The new Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Safeguarding and Road Safety) Bill has now entered the ‘Committee Stage’ after a successful second Parliamentary reading on 10 September.
The new Bill proposes that all taxi and private hire vehicle licensing authorities in England share information of recent adverse licensing history. These include refusals, suspensions or revocations of a licence. It is hoped that forming nationwide data will mitigate the risk that unsuitable people are granted or hold a taxi or private hire vehicle (PHV) driver licence.
The Committee Stage is where detailed examination of the Bill takes place. It usually starts within a couple of weeks of a Bill's second reading, although this is not guaranteed.
Government Bills are usually formally timetabled after they have received a second reading.
According to Parliamentary Explanatory Notes, the Bill will set two main provisions. The first will require licensing authorities in England to input into a central database instances where the authority has suspended, revoked, refused to grant or refused to renew a taxi or PHV driver’s licence because of certain safeguarding or road safety concerns relating to that driver.
Other licensing authorities in England must then have regard to that information when considering whether to grant or renew a taxi or PHV driver’s licence.
The second set of provisions in the Bill requires licensing authorities in England to report certain serious safeguarding or road safety concerns about a taxi or PHV driver working in its area to the licensing authority in England, Wales or Scotland that granted a licence to that driver. The Bill then requires licensing authorities in England to take notice of any such reports received and consider whether the relevant taxi or PHV driver should remain licensed.
The MP presenting the new Bill, Darlington’s Peter Gibson, said the Bill was needed to keep up pace with ‘rapid innovation’ and to manage the ‘evolution’ in public transport. From the few details released, the focus will be placed on safeguarding rather than vital legislation around cross-border hiring and clearer definitions on plying-for-hire.
Overall the response has been positive within the taxi trade, however there is a feeling that the Bill could have gone further in tackling important long-standing issues within the sector.
Steve McNamara, General Secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), said in TAXI Newspaper: “This Bill would help to ensure that only those fit to hold a licence would be entrusted to carry the public by requiring all licensing authorities in England to record instances where they have refused to grant or renew a driver’s licence or have suspended or revoked a licence, because of safeguarding or road safety concerns, into a database. When processing applications, licensing authorities would also be required to search the database for any entries relating to applicants, request the relevant information and subsequently take this into account when deciding whether to grant a licence.
“This isn’t a perfect system but it’s better than what we have now where everything is voluntary.”
During the second reading of the Bill MPs were disappointed that the requirements to access and input into a national database weren’t extended to the devolved nations outside of England. Peter Gibson MP assured those in the room that devolved nations could access the database, but only on a voluntary basis.
The second huge issue that is not covered at all in the Bill is cross-border hiring. Touching on the issue, McNamara said: “What this won’t solve is cross-border hiring, which continues to allow drivers to shop around for a licensing authority with weak licensing conditions, get a licence and then work in London or wherever else they choose with impunity.
“The only way to address this properly is through legally enforceable national minimum standards, which the Government continues to avoid legislating for. They say they plan to, but as always, the question is when?”