Reforming the law of taxi and private hire services
Clearer rules governing taxis and private hire vehicles could bring stretch limousines and bicycle rickshaws into the licensing system but keep charity volunteers and childminders out of it, the Law Commission said today.
The Law Commission for England and Wales, which advises the Government on law reform, has launched a public consultation seeking views on proposed changes to the way in which taxis and private hire vehicles (often referred to as minicabs) are regulated.
The proposals retain the important distinction between taxis – which can “ply for hire” on the street or a cab rank – and private hire vehicles which can only be pre-booked.
But all vehicles would be subject to national minimum safety standards and, for private hire vehicles, these would replace more than 340 sets of local regulations. This will reduce the burden on business because, once appropriately licensed, a private hire firm could work freely across the country, without geographical or licensing restrictions. This would contribute to widening consumer choice and to making services cheaper and more competitive.
The provisional proposals published today follow a detailed review of the current law, some of which dates back to 1831 and is still in force.
Few of the proposals would affect the iconic London “black cab”. But outside the capital, taxi numbers could no longer be restricted by local authorities and private hire operators would be able to take bookings outside their own local area.
Licensing could be extended to limousines, motorcycle “taxis” and bicycle rickshaws (or “pedicabs”), which under current law may avoid the safety and driver training requirements imposed on taxis and private hire vehicles. But greater legal clarity would ensure that volunteers who give up their time to drive elderly people or childminders who collect children as part of their work would no longer risk being caught by licensing rules.
Among the other provisional proposals is a requirement that all new taxi and private hire drivers should have disability awareness training. The consultation also asks whether there should be a specific licence for accessible vehicles.
And where drivers or operators do break the rules, the consultation suggests that improved enforcement powers should be available, including impounding vehicles.
Frances Patterson QC, the Law Commissioner with responsibility for the project, said: “Our review provides a great opportunity to streamline and improve taxi and private hire legislation and we look forward to engaging with as many people as have an interest in this varied and important transport sector.”
The consultation is open until 10 August 2012. The Commission’s provisional proposals and consultation questions are outlined in the paper, “Reforming the law of taxi and private hire services”, which is available on the Commission’s website, http://www.lawcom.gov.uk.