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CROSS-BORDER HIRING: Why is Section 46 being overlooked?

The issue of cross-border hiring, where private hire vehicles (PHVs) licensed by one council operate in another council’s-controlled district, has been a source of controversy and confusion for many years. Some argue that it is a legal loophole that allows PHVs to avoid stricter regulations and fees imposed by some councils, while others claim that it is a breach of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, which was intended to regulate and control the PHV industry.

In this article we take a closer look at Section 46 (1) (a) and the role it should be playing in taxi and PHV licensing.

The Section states that ‘no person being the proprietor of any vehicle, not being a hackney carriage [or London cab] in respect of which a vehicle licence is in force, shall use or permit the same to be used in a controlled district as a private hire vehicle without having for such a vehicle a current licence under section 48 of this Act’.

However, some licensed PHVs have been operating in other districts, either by accepting bookings from operators licensed by another council, or by using smartphone apps that connect them with customers directly. The understanding of Section 46 is now being challenged by taxi industry representatives Lee Ward and Mark Jennings, who have meticulously researched the history surrounding cross-border hiring rules.

Ward and Jennings have created a document called ‘A brief History of The Miscellaneous Provisions Act of 1976 and how it is not being enforced’. This report has been sent to licensing authorities nationwide, but feedback to the report has so far been low.

To understand Section 46 better there are two key words to consider: ‘control’ and ‘force’.

Section 46 (1) (a) says ‘in respect of which a vehicle licence is in force’. Ward and Jennings ask the question when is a vehicle’s licence in ‘force’? Inside or outside of its controlled district?

Ward and Jennings state in their report: “Obviously (it is) when inside the licence authority that has complete ‘control’ over the vehicle, driver and operator. This is quite clear that this was the intention of Parliament, as this was the word that started it all back in that consumer protection committee back in Plymouth in June 1974.”

Ward and Jennings begin their report by highlighting the meaning of the word ‘control’ and its intended use in legislation. They say: “We have spent many, many hours searching archives, submitting FOI requests and attending every court case relevant to this subject, be it magistrate or high court since 2016, to understand what Parliament meant when they made the Miscellaneous Provisions act of 1976. This is a summary of years of work, notes and collective evidence.

“Our journey has taken us to The National Archives, Hansard for both Houses and all the way to Plymouth council’s archives. Although this problem had been around for many years, this part of the story starts back in June 1974, in Plymouth.

“A consumer protection committee, for Plymouth City Council, sat and discussed the problem they were having with unscrupulous operators and drivers, who drove unlicensed private hire cars in their borough boundaries, and the many problems they were causing. Overcharging, dangerous vehicles, inappropriate behaviour, sexual misconduct to name but a few. The committee quite rightly, had had enough, and decided on the following recommendation.

“The recommendation from that committee was for Plymouth City Council to apply for its own act of parliament to be able to ‘Control’ the operator’s drivers and vehicles in the city of Plymouth.”

This Act still governs PHV in Plymouth today and outlines exactly what a vehicle hired outside of the city of Plymouth, not under the city’s licensing ‘control’, is allowed to do.

The report says: “To this day Plymouth has not had any outside operators or drivers, including app-based companies operating in the boundaries of the City of Plymouth.”

With all this in mind, why is Section 46 not being discussed and how much power does it have in the cross-border hiring argument?


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