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TAXI BOSS MCNAMARA: A resistance to genuine, rigorous and effective minicab licensing in the capital

Updated: Nov 8, 2021

Prior to the inception of the Greater London Authority and the Mayoralty back in 2000, as amazing as it seems now, the minicab industry in London was totally unregulated. Any car or driver could be a minicab and anyone with any history could start and run a minicab company on a whim. This was in stark contrast to the rest of the country where minicabs had been licensed since the mid 1970’s. That’s not to say there had not been numerous attempts to introduce a licensing regime in London, but the proposals had been for very light touch licensing, and the LTDA had successfully defeated all of these bills and papers on the grounds that no licensing was better than a false veneer of respectability.

Effective licensing

The last failed attempt was by Steven Norris MP who was the Minister for Transport for London under John Major’s government in the early 90’s. His proposal was for a post office issued licence with no criminal record checks and very little else, he famously described the defeat of his bill being down to a well-orchestrated, well-funded campaign. By the late 1990’s Tony Blair’s massive majority guaranteed that a licensing bill proposed by his junior transport Minister Glenda Jackson MP would receive royal ascent and our initiative changed from trying to stop licensing to trying to ensure it was a genuine, rigorous and effective scheme.

Since then, one of our key political objectives has been to level the playing field between the gold standard of London’s taxis and that of the minicab industry. Their lower barrier to entry for driver’s, vehicles and proprietors guaranteed them a steady supply of cheap labour and vehicles enabling them to operate at unrealistic prices giving them their only edge over us – cheap pricing.

Low standards and high risks

Over the intervening 20 years, ‘the powers that be’ have gradually recognised that these lower standards might mean cheaper fares but that it also equates to major safety issues and concerns, and ironically, the rise of apps like Uber have repeatedly highlighted just how dangerous these low standards can be.

Enhanced DBS checks, requirements for National Insurance numbers, topographical testing, NSL vehicle testing, requirements for ZEC vehicles and now tax references, English language tests and, hopefully, soon to be introduced enhanced driving tests– have all raised the cost burden of the minicab trade. These costs are still nowhere near those of our business, doing the Knowledge alone takes 2-3 years of financial sacrifice and our vehicles are still way more expensive than most minicabs.

The minicab trade has fought tooth and nail against the introduction of every one of these changes, irrespective of the obvious safety issues.

Online petition

The latest example of the fight against regulation, common sense and public safety is an online petition, allegedly by a single minicab driver, but more likely with backing or encouragement from some of the big boys. The petition starts with “Your private hire drivers need your help” and goes on about how they “risked their lives” during the pandemic – this is a real tearjerker of a petition!

Unfortunately, after a moan about the cost of the test, they somewhat lose the plot withthe argument that they already speak English and hold “millions of conversations with passengers every year” If that’s the case, what’s the problem? Surely, they will all pass with flying colours.

The final paragraph gets nearer to the truth, and is the main concern of the big operators, “What happens to those that fail the assessments and end up losing their jobs?” The simple answer is they can work in a business where a good command of English is not a vital part of the job and where it’s not integral to public safety!



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