Selective Committee selective memories
Holding out for a Hero
I’m going to start this month with a quote from Winston Churchill, which given my Gaelic roots, does tend to go very much against the grain.
“Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.”
To the layman, (that’s you), Churchill was saying that Democracy is the best of a bad job. You see, in the all encompassing method of democracy everyone should have their say, on seemingly absolutely everything in society. This is very possibly the reason those perverts who wear lycra and ride around on pavements scaring the bejeezus out of pedestrians, also known as the cycle lobby, are able to waste countless hours of Casey’s time in transport meetings. Democracy gives everyone a voice, no matter how stupid the voice maybe.
The recent Transport Committee enquiry is further proof of this, you need to read the responses just to understand how truly peculiar some people are. As a strange coincidence, the select committee appeared at the same time Jeremy Kyle was on ITV, how weird is that? But as stated above due to the way democracy works the committee allow representations from all manner of people, no matter how bonkers, selfish or how many windows they lick.
You can be the National Taxi Association (NTA), which represent thousands of taxi people across the UK or Bert of ‘Bert’s Taxis’ near Crosby Ravensworth in Westmoreland, with a single cab. You can put you’re ideas down on paper, give them to the select committee and they will be given consideration alongside the NTA’s. The fact you may base your taxi views amongst a few dark thoughts of sheep, get all of your work from a mobile phone, don’t know what a taxi rank is and consider Emmerdale as current affairs, is overlooked. In a democracy the view of Bert is equal to the NTA.
The whacky old Unite union was of course the body responsible for bringing taxis to the attention of the select committee…..thanks guys!… Their membership, in Liverpool was justifiably miffed with private hire vehicles licensed in Sefton sitting in their area awaiting pre-booked work. The fact this practice isn’t actually illegal doesn’t appear to have got a look in. Call me old fashioned, but if a vehicle is illegally plying for hire in another area, then the people responsible for sorting the mess out are the local authority. It isn’t the job of a select committee in the House of Commons. It’s not as if Liverpool council don’t try. In a recent swoop they captured a PHV from Bangor which apparently travelled 75 miles to illegally ply and one from Burnley. Indeed, of the 9 vehicles captured that were licensed in Sefton, 6 of them were Sefton hackney carriages. Of the 3 Sefton PHVs, 2 were illegally plying and 1 had a dodgy tyre. In my view taking this before a select committee was patently stupid, I can’t be alone in thinking that because the NTTG didn’t bother with a response and from memory no taxi association in the Greater Manchester area bothered either.
A person from a god-awful place called Norwich did write to the committee complaining about similar things to what UNITE were moaning about, the law needs to be changed they exclaimed. Okay, changed to what? Given best practice guidance, one certain thing to come out from any new law will be nationwide deregulation, is that better or worse? Is that what you people want? I’m convinced I’m dealing with geriatric lunatics here.
The problem with the cab trade is that people shout their mouths off about what appears to be popular, there’s nothing by the way of any forethought as to what will happen in the future. They seem to be ignorant of Newton’s third law of motion; for every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.
Private Hire operators in Sefton then advise the select committee their fees are the cheapest in Merseyside, if not the world! This echoes the Berwick scenario because that’s what those who licensed themselves in Berwick said. Admittedly, Berwick Council were more accommodating than the red light district of Amsterdam towards applicants, they bent over allowing out of area testing at a cheap, cheap price and according to the minutes of a meeting in March 2006, dispensed with age limits, this is something the Dutch ladies of the night apparently never do, presumably they had higher standards than Berwick council, well according to Cummins anyway.
Naturally, it doesn’t actually occur to them or the councils responsible for licensing, if the vehicles are operating for the majority of the time in another area, the cost of enforcement increases in the area they sit. This is a little like buying a toaster, using your neighbours electricity to power it, then telling your neighbour how cheap your new toaster is. Or perhaps buying a car, nicking your neighbours credit card to pay for fuel, then telling your neighbour the car is the best in the world and so economical it’s untrue!
I wrote last month, giving my view that zoning was needed in respect of Hackney Carriages, I pointed to the stupid idea that County Durham were considering, where 7 licensing areas were to be amalgamated. I alluded to local authorities lowering standards to save on money. Indeed, like delimitation, the effects of de-zoning an area are irreversible. One of the daftest ideas to be suggested to the select committee was one of a Merseyside license. This has already been mooted in Greater Manchester by virtue of a secret society called AGMA. Now, what kind of eejit would come up with an idea like this?
This super dooper license will allow a taxi from anywhere in Merseyside to ply for hire anywhere in Merseyside. If we concentrate on that godforsaken place, where there are currently 5 authorities making up the area, Liverpool, Sefton, Knowsley, St Helens & Wirral. Obviously, in terms of the area, the City of Liverpool is the hub. Each area has differing taxi policies, some restrict taxi numbers, others only allow certain vehicle types, some allow saloons to be licensed as taxis; some have vehicle age policies and almost all have some type of knowledge test. Even if such an idea was politically possible, and that itself would be an achievement, as each council see its own area as its own private thiefdom, the question needs to be asked what kind of licensing policy would it adopt? Would it use Wirral’s age policy? Where all Hackney Carriages on first and subsequent licensing are subject to age restrictions. Would it use Sefton’s vehicle policy? Which is one where saloon vehicles can be licensed?
