Newcastle under Lyme council officer suspended over taxi licensing allegations

A COUNCIL licensing officer has been suspended following allegations against the staff member.

Newcastle Borough Council has taken the action while an internal investigation into the issue takes place.

It is understood that the allegations against the officer relate to the borough council’s issuing of licences to taxi drivers.

A borough council spokesman said: “We can confirm that a member of staff has been suspended while an investigation takes place.

“As this is still under way it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.”

Read more: http://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/

Wayne’s World – May 2016

B6TWNDmCQAAHCZaWayne’s World

By

Wayne Casey

The views expressed here are not the views of anyone, ever.

I started last month’s article by writing about the sad passing of Bryan Rowland, this month I feel I must say a little about another colleague who sadly passed away, Pat Connor.

Pat was a stalwart of the Manchester cab trade for over 40 years, well known through his political contacts throughout Greater Manchester and a strong union man through the GMB.

He was one of the founders of the ‘Meeting of Minds’ group and a devoted follower of Manchester United. RIP my friend.

Before Pat was buried news came that another colleague, Ray Tweddle of Streamline Taxis in Hartlepool had also sadly passed away. Ray was a NTA member for many years, attending regional meetings on a regular basis, always smiling and sharing a joke.

Last month I wrote at length about the way the press has seemingly treated that damn app. Ignoring the stories of driver complaints and on occasion completely ignoring some of the horror stories.

This month this line appears to have continued.

Asad Shah, a shopkeeper in Glasgow, appears to have had the audacity to wish Christians a Happy Easter. For this heinous crime, he was brutally murdered, allegedly by Tanveer Ahmed, a 32-year-old private hire driver who was working for the damn app company.

Predictably, the company issued a statement saying, “the car had not been used for any trips in Glasgow”, they also said, “any driver given a private hire licence by Bradford City Council had to pass enhanced DBS disclosure tests”.

Ahmed apparently confessed to his crime on 6th April, the press, predictably, reverted to describing him as a taxi driver, even though he was a private hire driver working for that damn app.

In a former life I was responsible a 50 cab fleet in Carlisle – over the twenty odd years I did this I cannot recall employing a single murderer – if I did, even though I have a very selective memory, I would remember doing so.

The Bury Times during April reported that Bury council had teamed up with that damn app in relation to an event in their borough called Parklife, I’ve been to Bury, Pondlife would be more apt. Irrespective of that bombshell, it would appear that the good councillors of the town seem to believe the public will be safer. They want to be careful making statements like that, it recently cost the damn app company $10 million in California for a similar claim.

The local paper stated, “it is not known at this stage whether its controversial surge pricing will be in place, where riders can pay up to 10 times the price depending on demand”.

It is therefore safe to assume the council negotiated a deal with the damn app company without knowing exactly how much the app company would be charging visitors from the event. My sense of wtf returns once more.

As the damn app company will be presumably using vehicles licensed across the Greater Manchester area, the council have seemingly, (and very effectively), stuck two fingers up at the cabs they license locally. Indeed, if they believe their own licensing officers have any control over vehicles they don’t license, they’re going to be in for a wonderful surprise and potential shenanigans galore.

Another person who deserves to be beaten about the head with a blunt gardening implement is a now former driver of that damn app. Mohamed Mohamoud, 51 of Tulse Hill who was told to pay £1,546 in fines and costs at Hammersmith magistrates’ court for refusing a guide dog.

District Judge Jeremy Coleman found him guilty of breaking the Equality Act 2010, saying: “I listened to the defendant with care but I don’t believe what he said to me.” In other words ‘liar, liar, pants on fire’, which is probably why I was refused a seat on the judiciary.

Although I would love to have seen the defendants face if the judge when sentencing uttered the words, ‘Officers of the court, take this man outside and shoot him!’

Speaking outside court, Ms Sharp (the blind lady), of Roehampton, welcomed the prosecution and vowed never to use Uber again. Sadly, I would think this is exactly what that damn app firm want; it’ll save them asking questions of their ‘partners’.

