Paddy Tipping, Nottinghamshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, has added his voice to a nationwide campaign urging the Government to withdraw proposed changes to legislation regarding the taxi industry.
The Commissioner, who has just launched a new scheme in Nottingham which will see CCTV cameras in taxis to improve both passenger and driver safety, believes that the Deregulation Bill, currently going through Parliament, could pose a risk to some vulnerable passengers.
The Bill, which aims to cut down on paperwork and bureaucracy, contains several measures relating to the private hire trade, including allowing people to operate a licensed private hire vehicle – even if they do not hold a private hire vehicle driver’s license.
Mr Tipping pointed out that this will mean while the taxi itself can be clearly licenced for all to see, there is no guarantee that the same can be said for the driver. This means, he said, that there is a window of opportunity for those intent on committing a crime or assaulting passengers, particularly young women and girls.
PCCs from across England and Wales have echoed concerns raised by licensing officials, police, the taxi trade and organisations that work with victims of rape and sexual assault, saying that the lack of driver regulation is a serious safety risk.
Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd, is leading a campaign to lobby the Rt Hon Ken Clarke, one of the ministers responsible for the Bill, for changes to the current proposals.
Incidents of assault, sexual assault, rape and even murder by people purporting to be private hire drivers are thankfully rare, but not unheard of, and PCCs are concerned that relaxation of the current rules will increase the opportunity for those who are intent on committing these types of crime.
The Commissioner added: “People, especially young women and girls, take a taxi journey in the belief that it is a safe way to travel. In fairness, it usually is and in Nottinghamshire we are doing everything we can to improve still further the safety of those travelling on our roads and to increase the safety of women and girls. But in its current format this legislation would remove some of the safeguards that are in place and they are there for a reason.
“If it goes through without amendment it will give offenders the freedom – and opportunity - to commit serious violence or sexually-motivated attacks. Passengers, particularly women travelling alone at night, need to have confidence that their taxi driver is fully licenced and that every safety precaution is in place.
“I’m not against the removal of red tape, but not at the expense of public safety. I’m sure that a sensible way forward can be found and urge the Government to seek it.”
The Deregulation Bill amends or repeals 182 specific types of legislation. Other measures to affect the taxi and private hire industry include allowing private hire vehicles to subcontract each other across licensing boundaries, making it virtually impossible for licensing authorities to regulate the profession.
The Commissioners are calling on the Government to remove measures in the Bill which will make it easier for bogus drivers to prey on vulnerable people and to launch a bespoke Taxi and Private Hire Bill to scrutinise the issue more deeply.
Current legislation means private hire drivers can only use a marked private hire vehicle if they have a valid licence, issued by the local authority. Drivers are relicensed regularly and there are restrictions in place to prohibit cross-boundary working. Under the Deregulation Bill, these rules will be withdrawn, possibly opening up the industry to abuse by dangerous offenders.
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Posted on Monday 23rd June 2014