London’s black cab drivers face unfair competition and the Government must be more ambitious in its reforms, the former pensions secretary has said.
Iain Duncan Smith, the MP for Chingford and Woodford Green, has expressed his disappointment that “sensible” recommendations made by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Taxis were watered down.
IDS praised the London taxi trade as possibly the most admired in the world but says it has been badly let down by the failure to update legislation to maintain a level playing field.
In a swipe at new technology companies, such as Uber, the MP said that some “new players” have “refused to play by the rules to the detriment of customers and drivers.”
Mr Duncan Smith said that the UK’s taxi and private hire vehicle regulations need a “comprehensive update to bring legislation into the 21st century.”
It follows the disappointing response to the report by the Professor Mohammad Abdel-Haq commissioned by the Department for Transport.
The MP said: “His final report made a number of sensible recommendations for reform of how taxis and private hire vehicles are licensed.
“Some of the laws governing taxis date back to before the invention of the motor car, and while there were some reforms made in the 2015 Deregulation Act, it’s high time for a comprehensive update to bring legislation into the 21st century.
“This is why I and my colleagues on the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Taxis are very disappointed that the Government did not accept all of the recommendations made in Professor Abdel-Haq’s report. There is nothing radical here. They are simply good, common-sense suggestions for long- overdue reform.”
Plans for national minimum licensing standards and a national database are a good start but the new legislation does not go far enough, he said.
The relatively recent growth of app- based private hire services has completely skewed the market – to the detriment of “the world-famous black taxi trade and the livelihood of cab drivers,” with Uber playing “the most significant role.”
The company “has flooded towns and cities across the country, undercutting existing taxi and private hire vehicle operators while flouting regulation and failing to provide a quality service.”
Uber’s “business model allows it to operate on a completely different playing field. It arrives in our towns offering unrealistically low prices that local taxi and private hire drivers simply can’t match.”
He adds that Uber drivers are effectively being allowed to ply for hire through the app, while the current licensing system puts passengers in danger.
Mr Duncan Smith supports calls for local Government to be given the power to cap private hire numbers.
He adds: “New legislation also needs to finally set out in law who is allowed to ‘ply for hire’, and who is not. It must define where drivers are allowed to work to improve accountability and safety.”
“I believe in strong competitive markets, but competition must be fair. Taxi drivers and private hire operators must be able to compete on a level playing field with companies like Uber.
“London’s black cab trade is arguably the most admired in the world; part of the fabric of our heritage and culture. I hope that the Government realises the extent of the consensus across all parties in the House for those recommendations made by Professor Abdel-Haq and rethinks its approach to reform. We need to completely rewrite outdated taxi and private hire laws and make them fit for the future.”
Image: Steve Punter (wiki commons)