One really has to throw into question, yet again, the quality of driver the app appears to be attracting, may I be so bold as to suggest a further question relating to guide dogs in their induction courses for their ‘partners’.

The damn app company are not seemingly alone in employing the socially inept, people who need to be tied to a lamppost, naked and beaten about the body with a six iron. Up in Trafford, Asif Raza Syed was prosecuted under equalities legislation at Trafford Magistrates Court on April 8 for refusing to accept a passenger with a guide dog from his operator.

Carrying on, during April a Freedom of Information (FOI) request was answered by the Police in London, it gave rather alarming statistics involving minicab drivers. Between February 2015 and February 2016, there were154 serious sexual assaults (including rape), carried out by Private Hire drivers on passengers.

Elements of the press, well the Evening Standard and Independent Newspapers mainly, then went with the following furious headlines.

“126 cab drivers charged with sexual or violent crimes” stormed the Independent,

“More than 400 London cab drivers charged with crimes last year” fumed by the Evening Standard.

Of course, the culprits weren’t ‘London cab drivers’, the press, showing their usual ignorance and hatred of the cab trade, a level of ignorance which is beyond the ken of even those with single digit IQ’s, chose those headlines quite obviously on purpose.

Talking of wonderful surprises, the Daily Mirror reported on 18th April of a scandal of local government inadequacy. It reported:

“Drivers in South Ribble, Lancashire, have been accused of violating children while carrying out council-funded school runs, according to an interim review of the licensing of hackney carriages and private hire vehicles by South Ribble Council.

The horrifying report – which bears troubling similarities to the Rotherham sex abuse scandal – claims children were being put at risk on their daily commute.

It classes the failure of ­authorities to vet 44 of its drivers as particularly severe, since a report into the Rotherham attacks had warned 1,400 victims were picked up by taxis from school and children’s homes.”

It is with no sense of conceit I write this, but I have been warning for months in this column, years in other publications, that this type of thing is going to happen.

On one hand, you have licensing departments that have an ever-increasing workload of which taxis and private hire are merely part of the function and are arguably the most important and labour intensive element.

On the other hand, you have over promoted, politically correct feckwits who don’t know their backsides from their elbows.

However, regulatory services face budgetary pressure, like the rest of local government.

Yes, I know licensing Taxi and PH budgets should be ring fenced, but we all know those budgets have been pilfered for years. Indeed, one taxi-licensing budget paid for a firework display and another paid for a taxi rank that wasn’t actually there.

Press headlines telling of huge increases in license fees and numerous local authorities adopting joint regulatory services with adjoining local councils, based on saving taxpayers money are obvious further examples of budgetary pressure.

Officers are in numerous cases given too many delegated powers from often-lazy licensing committees and chief executives, repeatedly to save on the cost of committee meetings, and consequently the adoption of penalty point schemes. Cutting back on paperwork, interviews under PACE and writing reports that may be scrutinized in courts cuts expenditure.

In many cases, licensing departments are understaffed, even a single absence, perhaps due to illness, can dramatically decrease the effectiveness of a licensing department.

I am reminded by a quote from Noam Chomsky;

“That’s the standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital”

When you seriously look at it how many of you are thinking, the council cannot run licensing, let’s get a private company to run it?

Overstretched licensing departments do not exactly help themselves.

As I have said and wrote on numerous occasions, if someone from many miles away wants a taxi or private hire license, someone must surely ask why?

Why would this person from Manchester, come all the way to Whitehaven to apply for a taxi license?

Should it not ring a couple of alarm bells? Am I led to believe that licensing officers, after almost 30 years in dealing with them, are all of a sudden not the suspicious type?

Let us not fool ourselves; there is understandable public anger about children being molested and raped by licensed drivers, the damage these drivers do to the reputation of the rest of us cannot be easily repaired.

