A leading taxi licensing expert has described recent changes to national taxi and private hire standards as “sadly misleading” and not what most licensing professionals would regard as standards. Last week, new Statutory Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Standards, which local authorities will be expected to implement, were released by the Government. The new standards devised by the Department for Transport (DfT) are designed to improve consistency in the licensing system, reducing the risk of harm posed to children and vulnerable passengers in the process.
Criminal record checks for drivers every 6 months form a key part of the standards, as does safeguarding training to help drivers identify and respond to passengers that may be being abused or exploited. A recommendation for licensing authorities to consider whether the use of CCTV would be beneficial or proportionate in their areas is also included, which sets out that potential privacy issues must be taken into account. Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, said: “We know the majority of drivers provide an important and safe service for communities, but in light of appalling incidents in places like Rochdale, Oxford, Newcastle and Rotherham, more must be done to protect passengers from those who abuse their position of trust. “That’s why we’re looking to licensing authorities to enforce these rigorous new standards, ensuring drivers are fit to transport passengers in a safe environment and to stop those who aren’t.”
However, James Button, President of the Institute of Licensing, suggested that the standards are not what most licensing professionals would regard as standards, and he hopes that the new guidance is a “prelude” to a further and more substantial updating of legislation surrounding the industries. Button said: "The long-awaited Guidance issued under section 177 of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 has finally been published by the DfT. It is now referred to as “Statutory Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Standards” which is sadly misleading in a number of ways: firstly, these are not statutory requirements and secondly, they are not what most licensing professionals would regard as standards. They do not address the requirements for drivers, vehicles, or operators in any detail: rather they are a broad overview. "Notwithstanding this, they are a welcome addition and should assist licensing authorities in arriving at a slightly more standardised approach. The almost wholesale adoption of the Institute’s “Guidance on Determination” as the “Assessment of Previous Convictions” is gratifying. "However they are no substitute for updated hackney carriage and private hire legislation, the need for which remains as vital now as when the Law commission looked at this almost a decade ago. It is hoped that this Guidance is a prelude to further and more substantial updating of the archaic legislation that governs hackney carriage and private hire licensing."