By the time you read this magazine your future could be sealed. You could be heading towards oblivion and your future could be in the hands of others.
You see, due to pressure the Transport Select committee are to look into the taxi and private hire trades. Whilst they will primarily be looking into cross border hiring issues with Private Hire vehicles, they will also be open to suggestions and input from any concerned persons into the taxi and private hire trades.
Not scared yet? You should be.
What will happen if, and I have every reason to expect they will, the large private hire companies across the country actually get themselves involved and tell the select committee they cant get on with their business properly due to (and in their opinion) silly licensing rules?
What will happen if the licensing officer groups and local government write into the committee and say the system is a mess and in need of a total shake up?
The fact the taxi trade itself seem to have brought it to the attention of the Committee suggests they (some in the taxi trade) already think its worthy of consideration by the government.
So, you’ve got three groups, maybe more, all banging on the government door saying the current licensing system isn’t good, isn’t workable and it needs overhauled, what do you thinks going to happen, more importantly, do you actually care?
Well you should. If the select committee advise the government that the system is in meltdown, the government may be forced into a cab act. But I fear this act won’t be a thing that any of you will like.
Would a new act retain limitation of numbers? Would a new act decide cross border hiring is a bad thing, particularly if the licensed vehicle is pre-booked? Would a new act see the need to even have a two tier system?
Lots of questions, not too many answers.
Those of you that want new legislation point towards the 1847 act as being out of date. Yes, the act was around before the Crimean War, but the question we should ask is why? Why has this act lasted 164 years when so many others have come and gone?
Those people who want a new act should look through the 1847 act and think what they would replace it with.
For example, section 62 of the act makes it an offence to leave a cab attended at a place of public resort. This was originally intended to avoid horses wandering off and becoming a nuisance, yet it is still used in cases where drivers leave cabs unattended on ranks. Are we saying we want cabs unattended on ranks whilst drivers go shopping?
Section 53 makes it an offence to refuse to take a passenger to a destination within the prescribed area (without reasonable excuse). Are people suggesting drivers should be able to cherrypick fares?
Section 54 makes it an offence for a driver to demand more than the agreed fare. Do people want the taxi trade to have the ability to demand more money?
I could carry on, but I’d only be pointing out further examples of workable legislation. Any new legislation wouldn’t surely go beyond the driver being fit and proper with the vehicle being fit for purpose. Justifiably, the fitness and propriety of both driver and vehicle is always open to interpretation.
One expert, James TH Button, stated in his (infamous) book that in his opinion taxi law was outdated and there was no substitute for modern legislation. Really Jim? There’s one chapter in the Equality Act 2010 dedicated to taxis, and this has created more confusion and more ambiguity than any previous act known to taxis (save for section 16 of the 1985 transport act).
Indeed, if you can all recall section 52 of the Road Safety Act and the use of immediate suspensions. Everybody thought this was going to be used for serious offences, unfortunately they didn’t actually factor in some councils being slightly retarded.
Am I really to trust the draftsman or local authorities given the above examples with new legislation? I seriously don’t think so.
The fact of the matter is that if a person in Liverpool wants to pre-book a private hire vehicle from Sefton they can, whatever new act is worked out, phone for a vehicle from another area. If the people of the Wirral go into Liverpool for a night out, and don’t want a Liverpool Hackney Carriage, possibly due to an unfortunate experience involving going through a tunnel, they will continue to call a private hire vehicle. That is called customer choice, and there’s nothing a government can do about someone’s choice.
Furthermore, if any part of the act is going to be looked at, it’s more than likely to factor in changes that would benefit private hire. For a hackney carriage people to suggest a PH car should return to its area when its completed a fare, knowing full well there’s a pre-booked job in the next street in half an hours time, isn’t only folly, its bordering on sheer stupidity.
Indeed, current legislation forbids private hire operators passing bookings on to other private hire operators across district borders. This is permitted in the London Private Hire act, but not the 1976 act. If this changes we could well see large national private hire companies.
To my knowledge only the National Taxi Association are currently opposed to wholesale change in legislation and they appear to be akin to King Canute, their opposition, given their size, will be as ineffectual as England’s recent world cup bid, unless of course people begin to take this threat as serious and join the body.
I summed all this up recently when I said;
“Local Authorities have every tool available already at their disposal, from the 1847 act onwards, they have guidance from government and numerous conditions they could apply to both hackney proprietors and private hire licensing, yet for some reason some people out there are trying to convince government things need changed. Changed to what exactly? Is any new act going to stray from drivers being fit and proper and vehicles being in decent order? I’m convinced people out there are mad.”
It appears to me that a good number of people in the hackney carriage trade look down their noses at private hire, the reality is that private hire are much better funded than the hackney trade. For example, how many thousands of pounds were invested in lobbying to get private hire removed from the equality act?
Do people seriously expect the private hire trade to sit down doing nothing as the hackney carriage trade try to dictate?
Believe that and you need a bib.
© Wayne Casey