In everything this and what the previous government has done, be it bringing in the deregulation act or ignoring the ‘out of town’ taxis issue, it has helped create a situation where the public are less safe and licensing departments can be accused of neglect.

It is mooted in certain areas that private companies such as ‘Capita’ should run regulatory services departments, indeed; it is advertised on their website.

Of course, private companies are run for profit, something expressly forbidden in terms of our licenses, but let’s face facts here, since when has something such as this ever-stopped private capital?

I have news for you, it hasn’t, laws are changed.

They are coming for your licensing departments and do you know what? They will get them.

All thoughts of dealing with a local licensing officer, those people you castigate whenever they make an unpopular decision, but are there so you can vent and grass up colleagues, will be gone.

You will be dealing with people miles away, perhaps thousands of miles away, no face, just a voice like when you call telecom to complain, you will pay and if you don’t you’ll lose your license.

I’ve seen the future and now they’re coming for us.

also available at – PHTM May Issue
 

Redditch Borough Council penalty points consultation

Dear Consultee,

 

Redditch Borough Council is proposing to introduce a penalty points scheme as a tool to help secure compliance with licensing requirements from holders of the hackney carriage and private hire licences that the Council issues and is therefore carrying out consultation on the proposal.

 

A copy of the draft penalty points scheme and a consultation response form can be downloaded here:

http://www.redditchbc.gov.uk/business/starting-a-business/licenses-and-permits-you-may-need/taxis-and-private-hire/consultation-on-taxi-penalty-points-scheme.aspx

 

If you would like to take part in this consultation, please return your consultation response to:

 

Consultation on Penalty Points Scheme – Redditch Borough Council

Worcestershire Regulatory Services

Wyre Forest House

Finepoint Way

Kidderminster

Worcestershire

DY11 7WF

 

You can also return your consultation response via email to wrsenquiries@worcsregservices.gov.uk.  Finally you can submit your consultation response at the Reception Desk at the Town Hall in Redditch in an envelope marked for the attention of “Licensing.”

 

This consultation will remain open for responses until Friday 10th June 2016.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Dave Etheridge

Dave Etheridge Senior Practitioner (Licensing) Tel: 01905 822799 Fax: 01562 745516 E-mail: Dave.Etheridge@worcsregservices.gov.uk Web: http://www.worcsregservices.gov.uk/ 

Worcestershire Regulatory Services Wyre Forest House, Finepoint Way, Kidderminster, Worcestershire, DY11 7WF

Taxi driver with sleep condition caused head-on smash South Yorkshire road

A former taxi driver fell asleep at the wheel and swerved into an oncoming vehicle, a court heard.

Khalid Ali, aged 41, of Ramsden Road, Broom, Rotherham, was seen by a witness before the collision ‘swerving’ across the A628 Manchester Road near Penistone.

The smash on August 30, 2014, left Ali, who was later diagnosed with a sleep condition, and the victim with serious injuries.

Ali, who attended court supported by a crutch, has had to claim disability benefit but was said to be making progress with his recovery.

But the injured victim said in a statement he did not bear Ali any ill feeling.

He said: “Whatever happened to him on that day, I just want him to sort himself out to make sure something like this never happens again.”

Sheffield Crown Court was told after the crash, Ali was diagnosed with sleep apnoea when he was spotted falling asleep in the hospital waiting room for routine check-ups on his injuries.

Judge Mark Gargan said he took Ali’s condition into consideration but added he should have pulled over.

Alison Dorrell, prosecuting, said: “The defendant, who was driving a Volkswagen people carrier towards Penistone, was seen veering across the lane before the collision.

“The driver who was hit in the head-on collision was travelling in the direction of Manchester to play golf.”

The victim spent three weeks in hospital and his wife took three months off work to care for him. His recovery was described as ‘slow but steady’.

Andrew Smith, defending, said: “The driver of the other vehicle has a shown remarkable understanding despite receiving relatively serious injuries.

