Monday, November 10, 2014

Something Doesn't Add Up At TfL Top Level.......by Jim Thomas

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

She said:



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.



4 comments:

Tony Casey said...

The Suzy Lamplugh trust.
Rachel Griffin ?any connection to
The family which started Addison Lee.Last night the win double compliance team Male/Female were
busy making themselves busy,but only with Licensed Taxi drivers.
Reading the riot act and bullying
drivers who pull up behind arriving air buses.I started this very successful tactic and very pleased that many drivers have copied me,giving air passengers an excellent service at Victoria.
previously illegal scabs were running alive around bullied way
freely and unhindered without a single copper or compliance officer in sight.These sad people
do not have the BOTTLE to challenge the real criminals,the unlicensed touts that have infested Victoria for 25 years.
Regards Tony Casey (LCDC Founder member)

Anonymous said...

Jim,you state in your article,The Government cite this issue in London, as an experiment.
Then we should take it the current situation in London is an experiment,a virtual one tier system??

That can be the only reason why we don't see any enforcement??

colin the cabby

Wayne Casey said...

The problem seems to be one of caselaw - the provincial law was basically the same as London - however a few months before the 1998 PH (London) Act - a case from West Cumbria went to the High Court - Benson vs. Boyce.

The upshot of the case was that in the provinces only licensed drivers could drive licensed vehicles.

I suspect the new minicab law was already drafted - hence the minicab act missing it out.

However, the article is absolutely correct, and all London Trade organisations should now be shouting to get the loophole closed.

Veritas said...

Wayne,

Well said, if you want the background it's simple, PH did a better lobbying job than the cab trade!

In fact,the engagement policy was the tool to ensure that only those voices that chimed with TfL's agenda were heard. We fell for it and are now paying the price.

It appears that none of the trade Orgs that attended either the 'taxi engagement' meetings or the now infamous 'Last Supper' are prepared to let the minutes of those meetings out, even to their own members?