With the the Task and Finish Group on Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing (TFG) advising that the government should legislate for a a national minimum standard, we take a look at the government response to the TFG
The TFG said that: "Government should legislate for national minimum standards for taxi and PHV licensing - for drivers, vehicles and operators."
They added: "The national minimum standards that relate to the personal safety of passengers must be set at a level to ensure a high minimum safety standard across every authority in England."
They also added: "Government must convene a panel of regulators, passenger safety groups and operator representatives to determine the national minimum safety standards. Licensing authorities should, however, be able to set additional higher standards in safety and all other aspects depending on the requirements of the local areas if they wish to do so."
The Government in its reponse to the TFG said that: "it agrees that there should be national minimum standards for taxi and PHV licensing, and will take forward legislation when time allows to enable these.
There is a welcome consensus in favour of the principle of national minimum standards, though careful consideration will be needed to define the scope of those standards and what they should be. In particular, it will be important to carefully balance the need to create more harmonised licensing practice, particularly where safety is concerned, with the important right of local licensing authorities to set conditions appropriate for their areas."
They went on to say: "In the interim, Government will continue to review its statutory and best practice guidance. The development of these, through engagement and consultation, will ultimately shape the content of national minimum standards.
At Autumn Budget 2018, the Government announced that it will consider legislating at Finance Bill 2019-20 to introduce a tax-registration check linked to the licence renewal processes. This would include drivers of taxis and PHVs and PHV operators licensing in England and Wales. Applicants would need to provide proof they are correctly registered for tax in order to be granted these licences. This would help to raise regulatory standards and improve tax compliance in this sector."
The Government added a further response in their report, after the TFG said: "Government should require companies that act as intermediaries between passengers and taxi drivers to meet the same licensing requirements and obligations as PHV operators, as this may provide additional safety for passengers (e.g. though greater traceability)."
The Governments response was that "PHV operators, and companies that act as intermediaries for taxi bookings, do perform functions that appear very similar. However, the Government is not convinced that there is a compelling case for the licensing of taxi intermediaries (such as taxi apps or radio circuits).
An operator is fundamental to the booking of a PHV, and so has a distinct and legally necessary role in the regulatory system. Conversely, when a taxi is requested via an intermediary, that intermediary is doing nothing more than passengers could do themselves - they merely convey the request from the passenger to a taxi driver. This is unlike the situation with PHVs where it would be illegal for the passenger to engage the services of the driver directly, and the involvement of the PHV operator is necessary to make the journey a lawful one. This distinction reflects the greater degree of regulation applied to taxis than PHVs."
The Government finally added that: "The Law Commission also considered this, and concluded that intermediaries working solely with licensed taxis should not require licensing."
Safety issues have been highlighted over the last couple of days when it was revealed in TaxiPoint after a BBC report that a number of PHV drivers who have been licensed in Wolverhampton have committed appalling offences against children whilst working or operating in other areas.
Although City of Wolverhampton Council have defended their licensing criteria, there is a belief from within the taxi and private hire industry that they, along with some other licensing authorities across the UK, are seen as a less stringent licensing authoritiy, it is believed that a national minimum standard may go some way to combating offences of this nature as well as many others.