“It took so long to come to court because the police investigation could not find out what had happened and this is now clear because of Mr Ali’s condition.

“Phone and taxi computer records were checked and there was no evidence to suggest that he had been distracted or was speeding.

“Mr Ali acknowledges the serious injuries that he has caused and he is truly remorseful for what has happened.”

Judge Gargan said: “Your condition does go some way to explaining why the collision came about.

But you were seen swerving across the road before the crash and that should have been enough for you to do something, like pulling over.”

Ali admitted driving without due care and attention and was fined £250 and given an eight-month driving ban.

Read more: http://www.thestar.co.uk/

Uber pays $10m in driver vetting row

Ride-sharing company Uber has agreed to pay $10m (£7m) to settle a dispute over its background checks for drivers.

Uber was sued in 2014 after it claimed its vetting process was better than systems traditional minicab firms used.

But district attorneys in San Francisco and Los Angeles said Uber’s very public statement it was “the gold standard” for safety was misleading.

Uber said it had dealt with many of the concerns in the case, and said settling was not an admission of any wrongdoing.

Unlike traditional cab companies, Uber does not require a fingerprint check that could uncover prior convictions.

Instead, Uber uses different criminal databases to vet its drivers, with data going back seven years.

As part of the settlement, Uber has said it would no longer use the terms such as “safest drive on the road” in its advertising.

But the BBC understands the company would not be adding fingerprint checks to its process.

The firm stressed that it felt no driver vetting system could ever be “100% safe”.

Prosecutors said Uber had failed to prevent 25 people with criminal convictions from becoming drivers, including several sex offenders and a convicted murderer.

“Accidents and incidents do happen,” the company said in a statement on Thursday.

“That’s why we need to ensure that the language used to describe safety at Uber is clear and precise.”

One of those language changes has included renaming its “safe ride fee” as a “booking fee”.
Airport permission

“We’re glad to put this case behind us and excited to redouble our efforts serving riders and drivers across the state of California,” it added.

The company also agreed it would only operate at Californian airports where it had explicit permission to do so, and make airport surcharges clearer.

Uber will make the $10m payment within 60 days which will be split evenly between authorities in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

If the company fails to keep to the agreement outlined in the settlement it will be forced to pay an additional $15m in two years.

“The result we achieved today goes well beyond its impact on Uber,” said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón.

“It sends a clear message to all businesses, and to startups in particular, that in the quest to quickly obtain market share, laws designed to protect consumers cannot be ignored.”

source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/

Cardiff could be left without taxis after cabbies threaten to strike over council crackdown

Cardiff’s Hackney Driver Association said its members will strike on four nights in April because of their unhappiness with new guidance issued by Cardiff council

Cardiff’s Hackney Driver Association said its members will strike over two weekends

Clubbers and partygoers in Cardiff could be left without taxis on four weekend nights this month after cabbies threatened to go on strike.

The city’s Hackney Driver Association said members are planning to take action on April 15 and 16 and April 22 and 23 because of their unhappiness with a council crackdown.

The planned move would hit taxicabs – black cab-style services that can be hailed on the street – but would not affect private hire drivers.

It comes after the council clamped down on taxi complaints in the wake of a series of reported sex attacks in the capital last year.

In September, concerns were raised that lone women had been refused journeys by drivers which they deemed to be too short a distance.

As a result, Cardiff council issued guidance from the head of the licensing committee, Councillor Jacqueline Parry, saying that if anyone felt they were wrongly turned down for a journey they should take the driver’s details and report them.

The council subsequently announced 90 complaints were made within three weeks.

But the association says these complaints were simply a result of the increased number of people visiting the city for the Rugby World Cup .

“The alleged victims have never stated in any interviews that they had to walk home because the taxi drivers refused to take them home , based on the ground that the journey was too short,” said Mathab Khan, chairman of the Cardiff Hackney Carriage Association.

