A transport minister sparked a storm among black cab drivers today by suggesting some trundle along slowly to rack up fares.
Cycling minister Norman Baker‘s quip was met with anger at the taxi rank. Cab meters add a charge based on time when the speed falls below 10.4mph.
Appearing at the Commons transport committee, the Liberal Democrat was highlighting how his department was seeking to axe unnecessary and ancient legislation.
He told MPs: “I think there is an offence of furious driving which only applies to taxi drivers because they used to be Hackney Carriage drivers, from about 1847.
“I must admit I have not seen any taxi drivers driving furiously; they drive rather slowly in my experience, to keep the clock ticking over.” He later told the Standard: “It was a light-hearted comment which I think some people will see a grain of truth in.”
He also stressed many cabbies would struggle to go faster because of congestion.
But Steve McNamara, spokesman for the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, which represents 10,000 drivers, said: “Sometimes they say it’s best to keep your mouth shut in case people think you are stupid rather than open it and confirm their belief. It’s not just scandalous, it’s slanderous.
“I might only be a taxi driver but I’d be embarrassed to have to tell people, ‘I’m the minister for cycling.’ He will be riding everywhere in future because no cab driver will pick him up.”
He insisted drivers made their best money by distance travelled rather than by time