Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Government abandon Clause 10 of the Deregulation Bill:

Editorial Comment:

The report below is a massive victory for the RMT, GMB and Unite unions, who alongside Police, Crime Commissioners and Local Government campaigned tirelessly to get clause 10 dropped from the Deregulation Bill 

It is now up to our trade representation here in London to demand parity with the rest of the country on this particular issue. How much easier would enforcement be if a driver could not use the excuse I've just borrowed this car, I'm picking up a friend, I'm not working. 

Our trade reps should now be seeking the support of all groups who helped achieve this victory including the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, Survivors Trust and local Govenment associations.

When it comes to robbery, rape and serious sexual assaults....LONDON IS NOT DIFFERENT.

Mary Creagh, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, responding to the news that the Government have abandoned Clause 10 of the Deregulation Bill, said:

“We welcome the Government’s climbdown on their disastrous proposal to deregulate taxis, which would have put women's safety at risk. However, Ministers are still pressing ahead with their risky plans to loosen taxi licensing and allowing cabs to work out of area, which Labour, alongside safety charities, has opposed. 
“Ministers need urgently to review these final two measures and we repeat our offer to work with them to get the rogues off the road.”

1.   On 14 October DfT dropped Clause 10 from the Deregulation Bill 
Clause 10 would have enabled people who don’t hold a private hire vehicle license to drive one when it is “off duty”. Safety campaigners and local government had warned this reform has the potential to increase the number of unlicensed drivers pretending to be legitimate. 

2.   The Government failed to publish an Impact Assessment until 8 months after the reforms were proposed
The taxi and minicab reforms were added to the Deregulation Bill in March 2014. But the Government didn’t publish an impact assessment on their rushed and risky reforms until Labour asked for one on the 1 October 2014. It confirmed that the reform ‘could lead to an increase in illegal use of licensed vehicles.’ 

3.   Campaigners, Police and Crime Commissioners, Local Government and the trade joined Labour in opposing the reforms
Organisations including the Suzy Lamplugh Trust and the Survivors Trust, the  Local Government Association, 17 cross-party police and crime commissioners and various industry bodies had opposed the reforms. Labour voted against the clauses in the Deregulation Bill at Report Stage in the Commons and will continue to oppose them in the House of Lords. 

4.   Remaining Taxi and Minicab Clauses of the Bill 
Clause 11 of the Deregulation Bill will end annual license renewal for minicab drivers, which helps licensing authorities recognise changes to a drivers’ convictions or medical status. Clause 12 will enable minicab operators to subcontract a booking to another operator, licensed in a different area. Local licensing officers don’t currently have the powers to enforce safety in respect of vehicles in other areas.

5.   Conclusions from Rotherham Report on Taxis and Minicabs
The Inquiry concluded that “one of the common threats running through child sexual exploitation across England has been the prominent role of taxi drivers in being linked to children who were abused.” The Inquiry found that young women in Rotherham immediately and consistently avoided taxis as a form of transport because of safety fears, and issued a clear warning about the poor enforcement powers of local licensing officers. The author of the Independent Inquiry into Rotherham, Alexis Jay OBE, has warned against attempt to water down taxi and minicab reforms.

Government scraps plans to relax taxi licensing rules

LGA press release 15 October 2014

Commenting on the Government's withdrawal of plans to relax taxi licensing rules within the Deregulation Bill, Cllr Ann Lucas OBE, Chair of the Local Government Association's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:

"We are delighted that after concerted LGA lobbying, the Government has listened to our concerns and withdrawn plans to relax rules about who can drive licensed minicabs. Councils – alongside children's charities, personal safety organisations and taxi drivers themselves – have long-warned that this unwanted change would increase the public safety risk to people using minicabs.

"When people get into a taxi, they put their trust in the fact that the person driving the car has been vetted and licensed and that it is safe to be in a vehicle with them, especially if they are travelling alone. Anyone getting into a minicab should be assured that the only person allowed to drive the car has had their background checked, and it is right that Government has now agreed to let councils maintain this protection.

"Government should also now delete the two remaining taxi clauses in the Deregulation Bill, which would increase the length of driver licences and enable minicab firms to sub-contract bookings to other firms from different areas, without any requirement to tell the person making a booking.

"Our own opinion polling shows 80 per cent of women would be concerned if they booked a journey with one firm and a different one turned up.

"Councils support comprehensive reform of taxi licensing but on the basis of the whole of the recent Law Commission report and not through this unwise piecemeal approach that could have a negative impact on public safety."

The poll found:

Seventy-three per cent of people polled would be very or fairly concerned if they booked a minicab from one firm and a minicab from another firm turned up – including 80 per cent of women.

Eighty-five per cent of those polled said they were fairly or very concerned about the plans – including 91 per cent of women.

Telephone Omnibus – Populus Data Solutions
(Minicab survey data (PDF, 5 pages, 61KB))

A representative telephone survey of 741 English adults aged 18+, living outside of London, was conducted. London residents were excluded since the proposed new taxi licensing rules already apply in London.

The survey took place 10-12 October 2014.

50 per cent of the sample was contacted via landline and 50 per cent via mobile to ensure that the correct proportion of mobile only households is achieved.
Sample methodology: RDD (Random Digit Dialling).

Quotas are set on age, gender and region and the data weighted to the known GB profile of age, gender, region, social grade, taken a foreign holiday in the last three years, tenure, number of cars in the household, working status, and mobile only household.

The Government has dropped Clause 10 from the Deregulation Bill which would have allowed anyone to drive a licensed minicab when off duty. This follows extensive LGA lobbying supported by the NSPCC, Barnardo's, the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, Victim's Support, Age UK and the GMB Taxi Union.

Further taxi and minicab clauses remaining within the Bill will end annual license renewal for minicab drivers and enable minicab operators to subcontract a booking to another operator, licensed in a different area. The Bill returns to the House of Lords Committee Stage on Tuesday 21 October.