“The council received some 90 complaints in three weeks mainly during the Rugby World cup tournament, when 70,000 to 100,000 rugby fans filled up every nook and cranny of the city especially whenever Wales was playing at home or away, and most of them are fairly drunk and some of them are heavily drunk or too drunk to travel in taxis.

“Hence the degree of complaints increased significantly, due to the fact that there was 10 times more people in the city, compared to the amount of people we normally have in any given time, and most of them were heavily under the influence of alcohol.”

The group alleged that drivers have been punished unfairly – with five drivers since having their licences suspended.

And it claimed those complaints had been dealt with through the council’s licensing sub-committee to “punish the drivers with a vengeance” in a forum which requires a “lesser level of scrutiny” than if they had been pursued through a court hearing.

Mr Khan said: “Unless the full committee of Cardiff council ceases such malpractice with immediate effect and remove Councillor Jacqueline Parry [committee chairwoman] and Dave Holland [Head of Service – Regulatory & Supporting Services] from their position immediately, we will be considering industrial action on Friday, April 15, and Saturday, April 16, between midnight till 4am and will repeat on April 22 and 23.”

Cardiff council has defended its right to take disciplinary action against individuals who refuse a fare without good reason, and explained its reasoning behind pursuing complaints through a committee rather than through a prosecution.

A spokesman said: “Last autumn the issue of refusal of fares became prominent in the local media and the council received many complaints. Council officers decided to deal with these by taking them to the Public Protection Committee to consider potential disciplinary action. This was in view of the volume of complaints, public concern, the committee’s function to protect vulnerable members of the travelling public, and the desire to simplify the process for the complainant, who is the ultimately the service user.

“During the time in question, the council did appeal to the taxi trade to take vulnerable women home. A view shared by Mr Khan’s media statement on September 27, which stated that ‘99.9% of drivers were helpful ’ and ‘Our (Hackney Carriage Association) advice to our drivers is to be as helpful as you possibly can, especially when it comes to lone female students. We say ‘Please take them, they are vulnerable’.

“Rather than threatening strike action, we would advise all drivers to understand and abide by their licensing conditions, or face enforcement action for breaching the law.”

source: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/

Crawley taxi drivers could be unknowingly ferrying around children to be abused

TAXI drivers in Crawley are going to be trained in how to spot the signs they could be asked to pick up and ferry around a child who is being sexually exploited in the town or at Gatwick Airport.

To mark Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Awareness Day on Friday, March 18 it was announced all 850 licensed hackney carriage and private hire drivers in Crawley will undergo new training. CSE is the abuse and manipulation of young girls and boys into sexual activity, potentially in exchange for things such as money, gifts, accommodation, affection or status.

There are concerns Crawley’s links with Gatwick Airport and the number of hotels in the area could mean vulnerable children are being exploited for sex – with drivers unknowingly transporting them.

Councillor Michael Jones, cabinet member for public protection and community engagement at Crawley Borough Council and chair of the Safer Crawley Partnership, said: “Taxi drivers are known to transport vulnerable adults and children.

“While I’ve received no intelligence to pinpoint there being a particular issue in Crawley, we cannot be complacent. We are right next to Gatwick Airport and if there is any sort of trafficking of young people going on it is likely that our taxi drivers are on the front line getting fares to ferry them from place to place.

“We want to take hard action and the training will highlight awareness of CSE and encourage them to report any concerns to the police and council.”

Drivers are expected to complete the training course, funded by the Safer Crawley Partnership and Barnado’s, this year.

The course will highlight the signs to look out for, help drivers understand why a victim may not ask for help and to be aware of how children describe where they are going and why, plus the different grooming processes. Hackney carriage drivers are fully behind the new training.

Martin Feasey, a hackney carriage driver in Crawley with 32 years’ experience, has his own policy when it comes to being asked to take fares for children.

He said: “I refuse to take a child aged under 14 who is alone, they should be accompanied by an adult. I wouldn’t say it is safe for someone that young to be going somewhere alone and I wouldn’t want to put myself in that situation.”

