for nature to take its course before they could leave.’

Eventually, the stranded driver and passengers were rescued, with footage showing a lifeboat pulling up to help them to safety.

Holy Island causeway has safe crossing times due to the high tide that covers the road – but it appears this driver ignored the advice.

Read more:

Commons Questions – Rossendale

Taxis: Rossendale

Department for Transport written question – answered on 31st October 2016.

Paul Blomfield Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union)

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to the Answer of 12 October 2016 to Question 46806 on taxis: licensing, what assessment he has made of the reasons for the increase in licence applications from Rossendale Borough Council between 2013 and 2015.

Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The legislation that provides for licensing of taxi and private hire vehicle services is enabling in its nature, giving local licensing authorities the discretion to set standards that they deem to be appropriate for their area. Rossendale Council has already made changes to the Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle application process to address the rapid rise in the number of drivers they license. Wherever a driver has been licensed, the licensing authority that issue that licence must have confirmed that the driver is a “fit and proper” person.

To help licensing authorities set standards the Department for Transport issues Best Practice Guidance. In addition to this, the Government has also introduced an amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill that will make statutory all aspects of the guidance that are related to the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults. Both parts of the guidance will be consulted on publicly once the Bill has received Royal Assent.

Derby man used forged documents to work as a taxi driver

Manveer Singh Khakh pleaded guilty at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court today to 23 offences relating driving a taxi without the correct licence.

The court heard Khakh had been given private hire work by an operator in Derby on the basis that he was licensed as a hackney carriage driver with Gedling Borough Council.

Derby City Council’s licensing team carried out an investigation which found that Khakh had not been licensed as a hackney carriage driver by Gedling Borough Council since December 17, 2014, and that he had been allocated work by providing forged documents to the operator.

The city council said it was pleased with the outcome of the case.

Councillor Baggy Shanker, who has responsibility for licensing at Derby City Council, said he was pleased with the outcome of the case. He said: “This is a welcome decision by the magistrates that highlights one of the loopholes created by hackney carriages licensed in other local authorities working in the city.

“This sends a clear message to drivers that, if they are found to be operating in the city without the correct authorisation, the council will not hesitate to take action against them. We intend to continue our pressure on other local authorities who license drivers operating in Derby to close these licensing loopholes.”

A spokesman for Derby City Council said following the case that all operator licence holders in the city were being reminded of the importance of stringently checking documents provided by drivers to ensure they were genuine prior to allocating work to them.

Khakh was charged under section 47 of the town and police clauses act 1847. He was fined £60 per offence, in total £1,380, but, due to his guilty plea, the fine was reduced to £920. Derby City Council was awarded £1,977.35 costs.


Landmark ruling looms on basic workers’ rights for Uber drivers

A tribunal is going to decide whether Uber drivers are entitled to receive the minimum wage as well as sickness and holiday pay.

An employment tribunal in London will today make a landmark ruling that could set a precedent for the UK’s so-called gig economy.

Two Uber drivers have brought a case against the car hire service which strikes at the heart of the business model that helped the company grow to be worth billions of pounds worldwide in less than a decade.

The drivers claim that Uber is acting unlawfully by denying them basic workers’ rights such as the minimum wage along with sick and holiday pay.
Uber insists its 40,000 drivers are “partners” and self-employed, meaning they are not entitled to these benefits.

Sky News spoke to Henry, who has been working exclusively as an Uber driver for two years. He says he works 14-hour days in order to earn a weekly salary of about £300.

He explained: “Uber is a very big company and they are recruiting every single day so you can’t argue with them. That is what is worrying, you could lose your job at any time.”

Jason Moyer-Lee is the leader of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, and is calling for a change to employment law to ensure workers in the sector are treated fairly.

He said: “The so-called gig economy is a euphemism for exploitation.

“It’s basically a model that big profit-making companies have developed where they have realised, for the most part, they can get away with having lots of workers who work for them, often exclusively, and help them make their profits.

“But they don’t provide these people with the minimum wage, holiday and sick pay or pensions and everything that workers across the country have come to take for granted.”

But not everyone is unhappy with the kind of work that the likes of Uber, Deliveroo and TaskRabbit offer, and instead enjoy the flexibility.
Viktor is developing his own software company alongside being an Uber driver.

He said: “I think Uber is fantastic, I don’t work for anybody or serve anybody. In fact I use it to help me network and get extra money when I need it.”

The so-called gig or sharing economy has boomed in the UK.

Deliveroo is another company embroiled in the row over workers’ rights

According to official figures, the number of people registered as self-employed rose to 4.8 million in August this year – accounting for 15% of the UK population.

As for Uber, it has two million users in London alone and they make around one million trips a week.

For many people using the one-off, on-demand services for takeaways, odd jobs or taxi rides is a convenience but critics say it’s fuelling inequality, with big companies growing at the expense of others less fortunate.

The tribunal’s decision could have huge implications not just for Uber and its drivers but for all those invested in the UK’s gig economy.

If Uber loses, it may radically change how companies in the sector do business and how they treat those that work for them.

But if the case goes against the drivers, experts say it would validate this type of flexible working and encourage more on-demand services into the market.


Taxi drivers won’t be forced to take BTEC after all because courses ‘cost too much’

THE high cost of courses to improve the level of service from taxi drivers in Christchurch has led to councillors rejecting the idea.

At a meeting of the licensing committee on Monday, members discussed plans to ask drivers to complete BTEC and NVQ qualifications in a bid to raise the quality of service for passengers.

They also discussed whether to introduce a safeguarding module for drivers to complete.

However, members felt the fees involved in the BTEC and NVQ courses were too high.

The discussion came after Bournemouth council asked their drivers to complete BTEC and NVQ courses, which led to a concern that drivers were moving to Christchurch to work.

Officers warned that there could be strong opposition to the measure, especially with a lack of government funding.

Councillor Bernie Davis, portfolio holder for safe and healthy communities, said: “Members requested that officers investigate the feasibility of introducing BTEC and NVQ qualifications for hackney carriage and private hire drivers (taxi drivers).

“We were aware that other nearby local authorities required taxi drivers to complete such courses and that this may have resulted in a displacement of applications to Christchurch. It was also felt that such qualifications may improve the general level of service offered to the public.

“At the licensing committee meeting, members decided that the fees presented made it unreasonable to make the qualifications a requirement.

“However, we have requested further investigation into other providers to ensure best value.

“Members did agree to introduce a new safeguarding module, following high profile national case reviews relating to taxi drivers and the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults.”

The safeguarding module follows the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse in Rotherham.

A report to the committee said officers had considered an e-learning course and seminars, but had “reservations” they could be too in depth and irrelevant.