How would a knowledge test be even passable, are people seriously expecting a driver currently licensed in the Wirral to have a workable knowledge of the mean streets of Southport? Indeed, would they dispense with a knowledge test and go for ‘sat navs’, but more about that later.
Obviously any hope of retaining control of taxi numbers would disappear; there would always be an unmet demand for taxis somewhere in Merseyside. If you don’t believe this then I ask you to think about the Wirral survey after deregulation, cab numbers increased fourfold and there still weren’t enough cabs in the outlying areas.
Indeed, using the example of the Wirral, where the taxi drivers use a ‘bee’s round the honeypot’ mentality in respect of Birkenhead, one can only imagine the same will happen with regard to Merseyside as a whole, with Liverpool being the preferred ranking venue of choice.
One contributor, who has obviously never driven a cab in his life, remarked in his submission that taxi drivers could and should utilise satellite navigation as opposed to topographical knowledge, quite remarkable ignorance. There is no denying the usefulness of ‘Sat Nav’s’ but they can never replace a working knowledge of an area, let alone a reasonable knowledge of local places of interest. The above view was contrary to what one alleged taxi bloke told the committee, I must admit, at that point I did start swearing. One chap said taxi drivers in Milton Keynes go out each day to earn £150….. don’t we all mate? What we actually earn is obviously another matter and no where near £150 per day you plonker!
Indeed, the same chap appeared to suggest all taxis had data equipment and all taxis journeys could be monitored. That was certainly news to me that one. Strange, I didn’t feel anyone at the select committee hearing actually represented my views, indeed, I thought the MPs on the committee were essentially stupid, asking pointless questions to gormless individuals who fumbled and fidgeted in answering questions.
I may be seen as cynical but I was dramatically underwhelmed by the case and performance of the hackney carriage trade in front of the committee. If this is the best the taxi trade can muster, then I think you’re all going to have to seriously prepare for a very different future. It should however be remembered that someone in the background selected the people giving oral evidence. I find that weird, it’s a little like the manager of the opposing team picking the side he’s playing against!
Some of team taxi appeared to dig themselves into holes and then carried right on digging. Let me remind people of what should have been pointed out, in a very blunt manner to this silly ‘waste of space’ selective committee with its daft selective people giving evidence: Local authorities are issuing taxi plates without giving a tuppenny toss about where taxis will stand for hire…….in other words there isn’t enough rank space nationally; drivers are being suspended for over-ranking. Certain companies are circumventing local licensing requirements by getting themselves licensed in areas where the standards are lower……the phrase ‘flag of convenience’ can be sprinkled about liberally and as required. This was and is not the intention of taxi legislation.
If the law as it is now were actually enforced then there wouldn’t be a problem. Whatever silly ideas this silly committee with people with silly beards come up with, unless someone is there to enforce it, it’s a waste of time; talking of time wasting, who on earth picked the local authorities? The guy from Northumberland, and I’m sure he’s a nice man who loves his children very much, comes from a place that doesn’t currently have byelaws in place for hackney carriages and they are essentially a new Unitary authority. What insight could this poor guy give anyone?
One MP asked about numbers limitation, apart from the fact they were not there to discuss that, why did nobody point out that the government had ignored the select committee reports of mid 2000’s and accepted the OFT recommendations, why didn’t anyone point out that the statistical evidence of the OFT was flawed and actually proved customers were better catered for in places where authorities regulated numbers?
Whilst riveted to the select committee via the interweb thing, I did notice amongst the gang was the leader of Milton Keynes council, who bravely appeared sporting a beard. He told the world they used to have limited taxi numbers and he wouldn’t dream of returning to that situation. Strange thing, I got the impression, and I might be a million miles out here, that the last people on the mind of the guy from Milton Keynes were the cab drivers of his area. Mind you, given the performance of the MK Cabbies, I can’t say I blame him.
Moreover, asking a London based private hire operator to appear in front of the committee was bizarre to say the least, especially considering they didn’t appear to offer any written evidence. This gives way to a massive conspiracy theory currently circulating through the taxi trade. I don’t know what the outcome of this business will be, given the strange stance of some, I don’t think it’ll be anything good, and I suggest the taxi trade prepare for war. Casey wrote last month about his great fear with this, he suggested Pandora’s Box had been opened, there can be little denying he was right. Indeed, he pointed out that the taxi trade seemed to believe the private hire trade would sit idle and watch as the taxi trade tried to change their business. He pointed out the taxi trade would write to the committee condemning the current system further fuelling the fire towards change. I can offer the view that some of the select committee do appear to be completely bonkers, I must admit I do like that in any committee.
That being said, it puts them on a par with the blatant ignorance of local authorities, national government and the DFT, given the downright calculated cunning of certain private hire operators. Also given the apathy, splits and differences of opinion in the Hackney Carriage trade. I have a genuine fear that we will be left with an entire mess. Unless the Hackney Carriage trade get a grip very quickly, the future of the taxi trade will be very grim indeed. Only one person in the country’s taxi trade, in my view, has sufficient enough a personality and ample enough knowledge to turn this almighty mess around, his ego is big enough already, I leave you to work out who I’m alluding to? If the select committee has proven anything, it obviously proves that my plans for world domination will have to go ahead sooner, rather than later.
The above views are published for information purposes only, they have nothing to do with the National Taxi Association.