Updated: Feb 13, 2022
It is not possible to provide determinative guidance on plying-for-hire as each matter depends on the ‘fact and degree’ of particular circumstances, said the Department for Transport (DfT).
The Government also confirmed it would not clarify taxi and private hire legislation for the UK based around a recent High Court Judgment involving minicab operator Uber.
Julian Knight, a Conservative MP for Solihull, asked the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, what plans the Government has to clarify legislation for the rest of the UK following the judgment in Uber London Limited v Transport for London (TfL) & Others  EWHC 3290 (Admin).
Trudy Harrison replied to the written question: “This High Court declaration was on the legislation that applies to private hire vehicle operators in London. Different legislation applies in the rest of the UK.
“The High Court considered the legislation that applies in the rest of England (except Plymouth) and Wales in reaching its decision on the London legislation, but it did not make a declaration on that legislation. Interpretation of the law is ultimately a matter for the courts and any clarification the Department could give would be couched in such terms.
“Taxi and private hire vehicle policy is a devolved matter in all UK nations and any clarification in respect of the legislation that applies in their nation would be a matter for the relevant devolved administrations.
“The issue of plying for hire was also considered by the High Court. However, the question of whether a vehicle is plying for hire in particular circumstances is a matter of fact and degree. It is not therefore possible to provide a list of factors which could be sufficiently determinative as to give clear guidance on this matter.”
The question relates to a High Court judgment in December 2021 which ruled London private hire operators must make contracts with their customers, rather than the drivers on the platform.
Uber sought a declaration from the High Court that it is lawful for Uber’s drivers to continue to contract directly with Uber’s passengers for transport services. Uber had argued that its role was confined to that of an internet booking agent and that it was not a party to any contract for the provision of transport.
Lord Justice Males and Mr Justice Fraser handed down the ruling which private hire driver representatives, App Drivers and Couriers Union (ADCU), say the misclassification has been used to shield operators from employer liability, legal liability to their customers and for payment of VAT.
The ruling is likely to fundamentally restructure the private hire industry in London as almost all 1,832 TfL licensed operators have used this model of operation since the industry first came under regulatory supervision in 2002.