Derbyshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Charles today backed a nationwide campaign urging the Government to withdraw proposed new legislation which could put the safety of people using taxis and private hire services at risk.
The Deregulation Bill, which is currently going through Parliament, has been designed to reduce red tape and save small business owners money through reduced paperwork. However, it contains several measures relating to the private hire trade which have sparked serious safety fears including allowing people to operate a licensed private hire vehicle – even if they do not hold a private hire vehicle driver’s license. This will effectively mean any individual can get behind the wheel of a licensed taxi and purport to be someone they are not for the intention of committing crime.
PCCs across the country have backed Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd, who is leading the campaign, to lobby Ken Clarke and call for changes to the Bill which takes account of these risks. Incidents of assault, sexual assault, rape and even murder by people purporting to be private hire drivers have taken place in Greater Manchester in the past and the worry is that relaxing the current rules will increase the opportunities for those who are intent on committing these types of crime.
Commissioner Charles said: “All of us are working very hard to make life more difficult for criminals by increasing our enforcement options, delivering appropriate personal safety advice, encouraging crime prevention and expanding our route to intelligence. All of this could be undone by a single piece of legislation which gives offenders the freedom – and opportunity - to commit serious violence or sexually-motivated attacks.
“Women already feel very vulnerable when using the services of a taxi or private hire vehicle alone, especially late at night. This will only intensify under the reform plans as they will no longer have the reassurance when getting into a marked private hire vehicle that it is indeed genuine and being driven by a licensed operator.
“While we support in principle the Government’s idea of making the taxi and private hire industry easier to manage for the self-employed, this should not be at the expense of public safety and there needs to be a thorough examination on how such a move will impact on incidents of violence and public confidence.”
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