Bob Lawrence, a taxi driver for more than 40 years around Crawley, said: “This is a positive step. I cannot think of an occasion where I’ve ever had a young person in my taxi and felt as though something wrong was going on.

“But at the same time, even with all my years of experience, I cannot be certain that I’ve known what to look out for. This training will change that and I’m fully behind it.

“I’d hate to think I could pick up a passenger who was being groomed but if I ever did I’d want to be in the best position to spot what was happening and do something about it.”

Last year Crawley Borough Council spent £1,800 on handbooks urging taxi drivers to report concerns and what signs to look for.

Next month Sussex Police are launching a further campaign in the area to give extra support to people running and working at hotels and B&Bs to help them look out for the tell-tale signs.

Read more: http://www.crawleynews.co.uk/

Drunk passenger charged £102 for £15 journey after Uber driver takes 20-mile detour around London

Daniel Kaizen fell asleep during the minicab ride home and almost ‘spat out his tea’ when he awoke to see the route his driver took.

An Uber driver charged a drunk passenger £102.17 for a journey, after taking him on a 20-mile detour around London while he slept.

Daniel Kaizen ordered a minicab from Old Street to Wood Green, north London this weekend, a five-mile trip which he said he was told would cost around £15.

But the late-night detour around the capital meant that his journey took five times longer than he expected and the bill came to over £100.

He said that Uber has since apologised and promised to refund the money.

Mr Kaizen, 26, ordered an Uber minicab in the early hours of Bank Holiday Monday morning and said that he slept most of the way back.

But instead of being driven through north London on what would have been the quickest route, he spent the night riding due east to Barking before being taken around the North Circular to his destination.

After waking up at his destination, he switched on his phone to give his driver a star rating and said “I nearly spat out my tea laughing at the route”.

Looking at his phone, he could see the round-about route the driver had taken as well as the car going beyond where he says he was dropped off.

He wrote on Facebook: “Well, I was drunk, but damn Uber, £105 for a £15 journey.”

He added on Twitter: “Great start to my Easter Monday.”

Mr Kaizen says Uber have now apologised and say they will refund the amount in the next five days.

It comes after another Uber passenger, Jonny Bee, was charged £93 for a five-minute journey after he says he was wrongly charged for a luxury car. Uber claimed the driver had forgotten to cancel the previous journey from his machine.

The highly successful app has sparked protests around the world by taxi drivers who claim that Uber’s private hire car drivers are not subject to the same level of regulation as they are.

source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

Asad Shah: Uber minicab seized by police investigating murder of Glasgow shopkeeper

An Uber minicab has been seized by police investigating the murder of Glasgow shopkeeper Asad Shah – who was stabbed to death after wishing friends and customers a “very happy Easter”.

The grey Volkswagan Passat mini-cab with Uber branding in the windscreen was parked opposite “man of peace” Mr Shah’s shop in Glasgow, where he was killed just four hours after posting his Easter message to “my beloved Christian nation”.

The vehicle – a private hire cab registered with the city council in Bradford, 200 miles from Glasgow – was within the police cordon set up at the crime scene and was removed by police forensic officers wearing white protective suits.

The forensic officers slowly drove a recovery truck into the cordon and winched the private hire saloon cab onto the back of it before driving away.

It’s believed the vehicle, which is feared to have transported Mr Shah’s killer to the scene, is now undergoing forensic testing.

The vehicle seizure happened at 2.30pm on Friday afternoon outside Mr Shah’s shop on Minard Road in the Shawlands area of Glasgow but has only just come to light.

News of the seizure comes 24 hours after reports that Mr Shah’s killer had travelled to Scotland from Bradford.

An Uber spokesman said yesterday that the car was registered to a private hire cab driver in Bradford who last used the Uber app on Monday March 21.

