Tony is calling on the government to make sure that the public can be sure that private hire vehicles are safe
Plans to cut red tape for taxi and private hire drivers risk increasing incidents of people being raped and sexually assaulted after a night out, Police and Crime Commissioners across England and Wales have warned.
The cross-party group of commissioners, led by Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd, have joined forces to lobby Ken Clarke to get the dangerous measures removed from the Deregulation Bill, which is currently going through parliament.
The concerns are backed by licensing officials, police, the taxi trade and organisations that work with victims of rape and sexual assault. The Commissioners are calling on the government to ensure that people can be “Be Sure, Be Safe” when getting into a private hire cab.
Tony said: “Taxi regulation reform is long overdue, but this is not the way to go about it. The current system is far from perfect, but at least there are safeguards there which mean people can have confidence that when they get into a marked private hire vehicle it is genuine and being driven by a licensed operator.
“Taking these safeguards away opens the prospect of a private hire free-for-all. There will be no guarantee that a driver is who he says he is, and the inevitable consequence is that there will be an increase in people being attacked after a night out.
“Private hire regulation is good here in Greater Manchester – but that’s as a direct result of a terrible case nearly 20 years ago when a young woman was brutally murdered after getting into a vehicle she thought was a cab. Her murder was the catalyst for change in Greater Manchester. I never want to see a case like that again in our region, but I’m afraid to say these proposals make that prospect much more likely.
“We know that isn’t what the Bill intends, and support measures to make life easier for small businesses and self-employed people, but there’s a real danger it will be the consequence, which is why we’ve written to Ken Clarke to urge him to remove these measures and introduce a dedicated Taxi Bill so that reforms can be brought in in a considered way which will be subject to rigorous scrutiny. These current proposals are ill-thought-through – rushed law is often bad law.”
Currently, only licensed private hire drivers can get behind the wheel of a marked private hire vehicle; drivers have to be regularly relicensed and there are restrictions on vehicles operating across local authority boundaries.
But under the Deregulation Bill, these limited safeguards are to be swept away, opening up the prospect of a private hire free-for-all, with no guarantees that the driver of a vehicle are who they say they are.
Ironically, proposals are already in place for major reform of taxis and private hire vehicles after the Government asked the Law Commission to draw up a draft Taxi Bill. It proposes a radical suite of measures to streamline taxi and private hire legislation, but the Government has chosen not to introduce the Bill, instead relying on the piecemeal measures in the Deregulation Bill.
The PCCs who have so far joined the campaign are:
Tony Lloyd, Greater Manchester (Labour)
Sir Graham Bright, Cambridgeshire (Conservative)
Vera Baird, Northumbria (Labour)
Kevin Hurley, Surrey (Independent)
Alan Charles, Derbyshire (Labour)
Martyn Underhill, Dorset (Independent)
Martin Surl, Gloucestershire (Independent)
Richard Rhodes, Cumbria (Conservative)
Jane Kennedy, Merseyside (Labour)
Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire (Labour)
Ron Hogg, Durham (Labour)
Sue Mountstevens, Avon and Somerset (Independent)
Jane Kennedy, Merseyside (Labour)
Anthony Stansfield, Thames Valley (Conservative)
Winston Roddick, North Wales (Independent)
Stephen Bett, Norfolk (Independent)
Barry Coppinger, Cleveland (Labour)
Simon Hayes, Hampshire (Independent)
John Dwyer, Cheshire (Conservative)
Katy Bourne, Sussex (Conservative)
Clive Grunshaw, Lancashire (Labour)
Tony Hogg, Devon and Cornwall (Conservative)