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Commissioner to lobby Minister over private hire plans

Cambridgeshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner has thrown his support behind a campaign to lobby Minister without Portfolio Ken Clarke over the Deregulation Bill currently going through Parliament.

Plans to cut red tape for taxi and private hire drivers risk increasing incidents of people being raped and sexually assaulted after a night out, Police and Crime Commissioners across England and Wales have warned. The concerns are backed by licensing officials, police, the taxi trade and organisations that work with victims of rape and sexual assault.

Sir Graham is part of a cross-party group of commissioners to lobby Ken Clarke to get the dangerous measures removed from Bill. The police and crime commissioners supporting the campaign have written to Ken Clarke to urge him to remove these measures and introduce a dedicated Taxi Bill so that reforms can be brought in in a considered way which will be subject to rigorous scrutiny.

Sir Graham said: “I cannot and will not support something that could ultimately place Cambridgeshire members of public at risk.

“While taxi regulation reform is long overdue, this is not the way to go about it. The right place for an informed debate is as part of a specific Taxi Bill, not tacking it onto another Bill, which is instead aimed at reducing the legislative burden for businesses, organisations and individuals.

“I fully understand the need to address that burden, but my concern is ensuring that there are safeguards in place to protect the public from becoming victims of crime. The public must have confidence that when they get into a marked private hire vehicle it is genuine and being driven by a licensed operator.

“Taking these safeguards away opens the prospect of a private hire free-for-all with no guarantee that a driver is who he says he is.”

Currently, only licensed private hire drivers can get behind the wheel of a marked private hire vehicle; drivers have to be regularly relicensed and there are restrictions on vehicles operating across local authority boundaries.

But under the Deregulation Bill, these limited safeguards are to be swept away.

Proposals are already in place for major reform of taxis and private hire vehicles after the Government asked the Law Commission to draw up a draft Taxi Bill. It proposes a radical suite of measures to streamline taxi and private hire legislation. However the Government has decided not to introduce the Bill, instead relying on the Deregulation Bill.