The spokesman said the car had not been used for any Uber trips in Glasgow and said any driver given a private hire licence by Bradford City Council had to pass enhanced DBS disclosure tests.

Police Scotland yesterday refused to comment on the seizure of the vehicle.

Meanwhile a crowdfunding site set up to raise money for Mr Shah’s family has reached £70,000 thanks to donations from across Britain and further afield.

Police said on Friday that Mr Shah’s death was being treated as “religiously prejudiced”.

source: http://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/

Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Operators (Regulation)

Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Operators (Regulation)

– in the House of Commons at 12:34 pm on 22nd March 2016.

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 22 March 2016, c1384)

 

Wes Streeting Labour, Ilford North 12:45 pm, 22nd March 2016

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision about the skills and knowledge required of a person driving a taxi or private hire vehicle (TPHV) and related responsibilities of TPHV company operators and service providers; to require operators of TPHV companies and service providers to hold specified types and levels of insurance; to make provision about the tax liability of TPHV companies and service providers; and for connected purposes.

I am grateful for the opportunity to present the Bill, and I am delighted by the strength of support from right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House, which is reflected, I think, in the attendance today.

The Bill seeks to put fair competition and passenger safety at the heart of the taxi and private hire vehicle industry in London and across the country. The advent of new technology in the industry is revolutionising the way people navigate our great capital city; indeed, it is revolutionising transport in cities across the United Kingdom and the world. At its best, disruptive technology drives innovation and increases competition, with enormous benefits for businesses and consumers alike. However, as we have seen on the streets of London, it also brings significant challenges. The Bill seeks to address some of those challenges, which have been neglected for far too long.

The debate about the future of London’s taxi industry has been unfairly characterised as a debate between those who support competition and innovation on the one hand and those who want to cling to the past on the other. That is lazy analysis. It is true that London’s iconic black taxi trade is at risk; indeed, I would go as far as to say that the threat to it is existential—but the cabbies I represent are not afraid of change and innovation, they are not afraid of new technology and they are not afraid of competition. However, they are finding it increasingly hard to compete in a changing marketplace with both hands tied behind their backs. [Interruption.] It is great to see even the Chancellor taking an interest in their plight. [Hon. Members: “Taxi?”] The Chancellor may need a taxi.

I represent many black taxi drivers; indeed, Ilford North was once known as “Green Badge valley”, and it is still not unusual to see taxis parked on the driveways of Gants Hill, Clayhall, Barkingside and Woodford. I also represent hundreds of minicab drivers and drivers who work for new market entrants such as Uber. Like many Londoners, I use black taxis, particularly in central London. I also use minicabs and apps such as Uber locally. I welcome the choice and enjoy the benefits of competition, but I also recognise that the explosion in the number of private hire vehicles in London presents regulatory challenges and risks for passengers.

An investigation for LBC by Theo Usherwood exposed the ease with which individuals can access a private hire licence without adequate insurance. We know that a number of vehicles are already on the road without appropriate insurance. Last year, The Guardian was able to demonstrate how easy it was for an Uber driver to pick up a customer, having provided fake insurance paperwork via the company’s operating system. Some private hire vehicles are illegally plying for hire and touting, increasing the risk of passengers getting into cars driven by unlicensed and unknown drivers, with considerable risk to their safety. This is an illegal practice that the regulators ought to be acting a lot harder on. Guide Dogs UK found in a survey of assistance dog owners that 43.5% of respondents had been refused access to private hire vehicles, and it is all too common for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender passengers to experience discrimination.

Though I enjoy price competition as much as anyone else, is it really fair to expect cabbies to compete on fares while Transport for London continues to put up regulated fares for black taxis and apps such as Uber are able to drive their prices down, as profit-shifting allows them to avoid paying their fair share of taxes here in the UK? If we fail to act, London’s iconic black taxis will be driven off our streets. This is bad for competition, bad for passengers, and bad for London.

