Normally I'm quite clear with my opinions and I am not shy of expressing what I feel is wrong with the trade, the way TfL regulate or how we are represented/underrepresented by our trade orgs.
I am however, very confused by the apathetic negativity over one major issue, which no one in London seems to have picked up on.
Let me start with a little background information.
London was virtually the last part of the UK to license Private Hire drivers/operators. The people responsible for drawing up the Private Hire Vehicles act 1998 had a wealth of information from around the country on issues which would be affected by the legitimisation of what was seen in London as mainly a bunch of cowboy operators looking for respectability.
Because of the amount of serious sexual attacks on minicab passengers pre 1998, rape charities and enforcement agencies saw licensing as the only way to tackle the problem. One of the biggest stakeholder to lobby relentlessly for licensing of PH was the Susie Lamplugh trust.
Outside of London, licensed PH vehicles can only be driven by licensed PH drivers. They could not lend out the vehicle for social domestic use, or allow any unlicensed person to drive as a minicab. Sound thinking you would think.
So why did the people, including stakeholders such as the LTDA, Unite and The Susie Lamplugh Trust allow the opposite in the London legislation. Surely they could see this as a recipe for disaster.
Recently included in the deregulation bill, currently going through parliament, the law commission tried to reverse the situation in the provinces sighting London as the reason why the whole country should have a level playing field on this issue.
Rachel Griffin from the Susie Lamplugh Trust has recently stated on Sky news, that in London, posing as a legitimate minicab driver, is the preferred method of dangerous sexual predators. This sentiment was also echoed by Cllr David Simmons from the Local Government Association.
After much lobbying from Taxi trade/PH unions and Hackney carriage association from up and down the country, members of both houses of parliament and the Susie Lamplugh Trust, it was felt the the clause containing the law change should be removed
After seeing the evidence resulting in the removal of clause 10, why then are the same people, who so adamantly lobbied against the change, not calling for a level playing field in London?
My argument is simple:
At present, anyone can purchase a second hand minicab, complete with licence roundel and legally drive it round the streets of the capital, on an ordinary drivers licence. The vehicle can remain licensed as a minicab for a year, with just an MOT after six months. How can this be justified by Hendy and co?
The Government cite this issue in London, as an experiment.
Surely after a decade of many thousands of serious sexual assaults, even the most incompetent idiot can see this experiment has failed.
Presently there are on average two reported minicab related serious sexual assaults every week. In the Problem Orientated Policing report Clapham, the Met estimated 90% of sexual attacks go unreported. This would put the figure of sexual attacks, including rapes at around 20 every week.
Sexual assaults and passenger safety are the main reasons why both houses have now removed clause 10 from the deregulation bill. Would this also prove, beyond a shadow of doubt, that the London experiment is in fact a complete and utter failure?
With these facts firmly on the table, how come we are not seeing the same Peers, the same MPs, along with Rachel Griffin, plus members from the GLA and all our trade representative orgs/unions, lobbying parliament for a change in the Private Hire Vehicles Act 1998, to rectify this issue in the capital?
Something else seems to have slipped by our trade orgs, which was contained in a statement made by Baroness Kramer, a strong supporter of the deregulation bill
Many would say this is NOT the case under the London experiment, as TfL do not deal with PH driver complaints, they are sent on to the operator to deal with. In the case of a Uber, the company states that any complaints are a matter between the driver and the passenger and they (Uber) refuse to accept any liability.
Amazingly this week, after hearing clause 10 had been removed, and moves were afoot to remove clauses 11 and 12, Baroness Kramer, in an article in the Evening a Standard did a complete u-turn on her previous statement.
Here is where the London experiment doesn't add up.
In London it is alleged that over 10,000 of the reported 71,000 PH drivers, are not affiliated to any PH operator. As legally all jobs are supposed to be pre booked and recorded through a third party operator, as laid down by primary legislation.
How then do these drivers legally acquire regular work?.....
The institute of Licensing interpretation of the law on this issue is crystal clear:
PH jobs MUST be booked in advance. A further distinction requires that bookings are made via a third party licensee, who is a private hire operator.
It should not go unnoticed that Uber do not accept pre bookings. Drivers are put in direct contact with passengers by means of an electronic hail.
The institute of licensing states clearly:
The principal distinction between a private hire vehicle and a hackney carriage is that a private hire vehicle CANNOT stand or ply for hire or be hailed.
So how can TfL support Uber's operation, when every job is an immediate hail and under the act of 1998 illegal, not just in London, but all over the UK.
We shall go into the institute of licensing in more detail in a later article.