Monday, November 03, 2014

Child Safety Worries Over Taxi And Private Hire Reforms

A Crawley councillor raised concerns vulnerable children would be put at risk under proposed changes to taxi and private hire licensing.

Cllr Michael Jones, Lab, Bewbush (above), chairman of Crawley Borough Council’s Licensing Committee, and Amin Mirza, chairman of Crawley’s Hackney Carriage Association, opposed Government plans to allow Crawley’s licensed private hire firms to sub-contract bookings from out of the borough.

In a letter on October 15, Cllr Jones urged the Secretary of State for Transport to withdraw clauses 10 and 12 within the Deregulation Bill, which is being debated in Parliament.

Clause 12 would let minicab firms sub-contract Crawley bookings to companies from out of the borough.

A spokesman for the Department of Transport (DfT) said clause 10, which would have allowed unlicensed drivers to share vehicles with licensed minicab firms when ‘off-duty’, had been removed from the Bill.

The letter stated: “This authority firmly believes that only people who have been vetted and licensed by the local council should be able to drive private hire vehicles.”

Cllr Jones said the risk of individuals or gangs using private hire vehicles to exploit passengers, particularly vulnerable children, would rise.

Mr Mirza said clause 12 would destroy the council’s “very high” vetting standards.
He added: “If cross border hiring is allowed the local licensing officer would have no control over the drivers or the vehicles.

“When a customer rings a minicab they expect the controller to have a good knowledge of the area.”

The DfT spokesman said: “The safety of passengers is our first priority in taking forward these reforms. We believe there is scope for reducing the burden of regulation whilst maintaining safety standards. Licensing authorities will continue to carry out criminal record checks on taxi and private hire vehicle drivers every three years as they generally do or they can carry those checks more regularly, where there is an case for doing so. The reforms are tried and tested in London and councils have strong enforcement tools.”


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