The Bill proposes action in three areas to improve passenger safety and make competition fairer so that our black taxi industry can continue to survive and thrive alongside minicabs and other private hire operators. First, on the issue of training, private hire vehicle drivers undertake only a rudimentary topographical test and in many cases do not undergo formal training. This sees many relying on sat-nav, which means that the risk of collision is increased due to sharp braking or not focusing on the road ahead. The Bill proposes that in order to obtain a PHV—private hire vehicle—licence all drivers should complete an enhanced Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency assessment, requiring additional skills such as how to drop off and pick up passengers and wheelchair exercises to learn how to support the disabled. PHV drivers should also undertake an assessment on the principle of plying for hire and touting regulations, so that there can be no excuses for breaching regulations. PHV drivers should be properly and fully trained and assessed in their obligations under the Equality Act 2010, so that protected groups such as LGBT people and disabled people can travel with confidence.

The second issue that the Bill seeks to address is insurance. The current system requires “hire and reward” insurance for all drivers where the responsibility for insurance rests with individual drivers. There is a higher cost for this insurance, which means that many private hire vehicle drivers can be tempted to opt for a cheaper form of insurance when accepted by a licensed operator. In order to resolve this issue, I propose moving to a system of operators’ insurance that places the responsibility on operators as a prerequisite for obtaining their licence. This will deliver three key benefits for passengers and industry: guaranteeing that cars managed by the operator are insured so that customers have confidence that they are safe; reducing the cost of insurance through bulk purchasing, thereby delivering better value for money; and making the regulators’ task easier because checking a few thousand operators is easier than checking over 100,000 individual policies. Some companies, such as

Addison Lee, already do this voluntarily, meaning that customers and businesses can book with the confidence that is sometimes lacking around private hire operators.

Finally, my Bill makes provision for the tax liabilities of taxi and private hire vehicle companies. It cannot be right that some companies in this industry are making huge profits but not paying their fair share of taxes. Lower fares are great, but some operators are frankly trying to drive their competition off the road through new apps by offering lower fares made possible by offshore tax arrangements, in effect robbing Peter to pay Paul. I pay particular tribute to my right hon. Friend Caroline Flint, who a week ago today brought forward her own ten-minute rule Bill on transparency for multinationals. Her proposals would be a refreshing step in the right direction.

This Bill would introduce a requirement for the Chancellor or the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to make an annual statement to this House on the progress of the OECD’s base erosion and profit-shifting project and the action that Her Majesty’s Government are taking to ensure that there is proper scrutiny in this area—though I hope that the Chancellor might be better at making progress there than on his own targets. It is a small measure, but it would indicate the view of this House that the Government need to do much more to tackle tax avoidance. These changes collectively would go some way towards levelling the playing field. TfL needs to go further than it currently proposes, and, in any event, these challenges also exist in towns and cities across our country.

Gwyneth Paltrow once said:

“Brits are far more intelligent and civilised than Americans. I love the fact that you can hail a taxi and just pick up your pram and put it in the back of the cab without having to collapse it.”

Perhaps more profoundly, Professor John O’Keefe, a Nobel prize-winning neuroscientist, said:

“Some of the best navigators in the world are London taxi cab drivers. They have to learn 25,000 streets and how to get from one to the other.”

I am sure that the whole House will agree that Brits are more intelligent and taxi cab drivers are the best navigators in the world. They are also small businessmen and women providing a world-famous service and struggling to make their families a good living. We owe them a chance to compete fairly, and we owe it to our great capital city to ensure that the iconic black taxi industry and the great iconic black taxi itself are not consigned to London’s history books. For these reasons, and so many more, I commend this Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Ordered,

That Wes Streeting, Lyn Brown, Neil Coyle, John Cryer, Clive Efford, Mr David Lammy, Kate Osamor, Joan Ryan, Mr Virendra Sharma, Mr Gareth Thomas and Mr Charles Walker present the Bill.

Wes Streeting accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 22 April and to be printed (Bill 154).